One December night as Gina Russell and her six sons drove along in their 15-passenger van, one of the boys spotted a woman walking alongside the road carrying a gas can. Gina’s friends had warned her about getting involved in such situations, but her boys began a full-court press: “We should stop.” “We have time.” “Let’s do it.”
So, Gina pulled over and the kids shifted seats to make room for Miss Nora up front. Fourteen-year-old Jallen began a conversation as they took her to a nearby gas station. Jax, Judah, Justus, Jakin, and Jazper listened as they took her back to her car. They learned how to start such conversations with strangers while helping their dad deliver Meals on Wheels to seniors in the Shawnee neighborhood.
“What’s your name? What are your plans for Christmas?” and as they pulled up to her car, “Is there anything we can pray about for you?”
In that unexpected moment, Gina caught a glimpse of the man Jallen could become.
“The detour to help Miss Nora took 10 minutes,” Gina said. “To think, we could have missed it.”
Gina rarely thinks of people as a bother or risk because before her feet hit the floor in the morning, she prays that God will orchestrate her day, helping her see those in front of her. That includes a stranger carrying a gas can, a senior who needs food, a child in need of a place to land, someone who needs a helping hand.
Gina and her husband, Chad, try not to miss those moments. But that doesn’t mean it’s always easy or that everyone is ready and willing.
When Gina volunteered their sons to help with children at Christ Chapel on the backside of Churchill Downs, one asked, “Mom, why do you always volunteer us for everything?”
They whined all the way across town—no one complained on the way home.
“Mom, it was a lot better than we thought it would be,” Jax said. “It was fun.”
Gina said it’s worth it to fight through resistance to see people as Jesus sees them.
“There is always blessing at the end,” she said. “The harvest is worth the sowing. Sometimes, the sowing (is difficult). It’s like the farmer pulling weeds in the hot sun. It’s hard, but then comes the harvest.”
Gina sets up serving as part of everyday life—as something you are, not something you do.
A different child goes with Chad each Tuesday to deliver Meals on Wheels. Their route weaves through a neighborhood no one else signed up to cover. Sometimes Gina lets the kids take cookies or other treats to give away. Their sons learn to talk with people they don’t know, to ask questions, and to encourage and pray.
“Serving others is never what you do,” Gina said. “It’s a way of life. People give me lots of grace to do nothing. I have six kids. Life is busy.”
But opportunities are everywhere.
“It’s easy to miss those moments,” Gina admitted. “Everyday life can be overwhelming. But you can’t go back and replant. At 18, I can’t go back and wish my kids knew how to serve or wish they were Kingdom-minded. Now is the time to teach them that if you ask God, He’ll show you how and where to catch the wind to help someone else.”
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