Sideline goes the extra 8,000 miles for a fan

We can all use a little light in our lives. Here’s an act of kindness within our bluegrass family that has shone across the globe.

Eighteen-year-old North Carolina fiddler, mandolinist, and Sideline fan, Malachi Freeman, received a very special gift from his favorite band for his two-year mission to Hong Kong: a dark blue hoodie with a gray Sideline logo behind the band’s name in white Chinese characters.

His dad, Justin, of Jacksonville, NC, explained how it came to fruition.

“It was really after Malachi got his call to Hong Kong. I knew there wasn’t a bluegrass scene over there, and that he was making a conscious decision to put all things bluegrass on hold to serve. I thought it would be a fun thing for him to have, a way to span two worlds that are both significant to him.

The Sideline logo is a nod to the bluegrass music and bluegrass family that has been such a big part of his life for the past five years. The characters are for the people he’s choosing to serve over there for the next two years. So while he’s in Hong Kong to share the gospel message and serve the people however he can, he’s also able to share a little of the bluegrass too. By the way, he did take a mandolin with him, just in case.”

From the initial idea to the completion of the task and its delivery, it was several weeks in the making.

“I actually got the idea over Thanksgiving,” the family patriarch admitted. “I reached out to Stephanie (Cherryholmes) and said, ‘Hey, is this something you could do?’ She was like, ‘Oh, yea, totally, not a problem.’ She had the logo. It was just on me to be able to get her a computer file of the (language) characters. I Googled ‘how to say sideline in Chinese’ and was surprised that the first character combination that came up had the translation ‘sideline, side occupation,’ which of course was the premise of the band name in the first place. And having those characters over the guitar logo kind of had a meaning that the music is not his primary purpose right now. But anyway, the screen capture resulted in a poor quality image, so I needed to come up with a more high resolution image that she could actually blow up and put on a shirt.”

The holidays came, first Thanksgiving, then Christmas. Justin got busy with the New Year and work, and his idea was left simmering on a back burner. Malachi left for training.

“I thought, ‘I really need to get this going,’ but I put it off again. We were getting close to when he was going to leave. He went to Utah at the end of January and was in a missionary training center. By the first weekend in March it was less than a week and a half before he was supposed to leave the country, and I thought, ‘I really need to get on this,’ so I stayed up late one night and worked on it, making a good image that Stephanie could work with and sent it to her. She was great about turning it around quick and got Skip to get it out in the mail. We were able to get it to him in Utah by Saturday, and he flew out the next Monday.”

The plan had finally come together.

 “I never actually saw it. Stephanie sent me a picture of Skip holding up the finished product right after they made it. I asked Malachi, ‘At some point when you’re able to, take a picture when you’re out there somewhere Hong Kongish, and I’ll post it to the Sideline’s (Facebook) Fan Page.”

In the streets of Hong Kong, the young American musician/missionary donned his specialized Sideline attire, and the image was captured and shared on Facebook.

Malachi’s dad is grateful to the Cherryholmes family. “Stephanie and Skip did everything they could to make it happen in such a pinch. I really appreciate their efforts.”

A bright idea from a dad in North Carolina was made possible by bluegrass friends. It traveled across the country, and brought light to a young musician who was far from his home, and the people and music he loved, as he was doing the work he felt called to do. May we all spread light as we interact one with another. Bluegrass people are family.

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About the Author

Sandy Hatley

Sandy Chrisco Hatley is a free lance writer for several NC newspapers and Bluegrass Unlimited magazine. As a teenager, she picked banjo with an all girl band called the Happy Hollow String Band. Today, she plays dobro with her husband's band, the Hatley Family.