The “Chai Guy”

How one man uses tea to reach millions

With 7.7 billion people in the world, how can one person possibly make an impact? How can one voice stand out from millions of other voices? Trying to share your story or influence the community around you – small or large ­­– can be daunting. However, you may have more resources at your disposal than you think. All Kevin Wilson needed was tea.

In 2019, Kevin noticed that TikTok, the social media platform where users share short videos on a variety of topics, was growing rapidly. Seeing this platform as an opportunity, he hopped on the trend. His first 13 TikToks gained him about 100 followers, but how did Kevin go from a small following to where he is now at over 180,000 followers?

Chai.

“It’s the beverage of Jesus,” Kevin said about the warm mixture of black tea, spices, and milk. “If you go to heaven, that’s what you’re gonna have. One hundred percent. No doubt.”

One morning, Kevin was making himself chai and recorded the process on his phone. He usually shares the video on Instagram with his fellow Chai-loving friends, but this day, he decided to share it on TikTok (@crossculturechristian).

“I had absolutely no expectations whatsoever,” Kevin recalled. “Nothing happened for a couple days, but then on the third or fourth day, my notifications started to blow up.”

Kevin’s chai TikTok video suddenly had hundreds of comments. And over the next week, his follower count increased to 10,000. People were fascinated.

Kevin continued to produce more chai-related content, but his content has evolved to represent more than just a drink.

“When people come over to an Indian house or a Sri Lankan house, we give them tea.” Kevin explained what tea means in his culture. “When we give people tea, it’s a way of saying, ‘You’re welcome, we are family, you’re safe, you belong here.’”

Who is Kevin Wilson?

Kevin Wilson was born in Sri Lanka and lived there until age 12, when he moved to Oman in the Middle East. When he turned 18, he moved to the U.S. to attend college at Andrews University.

However, Kevin’s history is not as simple as naming the countries in which he has lived. “When people ask me where I’m from, I feel like I always have to give them a story, not just a specific location, because every place that I’ve been and every place I’ve grown up has shaped the person that I am.”

Kevin’s TikToks reflect his diverse background. He uses chai as a foundation for stories. He videos the process of making chai and inserts a voiceover recording in the background, discussing his life stories, what it’s like being a cross-cultural Christian, and the hardships he has faced, all while relating it to chai.

Chai as a Tool for Activism

“I use chai as a tool for activism,” Kevin said. Two of his most popular videos are about the discrimination and persecution of Muslims in Sri Lanka and anti-Asian violence in America.

Activism hasn’t always come easily to Kevin, though. He describes himself as a cultural chameleon. He can adapt in any situation he’s put in. On the other side, this means it goes against his nature to be an activist.

“Activism requires you to take a stand and to be unapologetic about it,” Kevin said. “I’ve realized that I have a tendency to not do that because I want to relate to everybody, to all possible sides.”

Within the last year, Kevin has made a conscious effort to stand up against what he knows is wrong. And now, he is using his TikTok platform to do that.

Having earned a degree in “sarcasm and theology,” as Kevin said, Christian values are important to him. In addition to activism, he uses TikTok to discuss Jesus and the gospels in a simple way.

Chai as a Tool for Connection

“I try to describe truths, rather than prescribe truths,” Kevin said. He does this by breaking down concepts, relating them to his own life experiences, and pairing them with tea before putting them out into the world.

“The goal is never conversion when it comes to my TikToks – that’s not my job,” Kevin said. “The goal is always connection.”

Despite the fact that Kevin doesn’t shy away from discussing Christianity, most of his followers are not Christian. But his minute-long videos allow followers to take a seat, enjoy a cup of tea, and contemplate the ideas he discusses. He has had followers tell him that they don’t believe in God, but they value his content because it makes them think.

“When you describe your own experience in a meaningful way, it will most likely cause other people to revisit their own ideas and their own worldviews,” he said.

Kevin’s advice for anyone wanting to communicate with others is to start with themselves. “The stories and the experiences that you record today can be content and stories that can rescue somebody else tomorrow.”

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