SOCHI, Russia (BP) -- Members of the Earl Brackin Band sing and strum their traditional bluegrass instruments, rendering a soul-stirring version of "I'll Fly Away," as dozens of Olympics fans gather to listen, some of whom capture the music on their smartphones.
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."
Listeners, whether in delight or intrigue, break into broken conversations with each other while Brackin and his band play. Cultural barriers break down as smiles segue to new friendships, and language no longer seems to be a problem, replaced with gestures and pantomime vocabularies.
Russian soldiers and police officers are among those enjoying the bluegrass music, and some get impromptu lessons about the banjo from band members.
"An unexpected blessing," Brackin says, "[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."
Brackin sees the Olympics as an opportunity to share music that bridges cultures and languages and offers open hearts an opportunity to encounter the Gospel message.
"There's an internal feeling that I was made to do this, and when I see people react with joy to the music, obviously there's a sense that I am doing what God has called me to do," Brackin says.
After finishing their mini-concerts, Brackin and his band pack up their instruments. New friends walk off humming gospel and bluegrass tunes as Olympics events continue around them.
Brackin's band is playing smaller concerts throughout the Olympics venues, and he likes how they provide more access to pedestrians walking to their events than at a large concert, "and that's why we are here."
"One special feature of our mini-concerts involves Olympic pins," Brackin notes. "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."
Events in Sochi have included performances at Mayor's Plaza and USA House in Olympic Park. Their performance on a local train brought cheers of delight from fellow passengers. The band also 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. Prayer request
Response to the Earl Brackin Band in Sochi has opened doors never thought possible. Pray for them and for the outreach of the larger Engage Sochi team for a bold witness, new relationships and more opportunities to share God's love for Sochi and the world.Sochi Olympics updates
For daily photos, quotes and prayer requests about Olympic ministries during the Games, visit commisionstories.com/Sochi Olympics
Evelyn Adamson is an IMB writer based in Europe. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress
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