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Our Story Our Song Goes Behind the Scenes with Erskin

Behind the scenes with artist Erskin Anavitarte on Our Story Our Song. Photo: Kate Tucker

We want to thank you for your warm response to Our Story Our Song, our new video series where we gather around the music — performed live, straight from the heart, out in God’s country. The experience of hearing these artists share their songs and stories goes well beyond what we could capture in a fifteen minute episode, so we thought we’d take you behind the scenes. For the series premiere, we meet Erskin — Texas-born, Nashville-based singer-songwriter, diversity spokesman, and advocate for orphaned and abandoned children. He lives out his mission to strengthen ministries, engage culture, and create impactful art by partnering with Holt International, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Life Action, and Project Connect Nashville. 

If you haven’t seen the first episode, watch Our Story Our Song on YouTube and be sure to subscribe, like, and comment. We love hearing from you! 

Erskin, you use your voice as an artist to advocate on behalf of the vulnerable. Tell us how you came to partner with Holt International? 

As an artist, your bio or description is the foundation of who you are as an individual. I care a lot about orphans, a lot about children, families, and being a spokesman for things that matter. So when the music is written, we’re thinking about how we can best communicate to various audiences the things we’re passionate about, and hopefully, it will be something that resonates with them as well. 

Holt International approached me and said, “Hey, you do a bunch of shows, and we know that you have a heart for adoption.” A lot of people have heard of Compassion International, as well as World Vision, but not a lot of people have heard of Holt International. They were established in the 1950s, and they were really the pioneers of international adoption. As I’ve gone around and shared my experience with Holt, I’ve been surprised on many occasions to find people who were either adopted through Holt, or have sponsored children through Holt. It’s been a really interesting and cool partnership. 

My wife and I have fostered about six sets of kids. Our first pair we brought into foster care we’ve now adopted, our son and daughter, Justin and Jasmine. So we’ve had a passion for that for years, and we’ve literally been able to see kids come into our home and become healed in the sense of all the doctor’s appointments and things that are required to get them healthy — counseling, all the different things these kids need to be able to make it farther in life. We look forward to more opportunities to engage in the process of helping kids transition from a potentially unhealthy place to a healthy place. That’s a mission of ours. 

Were you adopted? 

I was not adopted in the sense that a caseworker comes in and removes a child. My mom had me when she was 17 years old and so she finished college while my grandparents raised me. So technically, you could say that I was adopted; my grandparents raised me. And that was a unique experience. I had contact with my parents, but I didn’t live in the home with them. So it’s not quite the same thing, but I can definitely understand those feelings of alienation, separation, questions unanswered that small children want to ask. I experienced that, but I had great grandparents and a wonderful environment growing up. 

How has faith impacted your artist journey and how does music impact your faith? 

I don’t know that I would have necessarily planned this direction in life. I came to the realization there were a lot of people who were encouraged by my music. When I would go overseas for different mission opportunities, there were more people who were encouraged by me picking up a guitar and singing a few songs I’d written, than some of the other things we were doing. Times like that were confirmation that maybe the Lord wanted me to do music, instead of just doing what I thought everybody should do —  go to school, get an education and then work in the church. It’s just been a rich journey, a unique journey, and one that I think has encouraged a lot of people along the way. 

Wardrobe check with Ryman the dog. Jesus shoes for the win. Photo: Kate Tucker

What do you love most about being an artist? 

My favorite part about being an artist would be the performance aspect. I enjoy all of it — I have a writing session later on and I enjoy that kind of raw work. I’ve got work tapes of many songs that will never see the light of day, for good reason; just that process is encouraging. But really, the performance is when it comes all together. It comes full circle, all the travel, all the conversations — literally, there’s some concerts we work on for two years, and we finally get a chance to stand in front of the audience. And then you’re there. It’s those magical moments where all of that hard work comes together, all the people that have been working in the background, the team that’s been working so hard and preparing things comes together in a rich and unique way, and allows us to communicate the passion that we have. 

If you could tattoo a verse on your heart, what would it be? 

I’d probably say Psalm 46. It’s been a sort of mantra for years: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in times of trouble.” I’ve revisited that so many times, and come back to that truth — no matter when all of Earth gives away God is still there. He’s still present. He’s still active. He’s still in control. 

Mountains or ocean? 

I am gonna have to say, I am unequivocally a mountain person. I cannot swim, so I am not going out in the ocean, I’m gonna be in the mountains all day long. I’m trying to get into mountain biking. I’m moving slowly, but that’s okay. I think we have time.

Do you take your kids on outdoor adventures?   

The kids go outside every day. I’m trying to get them into biking. We want to teach them about God’s creation and take every opportunity to make lessons out of things that are around us. We take advantage of the fact that we’ve been able to travel together as a family as I’m touring. We’ve gotten to see some beautiful sunsets, Lake Michigan, different places. It’s really neat for the kids to be able to see those things. We revisit those things when we do our family devotions and think about what we’ve seen on that day and how it connects to something that we’re talking about. 

What gives you a sense of wonder? 

Being out in nature. We oftentimes are the reference point for everything in the world. We’re big, we’re in control, we’re in charge. And when you see yourself against a mountain and you see yourself in the vastness of an ocean or something like that, you recognize you’re not in control of hardly anything. But it’s awesome, because you ask — who would we be that God would be mindful of us? And that he would think about and consider Erskin needs something? That’s…come on now. I’m about to start preaching up on this thing. 

How do you view the responsibility of Christians to God’s creation? 

Look at Psalm 24:1, “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof the world and everything that dwells there in.” Just think about how that puts us in relationship to God’s creation. God is not the creation, but he stands over creation. God has given us creation as a good gift that points to him. He’s given us creation for stewardship, so that we might navigate ourselves in creation in a way that glorifies God in a way that encourages others. That’s a unique challenge and responsibility. I think the stewardship we have of any of our gifts, any of our talents, any of our tools that God gives us, is an important responsibility.   

That’s a wrap! On set for Our Story Our Song with Erskin. Photo: Alea Capaldi 

Catch Erskin’s episode of Our Story Our Song  on YouTube and Facebook and look out for episode 2 featuring MAYLYN, March 5, 2021!

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