December 15th, 2010
12:03 PM ET
By Steve Almasy, CNN
During a recent weekend concert tour for United States troops in the Middle East, a man came up to Casting Crowns lead singer Mark Hall.
The soldier wasn't even supposed to be there, but his transfer into Afghanistan had been delayed just long enough for him to attend the Christian band's concert.
I'm going back to fight, the man told him.
"He said, 'I've heard your music before; my wife listens to your music; but the things that you said [in the concert] and the songs that you sang have really given me hope to get through this," Hall said this week from his church near Atlanta.
"That," Hall said, "was really cool."
Hall said the inspiration for taking their music to the troops was born from concert meet-and-greets where they met fans who told them how much they had been lifted up by Casting Crowns while their husbands, wives, or children were in theater. And at the same time, service members were e-mailing the group thanking them for their music and asking for prayers.
"It just felt like we weren't doing enough," Hall said. "It's like we're getting to these families but we have to get to these troops."
Army chaplain Gary Taylor and his comrades helped put together the tour, a three-night swing through Kuwait and Qatar in mid-November. With the chaplains sponsoring the tour, the group was faced with the decision - pay for it themselves or don't go. It was definitely worth it to pay, Hall said.
Hall lauded the chaplains, saying they did most of the work setting everything up and making all the arrangements.
The group also recently conducted a fan appreciation tour, where the band would do one show in the morning then bus to another city for a night-time event.
It sounds like the band would have even less time to interact with its fans, but Hall said it was just the opposite.
"It was some really cool fellowship time," he said. "We got to stay longer [than a normal show] and we met everyone. As a local church guy, that's a big deal ... to meet folks and get connected that way."
The tour included stops in Chicago, Dallas, Indianapolis, Kansas City, Los Angeles, New York, Oklahoma City and San Antonio.
Not all the group was on the fan appreciation tour. Keyboard player Megan Garrett had a baby last week, a girl named Lucie.
The band is currently working on a new album while its 2009 CD "Until The Whole World Hears" spends its 56th week on the Billboard chart of top selling Christian albums.
The band has already announced some 2011 tour dates.
Also on the horizon is a probable trip to North Korea. You have to say probable these days, considering the heightened military and political tension between North Korea and South Korea. Hall says he really wants to return to the communist nation for a third time.
He's fascinated by the North Korean people. The last time he was there he met with English-speaking college students.
"It really changes your perspective when you're dealing with people and are exposed to more than just [images of Korean leader Kim Jong Il]," he said.
He called the cultural exchanges "eye-opening" even though the Korean government was keeping a close eye on the group, which was led by the U.S. based humanitarian organization, Global Resource Services
"We can go over there and love people and show them we're good people over here in America and we care about others," he said. "Any conversation I can have with one person is gonna make a difference."
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