Saturday, October 23, 2010

Day 272 - Pete Russo

Did you know Pete Russo?

He was a simple man. That term in today's society sounds so negative. But it's not and we should all strive to be simple like the Russo's. Pete and his wife Linda were Martin's youth leaders. The two of them spent countless hours devoting their lives to people - and teenagers at that. A self-proclaiming hater of teenagers this man prayed, counseled, taught, fought and goofed off with them for years. Then they didn't just let the teenagers move on - they stayed a part of their young adults lives and was able to see many of them grow to have their own children.

Pete died today after a long battle with cancer. He was young by the world's standards, 64. It's very comforting to know God had his days on this earth numbered before he took a breath on that April day in 1946. He had them numbered before the foundation of this world.

I was introduced to the Russo's when I was friends with Martin at Word of Life Bible Institute. It was during Snow Camp and Martin asked me meet some people from his church. I think the conversation began with Pete saying, "So why in the world would you want to hang out with this guy?" And, I was hooked.

When Martin's grandparents weren't able to make it down to Tennessee for our wedding, Martin asked the Russo's to stand in as his grandparents (although they were way too young for it). We were honored to have them there. And my family, especially my mother fell in love with them.

After Martin and I were married, we moved to Vineland, NJ and started working with the youth at Faith Bible. Pete and Linda, head youth leaders at the time, took us out to eat (Chinese buffet - they knew the love of my heart, they actually shared it). They asked us questions and listened to the two newlyweds talking about how they were going to change the world (we were fresh out of Bible college, cut us some slack). Pete simply said, "We need to de-Word of Life you guys." Pete loved Word of Life so we were very confused and offended by this statement. We argued with him until it was time to go up for more food.

Years later I finally understood what he meant by that statement. We didn't need to change the world, that was God's job, we just needed to live for Him. See what I mean about being simple? Because of their simple lives, God has done radical things through this couple. These are a few things I have learned from them:

1. Invest. The Russo's never had a huge house. They lived in the country of South Jersey. Instead of working too much, they invested in people's lives. They spent the majority of the week with other believers in Christ.

2. Love on your family. Do you know the Russo family? They all live around Pete and Linda's house. I like to call it the Russo Holler. There is never a day when you can't see a granddaughter running through the woods to visit their house. Pete and Linda have two sons who are following in their dad's footsteps. They love God, love others, and are living simply. God made two totally different boys who He's brought to his Son Jesus in two totally different ways. They have two wives that are equally different and amazing and both have special places in my heart. These families are investing in others.

3. Don't complicate life. Pete lived out loud. You always knew where he stood. He could be completely politically incorrect but you never wondered what was going on his heart. Some didn't like that. I think it's because his honesty made you look at yourself and examine why you were keeping things hid away in your heart.

I hope I haven't portrayed Pete Russo as a Super-Saint. He would yell at me for that. I hope I haven't portrayed a man who loved others more than God, because he didn't. I hope you have learned from him too. From missions trips, to hunting trips with his sons and granddaughters; from completely terrible jokes to crying when he would find out that one of his youth kids walked away from the teaching of Christ, Pete Russo was a disciple of the Most High God. And he got to meet his Savior today. Lucky duck.


Anonymous said...

thank you Sarah for your wonderful "report" about Dad. You put it just right. I would like to write one too when i can. It is healing to write it down. Thanks again you are loved!

Anonymous said...

whoops i did not mean to be anonymous but first time doing this and unsure how to do it. so that was my comment(s)
Becky Russo