Spring: Russel's Story

Many of you, who come to the mission regularly, know my friend Russell. He is perhaps one of the most colourful people I have met. I think there is a story to tell from every time we meet. He faces his struggles with cantankerous toughness, sharp wit and surprising moments of selflessness.

My wife, Stephanie, tells this story:

Every Sunday we take the van and stop by the mission to see if anyone wants to come to church with us. Today was my favourite Sunday yet! While we were waiting to pick up Don, who volunteers to serve breakfast every Sunday, Russel showed up. At 5’4” with the mouth of trucker, he is a cantankerous old man with a huge heart. He’s wearing camouflage cut off shorts, a royal blue sequinned fedora and a beige unzipped Nike track jacket. Just a jacket. It’s a toasty warm morning, and his milky white chest is a prime target for today’s rays. I forgot to mention that Russel is 84.

“Where you going?” Russel asks. 

“Were off to church” Mike answers, “Wanna come?”

“Ya. I’ll come” Russel starts to walk around the van to the empty seat. 

“Russel, I think we should get you a shirt.”

“I can zip up my jacket. But I think it’s broken” He squeezes the jacket shut and looks to Mike for approval. 

“Let’s get you a shirt, Russel”. Mike hops out of the van and heads into the mission to shop...

Another volunteer pops his head out and offers Russel a breakfast sandwich. Mike returns with a beautiful button up short sleeved shirt. Blue to match his hat! We’re off. Russel sat with us, chatted through part of the sermon, enjoyed coffee and cookies after the service and let us drop him back off on the strip afterwards. Hands down one of the most enjoyable Sundays I’ve had! Christ came not to serve those who are well, but the sick and needy. We are faced every day with opportunities to serve and to love.

Some of you may have already heard the pink fire truck story:

Thanks to Rick Diamond and Alethea Udell, we were granted access to a beautiful pink fire truck today. After it was detailed by the amazing volunteers from Luke 15 house, we decided to take it for a spin. Our special guest Russell, the fella in the photo, was overjoyed with the idea of going on a ride on the pink machine. So, we loaded him up and off we went for a tour around the block. As we returned to the mission, Russel seemed upset, so I asked him what was wrong.

Russel said, “I really want the guys at my house to see me in this because they don’t think I’m important”.

After a brief look at the driver, Shayne, who promptly gave a nod of approval we decided that Russel’s hat didn’t fit and we would have to go to his place to get a different hat. Russel’s excitement was palpable and his language was colourful as we traveled down 108th to the house he shares with several others. We arrived at his house with lights flashing and a few horn honks (we couldn’t figure out the siren knob). Russell walked into the house with several looking on from inside, then quickly returned with a baseball cap on.

“Your chariot awaits” I yelled loud enough for everyone inside to hear. With many onlookers, we helped Russel into the truck and we were off. When we got back to the mission I helped Russel out of the truck. At  this time his colourful language was out of control, as he expressed his excitement. “So much @#$ #%@ power” he said as he jumped off the step. After I stabilized his landing, he said, “I couldn’t find the right $%# $ hat”. I love this place. Everyday is an adventure.

Russell is a war vet who served our country for six years and was dishonourably discharged for flying home, without permission, to see his recently widowed mother. He talks about relentless shelling in “Little Gibralter” and the horrors of Kapyong. His story is a complicated one that is full of bad choices, lost love and a copious amount of fights. Russell recently received his veteran status, and I had the honour of being there when the nurses informed him. The look on his face was of joy and accomplishment as there has been so much disgrace felt since he had come back from war many decades before.

Thank you for your prayers and support. Russell was declining mentally and physically. He was living in a home run by a slumlord, and this old man was getting beat up and stolen from frequently. Without the support you give us we could not be there for Russell. He is now in a wonderful, clean, safe supportive living home where he is finally being properly cared for.

Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.   Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:37b-38). Thank you for joining us and continue to pray for the harvest. There are so many people suffering in Whalley and there is a need for more workers in His harvest field.