DOM RUSO - Learning - Leading - Loving
Today is a special day. After weeks of discussion and reflection, we are excited to share the name and logo design of our new church. It was such a gift to work with a graphic artist who understands the importance of art and design when capturing some of the nuances of the Christian story.
At the heart of our logo and design is the idea that it is never too late to turn things around. In fact, the Church has always been a community that celebrates change and transformation in our lives, as Jesus invites us to turn away from our own selfish ways to follow His way. In a sense, such transformation involves a “180”: the number of degrees that make up a complete turnaround in direction. We believe that Jesus is still inviting people to make that change in direction, to follow Him.
You can now visit theoneeighty.ca for regular updates as our website takes shape. We have also set up various social media platforms to keep you updated on exciting news regarding our vision nights and the new location we'll start meeting in shortly. Please consider sharing and linking to our Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Philippians 3:15,16 (MSG)
Over the past few weeks we have experienced the joy of seeing months and months of planning come together. It was just a few weeks ago that we packed up a Uhaul and made the long trip to Montreal as we prepare to see God shape a new church community through our work and the commitment of many others. With the help of friends and family the move went as planned, but unfortunately a few difficult and unexpected surprises were around the corner.
Not even a week into our new house we had water damage due to a leak in our bathroom. We were shocked and disappointed. If that wasn't enough, two days later someone broke into my car. 'Wow', I thought, 'this can't be happening'. While nothing of value was stolen, the added stress felt like an emotional roller coaster ride.
Having said that, these challenges have also provided us with important times of reflection about what God has called us to do. Like Christians before us, we need to be encouraged to keep focused on the goal. We continue to learn that in moments like these God reminds us that He is with us through the unexpected challenges of life teaching us to listen to His leading and to stay on task.
As we prepare for some important upcoming visions conversations we also are excited to share the name of the new church. Many continue to ask about this and we are so close to finalizing the name and logo design for the new church. We look forward to sharing it with you soon, possibly later today.
Also, we believe God has answered our prayers in providing a great location that will be available for our use for the remainder of 2015. This will be a meeting place for us to gather, pray and learn together as the church takes shape. It's exciting things like this that keep us focused on what God has in store knowing that these are the building blocks for a new & healthy church to emerge in Quebéc.
In a few days, August 16th to be exact, our family will make the long awaited trip to our new home in Laval. We are so excited. The boys keep counting down the days and Bev and I can't wait to unpack, find a new rhythm and begin to meet with those excited to be part of this new church.
With the busyness of the transition I have not stopped thinking about the importance of August 16th. In addition to being our moving date it is also our Wedding Anniversary. It feels strange to be celebrating this momentous occasion by taking my wife out of her comfort zone. Not only did she grow up in Sarnia, her parents now live down the street. For those of you taking notes, this is NOT how you should say 'Happy Anniversary'.
While the decision to follow God's leading to plant a church in Montreal was something that Bev and I prayerfully decided together, saying goodbye to family and friends can emotional and difficult. In the midst of that Bev has modeled what it means to set aside the comforts of our present context to be part of a new, unknown and stressful next season of serving God together.
Although I can't change that on Sunday Aug. 16th she will be driving our van with 3 rowdy boys yelling 'Are we there yet?' I can say thank you. I am so grateful for an incredible wife, mom and friend. I have been blessed with a partner that is serious about doing life together and going wherever God calls us. To be married to someone who continues to live out the vows of selflessness we made to each other 12 years ago is life changing. Selfless love changes us! This is true in marriage and in the Christian story. At the heart of the Christian story we learn how to be selfless from a God who embodied selfless love for us.
It is no surprise that to be human is to desire a selfless type of love in an honest and caring relationship. This will never change. Because of that we believe that church plays a crucial and essential role in fostering healthy relationships. From couples desiring to have their marriages grounded on biblical truths to parents who want kids to understand a selfless way of life, church is a special context for this type of learning to take place.
As the new church takes shape Bev and I feel that God is calling us to embody some of these values in our new church. A place that is intentional about helping families to experience God's presence in their everyday activities. A leader I deeply respect wrote " The best gift we can give our children and our youth might not be the great programs we were offering but instead…the simple and profound gift of a growing mom and dad." This insight continues to grip our hearts as we pray, plan and prepare to see this new church emerge.
We have experienced what it's like to be part of a healthy and vibrant church. This has strengthened our marriage and continues to shape our decision making and faith journey. If you have not found a church community to help you in developing healthy relationships consider joining us as we learn together. Also, I am sure I will have more advice on how NOT to say 'Happy Anniversary'. Now back to packing !
A heart of prayer helps foster a vision that exceed our abilities.
Last July we were in Montreal visiting family. It was meaningful in many ways, but I remember it as the first time our boys experienced "la compétition de feux d'artifice." I can still remember their look of amazement as the fireworks lit up the sky. We would never have imagined that a year later, this July, we would be packing in preparation for our big move to Montreal on August 16th.
Over the past few weeks Bev and I have had the chance to visit some churches and build some life-changing friendships and partnerships. These relationships have been an answer to our prayers. While we knew that God was preparing churches and individuals to join us as we stepped out in faith we didn't expect that our journey would inspire them as well. As we've connected with different people we have been encouraged to see many get a better picture of the needs in Quebec. In this way they have committed to pray with and for us as we move forward.
As a God honoring vision takes shape in our hearts, we have spent some important times seeking God's wisdom and fostering the spiritual preparation of prayer. Spiritual preparation has been a time to set our hearts on God's call and to learn to trust Him fully.
While I've always made time for prayer, the past few weeks have led me on a deeper journey in conversing with God. In those times God has been teaching me to see His hand at work in moments where I felt truly helpless. This is a lesson I have often avoided.
