Norman and Shirley Russell may not be feeding the multitudes but they are certainly doing their best to feed all they can with their Every Nation Food Ministry in Paragould.
(Town Crier photo/Revis Blaylock)
"I thank God for putting me there," she said.
In addition to his deliveries, each month 100-125 families come by the Russell home for assistance. Russell said the ministry has been blessed and he is in need of a larger storage building.
"Mr. Russell just gives and gives and then gives more," Jodie Crump, formerly of Leachville, said. "We need more people like him. He goes above and beyond."
Russell said he started his walk with the Lord at the age of 16. He was drafted into the military at 21, served in Vietnam, returned home and worked for the railroad for almost 28 years.
"I turned my back on the Lord and lived like a fool for almost 40 years," he said. "One day I was listening to a song by Charles Johnson. The words, "Father, I know I've done wrong. Forgive me and let me come home" made me realize I did want to go back home. I started serving the Lord. I wondered what the Lord wanted with me."
Mr. Russell met Ed Fortson from Trumann in 2000 and said he has been an inspiration to him.
"Ed Fortson is a great person," Mr. Russell said. "He helps people get into centers and turn their lives around. He has helped 72 people get out of jail and into Christian based centers. One day he asked me if I would drive him and another person to a center in Jerseyville, Ill., north of St. Louis. Mr. Fortson always takes a few items to leave at the different centers he visits. That day he took barbecue sauce. When I saw how grateful the people were to get the barbecue sauce it opened my eyes to a need. When I came back home I called Mr. Wicker in Hornersville and he gave me several cases of barbecue sauce. I asked my pastor about putting a box in the church so anyone who would like to could donate food. I also received a $200 donation. I took the money and went to Aldi's and bought canned goods. Some local people had relatives in the program and when they heard I was going to make a trip, they started bringing items for me to deliver and the rest is history."
The ministry has continued to grow and he soon outgrew the small trailer he was using. He is now using his third trailer and calls it a gift from God.
"I asked my church family to pray for a bigger trailer," he said. "One day my wife said she hoped I didn't think God was going to drop me a trailer in my front yard. She said you have to do something. God expects us to step out on faith. I bought the trailer and made the first payment. The next week my sister's pastor in Texas sent me $1,000 to pay on the trailer. The next week I received a check from a person in Iraq who had heard about the ministry. The same week I received $500 from one of my church members. The trailer was paid for in two weeks. The Lord has blessed this ministry. One day I mentioned needing another deep freeze. Before the Sunday service was over, someone had given me one."
Mr. Russell said it is truly a blessing to see the work being done in the centers he visits.
Ms. Crump, a fellow church member, made a change in her life and gives praise to the Agape House in Paragould. She said she has tried to give back by helping others. They are members of the First Church of God in Paragould. They work together to help others.
"Our church had 65 members four years ago," Mr. Russell said. "Today we have 250. I think the growth is due to the people opening their hearts to others."
Crump said she has been blessed by meeting the Russells. They all agree they have a mutual goal, to help people turn their lives around.
They are planning a fund-raising gospel singing at the Melody Theater on Friday, April 17.
"We have several good groups coming to sing including Heart's Desire, Gospel Heirs, and Kevin Edgar's group," Crump said.
Crump and her daughter will also be singing. There will be no admission, but a love offering will be taken.
Mr. Russell will have his trailer parked outside and if anyone would like to donate canned goods, it would be appreciated.
Crump praised Moba Lee Miller and the other Melody Theater committee members for allowing them to use the theater for their fundraiser.
"We are glad to help when it is for a non-profit, fund-raising event," Miller said. "For regular shows there is a charge of $100. The city is also very supportive of the Melody because I am sure the $100 doesn't cover the electricity or the heat. We have good people on the committee."
Melody Theater Committee members are Bill and Darlene Hetler, B.J. and Teresa Young, Estus and Sue Williams and Moba Lee and Jack Miller.
"We are looking forward to the gospel singing in April," Mrs. Miller said.