Rus* commanded people’s attention simply by his six foot, four inch frame; but his long black hair and beard, and missing teeth caused an overwhelming feeling of fear or respect. It depended on the year you met him.
Rus was the drug lord over the community he had grown up in of 50,000 people. He began with his mother’s prescription drugs at the age of eight in the mid 1960’s. By the early 1990‘s when he went to rehab, he shot $5,000 in cocaine per week, drank three fifths (3 bottles) of whiskey daily, smoked three packs of cigarettes each day, pimped, worked for a mafia group as their collection agent (pay up or get beaten), and was part of a nationally-known outlaw motorcycle gang.
There may not have been much Rus hadn’t done, after all, the black heart tattooed on his chest meant exactly what one would expect it to mean. No emotions. Heartless. No fear. He would do anything for money or a thrill, and had, but he had grown weary of his lifestyle and wanted something less violent and more sane. He just didn’t know how to quit doing what he had always done, but wondered if the God his mother had spoken of could help.
Rus made it to almost 40-years of age before law enforcement simultaneously busted through his front and back doors. Although he was only sentenced for misdemeanors because the courts couldn’t pin on him the majority of his crime, they did send him to rehab.
He later credited his success in not returning to his old lifestyle and staying off drugs and alcohol, to the fact that for the seven years prior to his arrest a local Christian motorcycle club, made up in part of some former hardcore bikers, had been praying for his salvation. They understood the difficulty of walking away from the place Rus ruled, and the reality of that place ultimately ruling him.
By the time I met and worked with Rus he had been clean seven years and built a successful hauling business known throughout the community. Not only would he haul lawn debris, he often was asked to take away used furniture and household items, some good enough to warehouse, some headed straight to the dumpster. With the good items he furnished a 14,000 sq. ft. building, so that when someone had a need he could freely provide everything from furniture to bedding to dinnerware. It was one of his ways of giving back.
Within a short timeframe, the judges before whom Rus had often stood saw such a change for good in him and his influence within the community, that they regularly sent others to the doorsteps of his street mission to work-off community hours, from juvenile delinquents to felons. They knew Rus would influence them and if they wouldn’t listen out of respect, they listened out of fear. His reputation and stories sometimes made their crimes look like child’s play; nor was he intimidated by their connections, he had known most of them and supplied them with drugs or women, or both.
Often however, they did listen. He won the heart of almost everyone who walked through the doors of the mission, in part because Rus had a firm grasp on the hardships which had motivated him to inflict pain on himself and others for three decades, so he understood when someone else talked about their pain. Plus, there was no condemnation in his now gentle voice. ‘Jesus died for all of us,’ he often said, ‘and He fully paid the price for our sins — all of them.’
When Rus spoke in the rooms (of 12-step programs), everyone wanted to hear his story. Again. Because this time they had brought a friend who thought there was no way they could overcome what they’d gotten themselves into, and sure enough, Rus would supply hope beyond measure. Many of them remembered the days when he was active on the streets, or they knew someone who had known him then. The fact Rus had not cut the beard which hung to the middle of his chest or the straight hair which fell loose and hung almost to his elbows, added to the veracity of his story. Those things combined with his deep calm voice made everyone listen when he spoke.
At church he was well-loved and respected. He happened to attend the same church as one of the local judges. This judge knew Rus’ conversion was real for he well-remembered the drunken, belligerent, powerful old Rus, and now deeply loved and supported the new one. Rus was a perfect example of a man truly redeemed.
One time at church I noticed Rus worshipping the Lord with his head bowed and hands criss-crossed behind his back at the wrists. Later I asked about it and he said it was the most humble position he knew to worship the Lord. He went on to say, ‘When 28 cops busted through my front and back doors that day, I knew they had me. My pistol lay on the table in front of my breakfast plate but I knew it was over, so I didn’t even fight, and I was okay with that. They walked me out of the house in handcuffs and I knew it was time to surrender the life I lived. In one way I was relieved. In another I was humiliated to be led away like that. So you see, my hands behind my back in worship to God are a symbol of my full surrender to Him.’
People said it was impossible for a drug lord to follow Christ because one of their addictions is ultimate power. Guess those folks didn’t know the God of Rus. His God could do anything, and the change in Rus’ life proved it.
1956 – 2013
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When the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw Him (Jesus) eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked His disciples, “Why does He eat with such scum?” When Jesus heard this, He told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor — sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” Mark 2:16-17 NLT
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned. John 3:17-18a ESV
So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1 NLT
And they (believers) overcame him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony. Revelation 12:11a KJV
He (God) made Him (Jesus) who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. II Corinthians 5:21 NASB
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Because of the immense amount of drugs and alcohol Rus had consumed, he died by the time he reached his mid-fifties. All of us who knew Rus knew that at his passing the world lost a great servant, but heaven gained a great son.
*Rus teased that there were too many repetitious consonants in his full name, so he wanted to shorten his name so there was no repetition, and came up with this spelling of his first name.
“Lori has written a very good summation of Rus’ life.” — Ben, Central Ohio