Secondly, these prayerful moments have taught me to think more carefully about prayer and vision. I can still remember a quiet moment when I sensed God reminding me, "Your vision must exceed your abilities." Wow, I was not ready for that. It was God's gentle way of saying that others will join you and their passion, their gifts, their sacrifice will help you accomplish all I have in store.
When was the last time you prayed for God to give you a vision that was greater than your abilities or resources? Just like me, your prayer life might reveal your own lack of vision and imagination. Perhaps praying for us and considering partnering with us might be what you need to inspire you to take a next step in your faith journey.
These moments of prayer have re-centered my heart on the truth that it is God's hand at work in us that will help us reach, heal and transform lives. Our job is to have the courage to trust Him as we use our limited gifts to serve others. I recently read that 'Prayer is the soul's deepest cry of rebellion against the way things are for the way God intended them to be." Join the rebellion and start praying.
Seeing people go through difficult times can be hard. I wouldn't say I am good at it, but God has been stretching me in this area and about a year ago he opened a door that I never thought I could walk through.
Monday morning I woke up to a phone call, a newborn baby had passed away in the night just after birth. It was the hospital calling me to ask if I would be willing to go photograph the baby and family. About two years ago, someone told me about a need, through an organization called Now I Lay me Down to Sleep. It seemed strange at first on why a hospital would need a photographer, but i pursued the idea and was overwhelmed by this special need and the possibility to serve with them.
This great organization is committed to helping families grieve the lose of their newborn child in a loving and caring way. To do that they provide remembrance photography which provides photos with their newborn who has passed. It is so painful, but there are glimmers of hope knowing that these pictures may, in some way, help the families find healing through their season of grief.
Monday morning, I had planned to spend the day relaxing with my family after a busy weekend, but instead I found myself driving to the hospital and praying. Praying that God would be with me, give me peace and strength, use me in a way I don't have the ability to be used, and that somehow in a broken and difficult situation that His love would be known to this family.
I met the most beautiful baby girl that morning who was now in the arms of Jesus and I met a mother who never got to meet or know her baby girl. As I drove home from the hospital I thought about life, death, grief and pain. I thought about the God that I serve and how He calls us to be the church to those who are hurting. As Dom and I begin this journey of planting a church, this to me is one of the core values of being the Church. The verse Romans 12:15 came to me as I was driving home from the hospital "Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep." I'm learning what it means to walk with others during their time of weeping.
I consider it such an honor to be with these moms and dads in their vulnerable time and knowing that God is using my gifts to help them grieve. I found myself reminding a hurting new mom that it's okay to cry and not to smile while I took photos of her with her baby. I knew that when she looked at these photos it would be a reminder of her holding her baby, mourning and weeping as her arms tightly held her precious baby. I wanted the photos to remind her of the few short hours she was able to hold her baby before her arms were empty. I wanted the photos to remind her of all the little details she may forget over the years. The little nose, the dark curly hair, tiny fingers holding her mothers finger and the ten little toes. Although I have never experienced this, to me that would be one of the greatest gifts I could receive as I walked through the grieving.
What does it mean to walk alongside of those that are grieving and hurting? It is using your gifts and talents to selflessly serve others without reward to show them God's love, grace, and peace. I Peter 4:10 says "Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms.
I look forward to serving along side wonderful people in Laval, Quebec to serve those in our new community. I pray we become the church that is known for their love of others and care for those who are hurting. That together we become the church that people experience God's love for them in a way they have never experienced before and that healing and love would overflow to our communities.
Over the past few weeks I have been captivated by the widely popular Netflixs exclusive called Daredevil. Rooted in the Marvel Comics genre, the show is a powerful reminder of the limits of the justice system, our desires to see things put to right and our human frailty in the face of evil. What i didn't expect is the many religious and biblical undertones. From confessional encounters with a priest, debates about the existence of the devil and a retelling of the Good Samaritan story by the lead villain, this show is worth keeping on the radar.
While impressed with that, there was still another developing theme in the show that has everything to do with church planting. One of the ongoing battles between the villain drug lord and the polished superhero lawyer is their pronounced love for their New York city. Both of them constantly emphasize their vision for their city, their love for their city and their commitment to make it a better place. Only one problem; their approaches to seeing their visions come true are completely different and in many ways in complete conflict with each other. Who will out love the other, only time will tell.
As I got through the show the theme of 'loving a city' kept jumping out at me . The burden and calling to plant a church begins with a deep love for a city. Although I grew up in Montreal, the past few months have lead me to reconnect with this deep love i feel for the city of Montreal and the province of Quebec. It's hard to explain but I know that this is part of how the journey to step out in faith began.
While living in Sarnia, I have also had an exciting opportunity to learn about what it means to love a city. Bev grew up in Sarnia and we have come to really love this community and the people who live here. Her passion for the community led her to start a Playgroup through our church that gave caregivers a safe place to come out once a week. Part of that time was for kids to play while moms and dads made some new friends while dealing with the ups and downs of parenting. It was great to see many people really enjoy this time together.
Also, I've had the privilege to sit on the board of an organization that gets what it means to love a city. As the Faith Director for Habitat for Humanity/Sarnia I have learned so much by community leaders who truly care for the city.
Last night was my last official meeting with the board. It was one of the many tough farewells that await us, but we look forward to partnering with Habitat in Montreal and other local communities we can learn from. These types of partnership are essential for churches who want to make a difference in their communities and who want to live out what it means to love our neighbors and redeem our cities. As part of a goodbye our Exec. Director Sarah was kind enough to share a heart felt video about my time on the board. She has taught me so much and am so thankful to have journeyed with her.
We are overjoyed by the support we've seen so far. A group of families and friends in Montreal are already praying and considering joining our team as we move into the neighborhood.