Brandon Ryan interviews homeless activist/religious paradox Brandt Russo
READ Pt 2 of Brandt Russo’s Interview HERE
Enoch Magazine) To start us off I was wondering if you could give the readers a bit of your background/story?
Brandt Russo: My name is Brandt Russo. I am a 24 year old disciple of Christ from a small southern Louisiana town called New Iberia. I grew up in church all of my life. Jesus was a household name. Never had any kind of lasting relationship with Him, nor did I ever see much great evidence of Him growing up in small “full gospel” churches, just one of those things that I had to find out first hand.
I come from a big family with 4 younger brothers and a baby sister, who I’m still trying to get to know to this day. I was always the black sheep of the family it seemed, everything from music, to arts, to the way I dressed seemed in complete opposition to the way things were supposed to be in the Russo household. I was home schooled until 10th grade, and then wrapped up my high school career at a small christian school called Assembly Christian.
I attended Texas Bible Institute for two years after high school and then immediately after graduating, I started traveling. “Seeking” is a much more suitable word. My two years at bible college laid an amazing foundation of faith in my life, and it’s where I feel I actually said yes to Jesus for the very first time; Yet the excess and abundance taught there, along with the favoritism showed to students of certain prominent families left me scarred. I began to learn about Jesus, structure of the “church” and all that pertains (i.e. christian book stores, bible colleges, ect). This all seemed to mirror organizations and societies that Jesus constantly rebuked, (in love of course).
I spent a couple of years traveling and church hopping, offering assistance by merely being a servant and trying to learn the difference between the many denominations. What made them so different and so secluded from one another? After traveling and working with churches, and realizing that no one would ever take much interest in a heavily tattooed, long haired, pierced pastor, I gave up searching to merely “existing.” I was burnt out on ministry, or at least the ministry was portrayed to me.
I moved to College Station, TX and worked two jobs for about a year with tons of down time. I had a lot of time to read, pray and pick the minds of church folk about why things remained in such turmoil within the church. I picked up a book called “The Irresistible Revolution” by a wonderful man named Shane Claiborne. It ended up changing my life and opening my eyes to a “new” Jesus. A Jesus easily neglected by the local church and rejected by religious elite. The Jesus I never seemed to know. The Jesus who blessed the poor, rebuked the rich, loved the broken hearted, the homeless, the whores and crack addicts. The Jesus who came to bring those who claim to sight, blindness, and not only offered freedom to the oppressed, but oppressor as well. The Jesus who recklessly destroyed my preconceived ideas about Him (portrayed by America), and His plan for my life, and this is when i really started my journey as a disciple.
I sold all I had, and what I couldn’t sell I gave away. Purchased a VW camper van and just left. God called me to the streets, to the broken and neglected, and what seemed like a simple task still leaves me shaking my head at how great His purpose is for our loves. He has called me to be a bridge. A bridge between the rich and the poor, the mediocre and the overly zealous. The pharisee and the tax collectors.
Now I travel the US preaching about the Love of God, Jubilee, Redistribution and the early church. I live on the road and do all I can to love like Christ loved. I dumpster freshly thrown out food and prepare meals for the hungry, repair clothes for the naked, and just meet whatever needs I see and feel led to meet. All the money I receive, I re-distribute to those in need. There are no class lines in the Kingdom of God. No division, no separation. We are called to be the Body. One heart, one mind, and if it takes us all selling everything once again and ending poverty like the early church, praise the Lord. God has always used voices crying out in the wilderness, calling His people back to the desert (proper way of doing things). I am just yet another one of those voices.
I’m no celebrity nor do I ever want that. I just want to follow Jesus to the margins, and tell beautiful stories of His provision in my life and the lives of the people I meet. To God be ALL the glory!
Enoch Magazine) Wow that was a full blown background check my friend! You said in the last few lines of your story that you didn’t see yourself as a “celebrity.” But it seems as though you have still created some sort of craze. People are following you and wanting to do what you do. How do you respond to that?
Brandt Russo: Well I just think that people long fora revolution of sorts. We all look at the 60’s, and see a generation of kids who were actively involved in change. They didn’t wait for the delegation of the government to actually take the problem into their hands, and inter dependently seek change. I just did what so many people are now coming around to do, and that’s believing that what Jesus said was real and relevant and is to be enacted now.
I mean I have no idea why magazines, and documentary makers have been knocking on my door for a chance to look into my life. I’m a kid that’s trying to figure things out, and I’m very quick to make mistakes, but if you really want to live life, you have to expect to make mistakes. So long have we lived in this culture of “Christian Celebrities” that have such eloquent speech, bright white teeth, and live far far away from any type of suffering, (apart from having to perhaps wait in line at a department store, or a cramp from a book signing). Usually somewhere down the line we find out that they have been a closet homosexual, or have had affairs. Its all because we put people on these pedestal and the pressure to perform keeps them in so much fear to screw up, that when they do they hide it until it comes out like a media fireball. Community is so important, because not only is the act of confessing our sins one to another a lost art, but pride keeps us from truly being able to love.
My story is just as valuable as anyone’s. Sometimes when I’m speaking at a conference, or at a huge church, I stand and wonder why these people are listening to my words and yet I will never get the chance to hear theirs. Why does a pastor stand for two hours telling the people what to believe, and then they leave awaiting the next weeks lesson while holding in disagreements, fears, captivating thoughts, all because they aren’t the pastor and don’t feel they have the right. Its nonsense, because Jesus made us all wonderfully, and completely capable of love. I don’t know, I just know my self to well to take someone seriously when they say im there hero.
Enoch Magazine) So in essences are you saying that you would rather have people look towards what Christ did, rather than you as their “hero?”
Brandt Russo: Is this a trick question? I am as goofball as they come. I usually most relate with peter. I’ve got this earnest desire to do things for my Lord, with every good intention, but then I just ending up cutting people’s ears off. mewithoutYou has a song with lyrics that I relate to. “I do not exist, only you exist.” Its not me that lives, but Christ. Any good you can extract from my life comes from God, and the mistakes are mine. People would fall in the presence of Peter, and he would just tell them, “Get up (silly), I’m merely a man like you”. That being said…I still think this is a trick question.
Enoch Magazine) Ok, trick question: no, I’d never do that to you. But seriously man, what does a day consist of for you?
Brandt Russo: This is something that is far from typical. I never have a typical day. Lately, I have a veggie oil powered school bus that I converted into a homeless shelter/food kitchen/place, to give and receive love. So no matter where I go in that thing; whether to the grocery store or to a downtown “feed,” we always draw a lot of attention which means tons of new friends. I’m not in the business of feeding homeless people, but more into the idea of people eating together. When the rich and the poor meet, class lines dissolve into brotherhood.
Usually every night we leave around 10 o’clock to dumpster dive for food, drinks and whatever we can find to serve the poor and homeless. No matter where I am, I try to go under the bridges and serve the homeless with whatever food we end up finding from the dive the night before. Honestly, every day varies. I have no idea what I’m going to do from day to day. Some nights I’m sleeping on the streets with the homeless simply because I don’t want to leave them. And the late night stories are the best! Other nights I’m sleeping on the floor of a million dollar mansion trying to convey the compassion of Christ to a confused businessman I may have met on the streets. I just wake up and go wherever He leads me. It’s like Mary told the servants at that party in Cana, “Whatever He tells you to do, DO IT,” (John 2 verse 5). READ Pt 2 of Brandt Russo’s Interview HERE