SOCHI (BP) — As members of the Earl Brackin Band sing and strum their traditional bluegrass instruments, rendering a soul-stirring version of “I’ll Fly Away,” dozens of Olympics fans gather to listen and to capture the music on their smartphones.
BLUEGRASS ON THE TRAIN
Members of the Earl Brackin Band entertain Olympics fans on the train ride to Games venues.
Earl Brackin, Minister of Worship at Church on the Hill in Dalton, Ga., said prior to leaving for Russia, "In Sochi, we'll be like troubadours. Since bluegrass bands don't need electricity, we can set up and play anywhere — street corner, open market, hotel, café, anywhere there is space for us to stand."
And like troubadours they are. Expressions brim with delight as listeners break into broken conversations with each other while Brackin and his band play. Cultural barriers break down as eyes and smiles segue to new friendships, and language no longer seems to be a problem as it is replaced with gestures and pantomime vocabularies.
Among those enjoying the bluegrass music are Russian soldiers and police officers, some of whom get impromptu lessons on playing the banjo from band members.
“An unexpected blessing,” says Brackin, “[is] you see pictures of people from other countries, but to rub shoulders with them, for them to give you a hug, it really changes perspective. And I’ve been struck how much we are alike — you know God loves me as much as He loves them.”
A member of the Earl Brackin Band teaches a Cossack soldier how to play to the banjo.
Brackin sees the Olympics as an opportunity to share his love for bluegrass and also to accomplish a specific purpose.
“There’s an internal feeling that I was made to do this, and when I see people react with joy to the music and obviously there’s a sense that I am doing what God has called me to do,” Brackin says.
After finishing their mini concert, Brackin and his band pack up their instruments. New friends walk off arm-in-arm, humming gospel and bluegrass tunes as Olympics events continue around them.
Brackin’s band is playing smaller concerts throughout Olympics venues, and he is excited at how it has allowed them more access to pedestrians walking to their events.
"One special feature of our mini concerts involves Olympic pins. Since pin trading is a popular activity, we have specially designed pins to give away at each of our impromptu gigs. Each pin will be used to share the Gospel and the hope found in Christ."
“The benefit of the mini concerts [is they] allow us to interact with more people than at a large concert, and that’s why we are here,” says Brackin.
A member of the Earl Brackin Band plays his banjo for a trio of Cossack soldiers.
The Earl Brackin Band has performed at larger venues while in Russia. Before arriving in Sochi, they shared their love of bluegrass and the Gospel at a concert in Moscow.
Events in Sochi have included performances at Mayor’s Plaza and USA House in Olympic Park. But their mission is creating an environment where there are opportunities to connect with people one-on-one. Their performance on a local train brought cheers of delight from fellow passengers. Band members were then able to pass out Olympic pins and share the Gospel.
As the national anthems of medal-winning nations resound across the city of Sochi, Earl Brackin and his band share music that bridges cultures and languages and offers open hearts the opportunity to hear the Gospel message.
Evelyn Adamson is an IMB writer based in Europe.
The Earl Brackin Band has joined Engage Sochi this week. The response to this bluegrass band has been tremendous and has opened doors never thought possible. Pray for them and for the Engage Sochi team as they follow God through doors they never imagined He would open! Pray for a bold witness, new relationships, and for more opportunities to share God's great love for Sochi and the world!
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