Gospel with a Polka Beat

By Gary E. McKee

 Bruce and Shara Repka/Gary E. McKee photo

Bruce and Shara Repka/Gary E. McKee photo

“Circuit Riders” was the name given to preachers in the 1800s who traveled the physical and spiritual wilderness bringing, on horseback, the word of God to the Great American West. Martin Ruter (Rutersville) was a great example, who in 1837 entered Texas with a stack of Bibles and hymnals to preach to and sing with the citizens of the newly founded Republic of Texas.

Among those still carrying on this tradition in the 2000s are Bruce and Shara Repka. However, instead of riding horseback thousands of western miles, they trailer their beloved horses and instead of stacks of bibles and hymnals they are equipped with voices and musical instruments to implement their horse ministry.

Bruce’s family has deep roots in Lavaca County where his father, Henry Repka along with Herbert Kloesel from Schulenburg, founded the music program at Sacred Heart Catholic School in Hallettsville. Bruce’s musical trip began at a single digit age listening to his father performing in a popular polka and waltz band, The Music Kings, around the Houston area. His father would make cassettes of their performances and bring them home, where young Bruce would listen to them and play along on a plastic accordion purchased from Sears.

One day his mother brought Henry to Bruce’s room to hear him play and he was soon playing on a “real” accordion. At the ripe old age of 10, he performed on a Music King “45” rpm record (the ones with the BIG hole in the middle). The song was the Honeybee Waltz. From that point onward Bruce accompanied his father as they played the Mraz Ballroom, Lodge 88, and various KC Halls in a 50-mile radius of Houston. Bruce’s intrigue with music, led him to learn the guitar, steel guitar, fiddle, and keyboards.

Singing with a purpose
As with most great bands, time took its toll and The Music Kings disbanded. Bruce continued playing in several country bands both in Central Texas and Houston. In 1996, Bruce decided to focus on playing and singing about God’s grace and love. Being interested in the western culture, he gravitated towards the cowboy churches that were springing up throughout Texas and the west. In 2001 Bruce was attending the Crossroads Cowboy Church in Yoakum and met a lovely lady named Shara. They realized that they shared more than spiritual feelings and were married in 2003.

At that time Bruce was singing with Mike Ables from Bellville in a duo called The Calvary Cowboys. The Christian Country Music Association of Nashville rated them in the top 5 acts in 2004, 2005, and 2006. When Mike stepped down, Shara took his place, and the Pony Express Ministry singing duo was formed.

Bruce and Shara have been traveling the west performing at different venues focusing on “ranch rodeos” which are events that involve real working cowboys and cowgirls. These rodeos are fundraisers for various charities that assist young cattlemen to continue in their chosen field and action groups that assist in livestock disease prevention programs and the protection of western rangeland among many similar worthy causes. While traveling from rodeo to cowboy churches, Bruce and Shara have released four CDs of their music, most of which are original songs.

Polka On! with God
In the last several years to widen the scope of Bruce’s respect for God and his family heritage (Czech), he teamed up with his father to deliver a great instrumental CD of gospel music performed with a polka beat. Kicking off with spirited versions of I’ll Fly Away, Amazing Grace, and The Old Rugged Cross to name a few, the CD is an intriguing listen. Named S Pánem Bohem: Sunday Polka, it features St. Mary’s Church near Hallettsville, and is the perfect music to listen to on the way to church picnics this summer. (S Pánem Bohem is Czech for "Go with God.")

Visit the Pony Express website to learn more about the ministry and purchase their uplifting music.