Relevents: Phillip Russ
Phillip Russ, a graduate of The Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Center (ARC) in Trenton, N.J., talks about his children, how they helped shape his worldview, the importance of living in the “right now,” and lessons from the book of Job.
I have two daughters, but I know they belong to God. My oldest, Jacklyn, is a film student in college. My youngest, Nadia, just turned 18 and runs track for her school in Georgia. I have such admiration for my girls; they are both intelligent, respectful people and they’ve changed my worldview. I grew up in a radical, militant, mostly African–American culture. It was easy to look at America and see only racism. But when my daughters got older, they invited friends home of all colors and backgrounds. This helped me change my view of people, which was important for my recovery.
We should all know the day when God breathed new life into us. For me, it was September 1, 2015, the last day I got high. I remember walking inside a drug dealer’s home, and inside was a prayer closet, and the drug dealer’s wife was listening to a sermon playing on TV. God will make His presence felt anywhere, even in a crack house. The dealer said to me, “I can’t put my finger on it, but something about you tells me you do not belong here.” God had put His mark on me.
A spiritual elder asked if I had the patience of Job. I didn’t know what that meant, but I simply nodded “yes.” Years later, I learned it meant going through hardships, but not being angry at God. That patience was with me when I lost my mother to cancer. At the ARC, I realized I could admit to God I was in pain, but still trust His will. My mother had been the embodiment of God’s goodness in my life, but I accepted that He needed her more than I did.
God has provided mentors throughout my life. I never knew my real father. I grew up respecting street hustlers. But my grandfather showed me what a real man is. He had a 3rd grade education, but all of his children attended college. As an adult, I met Greg, who had been an addict—like I had become. Now, Greg was sober and worked in an office. He no longer had vein marks on his arms. He was a graduate of the Salvation Army’s Trenton, N.J., ARC and had made the first call to get me into the program. When I arrived at the ARC, I did not know how to pray. I met Marcel who became my spiritual mentor. He introduced me to the book of Psalms and said to me, “Phil, God already knows you, so just talk to Him.”
Right now, focus on what you can do for others. As you read this, know there’s an addict under a bridge taking a hit of drugs. There’s someone in a hospital that has overdosed and is fighting for his or her life. God loves us and can work through us today, right now.