Urbana.org caught up with Caleb Wu, the drummer for Tim Be Told, before the band headed out to catch The Hunger Games on a recent day off.
“Actually,” Caleb recalls, “I hadn’t even heard of Tim Be Told until they played a show at University of Texas, down in Austin.” He was a senior at the University of Houston (Psychology major, Sociology minor) with plans to do something in either drug rehab or homeless ministry.
“I started playing the drums about sixth grade. When I was a sophomore in high school, drums was something that really captivated me, almost to the point where it became an idol. I had dreams about being a musician and doing something with my life that involved music and glorifying myself.”
“It wasn’t until maybe the beginning of my senior year when I started to join a small group and started to learn more about Christ and I feel like I started to dive in deeper with my faith.”
And Then Came Urbana
Caleb’s dad had gone to Urbana 76 and encouraged his son to check it out. But Caleb didn’t really know what he was getting himself into and didn’t know what to expect.
“Urbana really rocked my world,” says Caleb. “Number one, it exposed me to a lot of different cultures…At first I kinda had a little culture shock.” And then there were the booths in the Exhibit Hall; so many ministries and organizations each using their gifts and talents to glorify God.
And then there were all the workshops and seminars “that got me thinking about the message of Jesus Christ and how everyone has a calling. I think the theme for my year in 06 was Live the Life Worthy of the Calling. And so I was like, ‘Man, what does that mean for me? If I’m really a follower of Christ, you know, what does that mean?’”
“And so, for a whole week, five days, I was just trying to figure out, ‘Okay God, music is my passion. I want to glorify you. How can I just weave those two together?’”
Through Urbana, Caleb got connected with an organization called CTI (Carpenter Tools International). CTI uses music to open doors for local Youth for Christ or YWAM groups to come into schools, prisons, hospitals and the like. Caleb spent a month and half with CTI, first in training and then playing music in Guatemala City. He saw God use music to further his Kingdom in ways he’d never seen before. He knew he wanted to keep doing this full-time, but as a high school senior he thought it was a pipe dream.
Caleb enrolled at the University of Houston and over the years, slowly let go of his dream, feeling like God wasn’t calling him to full-time ministry with music. Maybe music would just be a hobby?
When Tim Be Told came to town for that concert at the end of the semester, and Caleb found out they were looking for a drummer, “I was like, ‘Okay God, let’s just kinda see where it goes.” He had a professional video made of himself playing the drums to an Usher song and submitted his audition through YouTube.
And Then There Was Silence
For two months, Caleb wrestled with the silence. It was as though the audition had vanished into cyberspace. Was his desire to play music something from God, or was it a selfish desire? Was God protecting Caleb from himself by not allowing this to happen?
It turns out that no one saw that audition video when it was first submitted. The band was going through some turmoil. The lead singer, Tim, was experiencing some health issues, three band members had left, they were parting ways with their management company, and the audition just got lost in the shuffle.
One day, the girlfriend of Tim Be Told's guitarist stumbled on Caleb’s audition while searching through YouTube. Everyone was impressed, but by that time, they had already offered the spot to another drummer. Caleb remembers, “In my mind, I felt that God was kind of teasing me because I think he knew the desire of my heart and how much I wanted to use music to glorify him.”
But then two weeks later, Caleb got another call from Tim, saying, “Actually, we’re going to extend the audition process one more time.” The drummer they had brought in wasn’t working out. The band offered to fly Caleb out for a show they were doing with Reilly on February 4th, but they weren’t able to promise anything more than that.
“After I got off the phone with Tim, the first thing I do is I call my dad.” Caleb explained the situation and asked for advice. Should he sign up for classes in case the show didn’t go well? Or should he register and risk losing the semester’s tuition money if he got the spot in the band?
“I was praying to God and the verse that came into mind was Philippians 1:6 where it says ‘He who began a good work in you will see it through to completion.’ And so that was something I really held onto.”
He decided to drop out for the semester and trust God to see him through. When January rolled around, Caleb got another phone call from the band. It was the new year, just weeks before the February show. Tim said, “Actually, we need you for the whole semester.”
And that’s when Caleb joined the band.
“Urbana was really the stepping stone in opening my heart up to giving music,” says Caleb. “I think God knew what I’d be doing with Tim Be Told and so he sent Urbana to give me a missional mindset.”
“When you see the Exhibit Hall, you see the idea that this world is definitely broken. There’s a lot of physical needs to be met. But I think for me, using music to meet the spiritual needs is just as important. I think it was just amazing to see all the different bodies of Christ coming together and use their gifts and their talents to advance his Kingdom. That’s something that really blew me away.”
Urbana was a transition moment for Caleb, when he realized this world wasn't about him. "I think, you know, in high school, you have this small aspect of the world, everything revolves around me. But then when you get exposed and get into college, you get educated. And so as a senior that just totally opened my mind. The world is so much bigger than me and Texas and you know whatever. There’s people out there in India and Africa or whatever that are struggling…and you realize, everyone needs to play a factor in this call whether you’re a musician, whether you’re a humanitarian worker. Whatever you’re doing, you should be trying to advance the Kingdom.”
Humanity, Tim Be Told’s latest album, contains a lot of songs that struggle with God’s goodness in the midst of suffering. Through their own journeys, the band wants to bring encouragement to people. “Whether or not they’re dealing with sickness, or a loss of a job, or the loss of a loved one, whatever they’re going through in life, we hope the music can bring encouragement and bring hope in light of that.”
You can download four free tracks from Humanity on noisetrade.com, listen to and purchase the full album on their website, timbetold.com, and read the Tim Be Told blog at ramonontour.tumblr.com. Of course, you can also follow them on facebook and twitter.