The Bison Jazz Orchestra (BJO) will travel to the FIFA World Cup in Russia this summer to partner with local ministries during the event, June 13-24.
The World Cup is the largest sporting event in the world. According to Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the 2014 World Cup in Brazil had over five million individuals participate in some part of the festivities.
The soccer games of the tournament itself was had over 3.25 million attendees.
This year, the World Cup is in Russia, and huge crowds are expected once more and, because of the tournament’s size, it provides a huge opportunity for ministry outreach.
“The Bison Jazz Orchestra will partner with St. Petersburg Christian University for a week of mission work and events during the 2018 FIFA World Cup,” assistant professor of music Justin Pierce said.
While the World Cup is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, game tickets are not cheap, ranging from $20 to more than $1000, with most of the tickets costing between $50-100, per game. Ticket prices rise for games closer to the final.
The cost for each student the cost was approx. $3700.
The students raised money to cover the costs. Individuals interested in supporting BJO’s ministry efforts in Russia this summer can visit https://www.okbu.edu/global-outreach/giving.html to donate.
“I was blessed with many donations,” junior instrumental music education major and BJO trumpeter Jonny Dean said.
So for the most of the visit BJO will perform for those fans not actually inside the stadiums.
“Events will include World Cup watch parties, where the BJO will perform and the Gospel will be shared,” Pierce said. “Since World Cup games are so expensive, many fans attend these watch parties, so they can watch the games together in an exciting environment.”
However, the Bison Jazz Orchestra students will get the full experience.
“The members of the BJO will attend a World Cup game in-person, as well,” Pierce said.
For some members of the group it will be a very new experience.
“This’ll be my first immersion into soccer,” Dean said.
The main purpose of the trip, though, is ministering to the people coming to the tournament and to the local churches.
“Some of the mission components will include work in a Christian orphanage and concerts at area churches,” Pierce said.
These missions give students a chance to grow in their own faith through ministering.
“Trips like this seem to be very good for re-orienting ones desires to those of Christ. They help you to see the world He sees and not just the small bubble we usually live in. I want to gain His vision and His heart from this trip so that I can better have His vision and heart locally for those that maybe are not normally in my own bubble,” junior music composition major and trombonist Isaac Reel said.
Because of the costs and the time frame of the trip, the members of BJO who will go to Russia is slightly smaller than the usual group.
The students going on the trip include Hannah Key and Madison Trammell on saxophone, Jonny Dean on trumpet, Isaac Reel and Jonathan Deichman on trombone, Demarcus Baysmore and Nathan King on guitar, Graham Griffin on piano and Tyler Smothers on drumset.
Pierce, director of BJO, will be traveling alongside the students.
Alongside the ministry opportunities of the trip and the fun of attending a game, the trip offers the chance to interact with a diverse range of event attendees.
“For both the students and myself, I hope [we will gain] for an appreciation and awareness of other world cultures,” Pierce said. “Most of the world will be represented at this event.”
This intercultural aspect will offer one of the opportunities for the trip.
“I’m honestly looking forward the most to going to a different country and getting to be immersed in a culture that’s quite a bit different from my own, in a city that I hear is gorgeous, beautiful,” Dean said.
The trip was arranged through several of Pierce’s sports ministry connections, including Bryan Doyle of sports missions.co.
“When Bryan found out about the BJO, he thought we would be a great fit for this trip,” Pierce said. “After presenting it to our Spiritual Life office, they thought it was a great idea. We presented it to the students, and now we are on our way. It is fascinating to see how God orchestrated this series of events”