Brandon Ryan interviews Brandt Russo (pt. 2) Read pt. 1 CLICK HERE
Photos by Meghan Gruhin
Brandt Russo: John 8:47 says, “He who is of God, hears God’s words.” For me, its pretty simple. God’s word has been one of the biggest ways I hear from him. It’s also just like Jesus said in the book of Revelation, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” God is constantly speaking to us in tons of ways. Through his word (the Bible), through prayer and especially through the Holy Spirit.
“But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:26)
It doesn’t always sound like a voice, but sometimes it might. I just feel deep conviction and soft whispers usually. It’s a strange thing, but it’s becoming more and more normal everyday. A lot of the time, when we can’t “hear” God, its because our lives are far too cluttered. It’s hard to hear the voice of God amid the tons of voices we will our head with, whether that be our families, teachers, culture, etc… just simplify and be open.
Enoch Magazine) Very cool. Can you give us a brief summary of your arrest in Florida?
Brandt Russo: Basically there was this HUGE revival in Lakeland Florida, and we heard reports that there were homeless folks getting arrested for trespassing and getting thrown out of the services! So we went to check it out. Upon arriving we realized that there was a whole homeless camp right next to the church and decided to do something about the situation.
In Luke 14:12-24, Jesus instructs us that when you throw a party, not to invite family and friends, but the poor, lame, maimed and blind. In doing so, we have no reward but the reward set apart for us in Heaven. We decided to “throw a Jesus” party. Its a beautiful concept and an even more beautiful action. Much different then a protest. As we got to the bus (which was parked in a parking lot next to an abandoned building that I didn’t know was the church’s property), we were cleaning up a bit and a cop car rolled up. I got out to talk to the officer and he was extremely nice. He told me that he was called to investigate a trespassing rumor, and after talking to him for about 30 min., and telling him all we do, he decided to go and talk to the pastor. He told me the last thing he [the cop] wanted to do was arrest me and wanted to see if we could work out an agreement. This was not only the first time I knew the abandon lot and building was “church property”, but that they wanted us gone, and would take civil actions to do so.
As the officer drove over to the church I had a feeling in my spirit that they weren’t going to change their minds and when he drove back, along came the secretary, the bodyguard, and an elder of the church. I explained what we were doing there, that we had no plans of a protest, and that God has commissioned us to be there. We really felt it unnecessary for them to kick us off the property, but they gave me illustration after illustration, all leading to me moving my bus. I told them we never saw a car try to park where we were parked, and that if this was a church, it was holy ground, and belonged to no one but the Lord. After about ten minutes of “bible verse slinging,” they asked me if I was ready to leave their property. I wasn’t. I told them that I was going to stay, until either: I was able to talk to Pastor Strader, (like I mentioned in an e-mail I sent to him a day earlier), or if all the people in need, got their needs got met. They told me I didn’t belong on their property and finally the cop leaned over to the secretary and asked her what was the final say. She said, “Trespassing, arrest him.”
As the officer cuffed me, I felt the spirit of God more than I ever had before. And even though the thought of jail scared me, the peace of God rested in my spirit. As we drove off, I talked to the officer all the way to the station and it was really amazing seeing his patience and understanding for what I did.
Spending two days and nights in Polk County jail wasn’t a slice of pie, but it surely could have been much worse. My cellmates were the most beautiful spirited men I have ever met. Just so broken and humble. We stayed up late reading the Bible together and joking around about how horrible the food was (as the food network played in the background…torture). The two days I was there, God was there with me the entire time. It was so beautiful walking in the cell with the orange jumpsuit and having all the inmates immediately call me preacher boy because of my tattoos. I felt so blessed to not only see another side of “the least” whom Jesus spoke of in Matthew 25, but to also be one. We stayed up late talking about Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jesus, and the early Christians and apostles who also seemed to be getting into so much trouble. We discussed how the most powerful parts of the new testament, King’s and Gandhi’s letters and speeches were birthed by the spirit of God in a cold jail cell.
Enoch Magazine) Wow, that’s pretty crazy stuff. Obviously in the Bible, God clearly tells us to take care of the poor. It’s something we cannot neglect. But there seems to be this entire movement of people wanting to “Go Homeless.” Do you think it’s for everyone? And what do you say to someone whose thinking about living that lifestyle?
Brandt Russo: It has become a trend, unfortunately, but I think it’s something EVERYONE can learn from. What’s so great about Jesus, is his message of equality. He tells EVERY ONE of His disciples to go with nothing (Luke 9&10). First the 12, then the 72. Yes, Jesus has more then 12 disciples haha. He sent them with no backpack, no sandals, no change of clothes, no money, walking stick, NOTHING! He told them to leave their things behind, everything of any value or comfort.
