Pastor Russ's Story

Growing up, I was the middle of three sons, and my dad worked as a civil contractor for the Department of Defense.  We moved a lot.  At the end of my Junior year of High School, we moved to Wiesbaden, Germany.  While we were there, I graduated high school, started commuting back and forth from the states to attend college, and became heavily involved with the Immanuel Baptist Church and the European Baptist Convention.  This connection to the EBC allowed me to take part in several missions opportunities during the summers I wasn’t attending college.

Aviano, Italy

My first mission trip was to Aviano, Italy.  The plan was for me to be the youth director for the summer, but instead I spent 3 weeks being a personal assistant to the Pastor. Shortly after arriving in Italy, I found myself in need of lunch and had some time to waste before heading to my host site, so I decided to dine al fresco in Venice.  I had heard so much about how wonderful it was to eat outdoors along the canals in Venice, and the weather was nice, so I found a little spot and took a seat.  Well, no one told me that there were some Italians who don’t like American tourists.  This restaurant was one of those places.  When the bill came, I had been charged rent on the table and chair I used, as well as the napkin and cutlery, an upcharge for dining al fresco, and I was not only charged for my meal, but for each glass of water and each individual breadstick I ate in the breadbasket.  It took every lira I had plus most of my American cash to settle the bill.  What a way to start a summer mission project, right?  But I also got to spend talking with a young lady who was a devout Catholic.  I was able to share my beliefs, but our time together was very short.  I can only hope my story helped her connect with God in a new way.

Weisbaden/Meinz, Germany

After I returned to Weisbaden from Aviano, I was able to serve my parents’ church, Immanuel Baptist Church, as the assistant to the Summer Missionary Youth Pastor, and as the Children’s Choir director because no one else was willing and able to lead the young children musically.  We had a great time and were able to put together a full summer musical in 6 weeks.  I was also able to play tour guide for all the summer missionaries traveling with the European Baptist Convention each summer in Meinz, Germany.  We always made sure to take them to see the Gutenberg Bible Museum where the original printing press is on display.  (If you’d like to see a page printed on the press, there is one hanging in Pastor Russ’s office.)

Grindelwald/Interlaken, Switzerland

I also served at a Centrifuge Camp in Grindelwald/Interlaken, Switzerland. Centrifuge is a summer camp for ages 12 – 20.  This camp, in particular, was designed for military children and families and some select European nationals.  This camp was always partnered with an American Southern Baptist Convention (usually out of Texas.) My parents were always in charge of the kitchen – ok, let’s be honest, my momma was always in charge. The Texas Convention workers were almost always the kitchen help. I served as a Counselor, Driver, Security Guard, and Chaperone.  I went with them to worship. I prayed with the campers.  I was there if they had a question of faith, or home relationships, or questions of any kind. As a security guard, my entire goal was to limit fraternizing of the genders during the night hours.

Houston, Texas

On a mission trip to Houston, Texas I provided general labor by scraping gables on the mission’s house in downtown Houston, and I also helped sort donations. 

Continental Singers

I also had the tremendous opportunity to spend a summer singing with the touring group, Continental Singers.  I sang; I danced (I mean, “moved with interpretation to the music”), shared the Gospel, and drove vans of people and equipment.  My tour, Tour O, spend three months traveling and performing from Colorado Springs, Colorado, to Arizona, Amarillo, Texas, New Mexico, California, Hawaii (O’ahu), Oregon, Washington State, Utah, and Las Vegas, Nevada. We performed concerts, had an invitation, counseled, and prayed with those in attendance.  On this trip, while in Colorado Springs, I was able to lead one attendant, the son of an Air Force Pilot, to Christ during the invitation time.

Nome, Alaska

The most recent mission trip I took was with Berea’s team to Nome, Alaska.  I was blessed to be able to go with my best friend, Tim Nicholson, and so many other dear friends from Berea.  I served as Night Watch, for the Innuits as well as guarding the dog park for the Iditarod, Reindeer Dog Chefs, Worked concessions for the large Basketball tournament

How did you see God working an amazing work on the mission field?

Some mission trips are easier than others.  Imagine the mountains of Switzerland with the crystal blue glacier water lakes – it’s a clear picture of the majesty of God’s creation.  It can be easier to convince someone of God’s majesty and glory in a place like that.  Other trips are more difficult – you may go thinking you’re going to help lead youth to Christ, and you find out that you’re actually going to be the right-hand man to the pastor instead, and you have to readjust your thinking on the fly.


Being there in the moment that someone accepts Christ is a joy that is unlike any other, but just remember that success on mission is not necessarily measured by how many people you directly lead to Christ.  Sometimes you are just planting a seed by showing the love of Christ.


Being a defense dependent really opened my eyes to ministry.  In the military, most folks don’t really think about it, but we move every 3-4 years.  We lose friends all the time; we have to make new friends all the time. Friends feel lost sometimes – but some friendships endure – HOWEVER, Christ is the friend who never leaves, never forsakes you … I think learning that through my life prepared me for missions, especially missions surrounding military families.

What would you tell someone considering going on a mission trip to encourage them to go?

“Mission trips are an experience that you will never forget.  There is nothing like seeing someone finally understand the love of God and His transforming power in their lives. It’s also a blessing to work hard and see that hard work directly impact the people who need it the most.”


“Missions isn’t always about spreading the gospel directly.  Sometimes it’s about being the willing hands and feet of Jesus while doing labor for other churches or religious organizations.”