Local News

March 5, 2014

In Russia, ‘the world came to us’

Local band shares bluegrass, Jesus during Winter Olympics

On a warm train in Russia, Earl Brackin was handing out pins with the message of Christianity on it without wanting anything in return. A few minutes later, he received something unexpected.

“I felt someone poke my back and I turned around and there was this big Russian guy,” said Brackin, minister of worship at Church on the Hill in Dalton. “And, in broken English, he looked at me with this big smile and said, ‘I love Jesus,’ and he bear hugged me and just wouldn’t let go. It was such a special thing.”

Brackin’s local band — the Earl Brackin Band — visited Russia through the Engage Sochi project during the Winter Olympics last month through the International Mission Board, a large Christian mission agency. The band, which formed a year ago, brought with them an assortment of banjos, bass guitars, dobros, mandolins and fiddles to share their passion of bluegrass and Jesus.

The band visited the area from Feb. 12 to Feb. 20, thanks to roughly $40,000 raised by family, friends, church members and a Kickstarter campaign. The band includes Brackin, his daughter Bea, Stephanie Brock, Tod Brock, Justin Parrish, Jared Spier and David Taylor. Ken Hamilton, who normally plays banjo for the band, did not attend and was replaced by Parrish who lives in Charleston, S.C.

Brackin admits that before his recent trip to Moscow and Sochi, Russia seemed synonymous with a tense childhood growing up during the Cold War.

“Back then, we all just knew that any day Russia was going to launch a missile at us,” he recalled.

And when most people think about Russia today, Brackin added, they’re likely to think about the country’s aggressive occupation in Ukraine that has world leaders navigating a tenuous diplomatic crisis.

But there’s a difference, Brackin emphasized, between the Russian government and “the people” he met who give out big hugs on train rides.

“We were standing in the Red Square (in Moscow) after we arrived, seeing all the parades for the Olympics ... that was a surreal moment for me,” he said. “And then to meet the people and realize they’re just people like us. Don’t get me wrong. Politics is important. But to go beyond that and see people, honestly, makes it hard to watch what’s going on over there.”

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