Music and prayers as gifts
After two days as tourists in Moscow, the band flew to the town of Sochi where bluegrass was a big hit with the locals.
“They loved it,” said Jenny Godwin, a non-musical member of Brackin’s church who went to “talk to strangers while the band played.”
“One person came up and said, ‘It just makes me happy in here,’ and touched her heart,” Godwin said. “Most people would just start dancing. It was kind of comical how many people came up to us just to dance and flock to get their picture made with us. They were very receptive. We got so many people laughing and hugging us.”
People were especially receptive, Godwin said, when she told them “we were praying for Sochi.”
“That really seemed to touched them,” she said. “And it wasn’t just Russians. I talked to people from so many countries. The world came to us. Most of the people were from Moscow or Sochi or surrounding areas. But everyone was so touched. They thought our music and our prayers were like giving gifts.”
Most Russians they met were Russian Orthodox, a branch of Eastern Orthodox, or secularist like atheists and agnostics, Brackin said. So his band — protestant evangelicals with ties to Wesleyanism — stood out with their faith and the few Gospel songs they played.
“The thing is, we were mostly there because we love bluegrass,” he said. “We like to play the music. We were there doing what we enjoy doing and the people loved it and it was able to give us a bridge.”
From AC/DC to talking about Jesus
“We were up in the Mountain Cluster (a mountain venue for ski games near Sochi) and we found spot where we could play. We started playing and the folks loved it,” Brackin said. “When we finished, this tall, young Russian came up and he spoke some English. He came and said, ‘I play guitar, not like that. I don’t know that.’ He didn’t know bluegrass. And I said, ‘What kind of guitar?’ and he thought for a second and said, ‘Metal.’
So the band played AC/DC songs on mandolins and banjos.
“And he immediately went, ‘I know that!’ And so he followed us the rest of the day and we made a connection with him and talked,” Brackin said.
Lynn Murphy, a retired assistant professor from Dalton State College and friend of Brackin who went on the trip, said music can be “used as a communication tool” that transcends different world views.
The band’s bluegrass music allowed Godwin to speak to people about Christianity, she said.
“I really didn’t want to shove the Gospel down anyone’s throat,” she said. “It was mostly about just getting to know them. If the opportunity provided itself, than we would talk about Christ.”