He even went as far as to tell these Jewish men to eat ANYTHING placed before them. So not only did he strip them of their comfort, but their food preference (because pork was a huge no-no back then). God became the provider for these ragtag, two by two, barefooted disciples. Jesus took their stuff yes, but in exchange gave them the power of the Spirit to heal the sick, raise the dead, bring sight to blind eye, and proclaim the kingdom of heaven is near. All these songs we sing in church saying “Jesus you’re all I need.” I wonder if we truly mean it?
What Jesus did when He sent them with nothing was so profound. First, it put EVERYONE on the same level economically and socially. They couldn’t defend themselves with a title when they were being teased, because they were merely homeless. Secondly, He gave them an amazing chance to truly trust God. Some of those men (and women) never knew anything but a life of comfort, and Jesus wanted to give them a chance to re-evaluate what was valuable to them. It worked. In Acts 3, Peter and John healed a lame man that was asking for money. Obviously that mans vitality and salvation was far more valuable then the couple dollars they would have spared (if they had money to begin with).
Jesus not only sent every disciple on a homeless adventure, but he asked every single one of them, along with a countless number of people in the crowd in Luke 12, to sell everything they had and give it away as alms to the poor. Once again reminding people that we shouldn’t worry about the simple, but important things in life, like eating, clothes, and shelter. I think that an adventure like this sharpens our faith. It defines our trust. I believe it is meant for everyone at some point in their lives and without it, I would never have the eyes to see those hurting like I do now. My calling was defined when I became a “least of these.” I think as disciples, we should try our best to do what they did… and this is a doozie.
Enoch Magazine) So you’re saying… We should all go homeless at least once?
Brandt Russo: Absolutely. It completely changed my life, as well as countless others through out the ages. It opened up a new level of compassion that you never really recognize is ever there unless you are confronted with it. Mother Teresa said that “you can never truly understand poverty unless you encounter it.”
Enoch Magazine) And what about those who choose not to go homeless, but still make an effort to help the poor?
Brandt Russo: It’s not a bad thing, I just think God molded their callings in that time. I just think you can never really understand or truly relate to a person in poverty unless you have taken it on in some capacity. Besides, Jesus sent everyone out like this. I just figure its something we should observe and follow.
Enoch Magazine) Well that’s cool my friend. A lot of people have different perspective on things. And I guess we just have to share a certain respect with everybody. So, you seem to have an arm of ink. Can you tell us what all the tattoos are and what meanings they carry?
Brandt Russo:I promised my mom I wouldn’t get any tattoos until I graduated Bible college. I think she figured I would read the Bible and feel horrible since “it is such a sin.” And I thank God that we are slowly being able to merely accept people regardless of what they look like.
My first tattoo was a sparrow with a halo and it says “Jesus Saves.” I basically wanted to always remind myself of where my saving grace came from, and getting it was a great conversation piece. All of my tattoos have lots of meaning to me, and a lot of them are script; like the “hope” and “love” on my wrists, “redeemed” on my knuckles, and “under grace” on my ankles. They serve more as a reminder to me about how incredible God is rather than to come across as relevant or subversive. I have a Proverbs 31:30 sailor woman pin up (very modest I must say), and it’s basically the woman I want, if that ever happens. I also have a heart on my wrist with an open scroll for the name of whoever God has for me, but for now its blank and will be as long as he wills it.
My favorite and funniest is the Jesus on my forearm. In the banner under him, it says “BRB”, and yes it means be right back.
Enoch Magazine) Those darn moms… if we may go back a second, you said something about Jesus telling us to pretty much live as he lived along with the disciples… but how did that apply to the lame, deaf and mute in the bible? (I.E. the physically challenged)
Brandt Russo:Well, its amazing to see that typically when Jesus healed someone (lame, deaf, and mute) they would basically beg Jesus for the opportunity to follow Him. And what does Jesus do? He tells them to go back to their town and find a priest to proclaim them healed, because that would be a much greater testimony then if they decided to pick up and follow Him. Whats even more exciting is that later on down the line they ended up crossing paths and following him in that capacity.
I also think that God creates people for certain tasks. Sometimes, a person with a disability can shine so brightly for the Lord by just simply living their life despite their circumstances. Too often I feel that we dismiss truth on behalf of our problems, and God allows those problems so that we can show the world that his truth is so much greater and powerful then our problems. I don’t have all the answers, but I feel that just because it seems like God isn’t healing your body doesn’t mean He hasn’t healed your heart, and that’s truly the one part of you that pushes the rest.
Enoch Magazine) Great answer, any last thoughts?
Brandt Russo:I am just thankful for everywhere this journey has taken me and continue to thank God for allowing me to do what I do. It would be ridiculous if we all, not only believed the words of Jesus (which most of us do in theory but not practice), but actually enacted them. It would turn the world upside down. We are all called to love, and there are a million things that could keep us busy if only we had eyes to see like Jesus sees. Be the change that God expects to see in this world. The only thing holding you back is you.
Enoch Magazine) Thanks Brandt, peace be with you.Read pt. 1 CLICK HERE