When a man lives a good life, many lives are affected.
Such a man is my long-time friend, Russell Resnik. This summer Russ stepped down from eighteen years of directing the UMJC (Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations).
Our connection goes all the way back to the 1960s when we both attended the University of California at Santa Cruz. Then our relationship took a leap forward when Russ suddenly showed up at my New Mexico adobe “hovel” on the very day that my first son was born, in April 1970. A couple of years later, on a remote high mountain mesa, we were sharecropping side-by-side, farming the same piece of land. We were a commune consisting of two couples with our small children (see photo!).
We were further and inseparably bonded by a simultaneous experience of God’s grace in salvation through Yeshua in October of 1972. Kneeling on the dirt floor of a log and mud cabin, set amid the pines of the Jemez Mountain range, we simultaneously asked Yeshua to forgive us our sins and take over our hearts.
After returning to civilization, our paths continued in parallel. In the mid-1970s we discovered the Jewishness of Yeshua and the New Covenant. This transformed our comprehension of God’s Word and of His call on our lives. Entering full time ministry in 1977, we continued to encourage one another. Along with our incredible wives, Jane and Connie, we were mentored by Eliezer Urbach and found our destiny in the fledgling movement of Jewish believers in Jesus.
Russell planted Adat Yeshua, a Messianic Jewish congregation, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. As he became active in the larger sphere of the UMJC’s congregations, he was recruited to be its General Secretary. Over the years, due to Rabbi Russ’s diligence and gifting as a teacher, writer, and counselor, the role became described as Executive Director. From 1998 to 2016, through Russell’s leadership, the UMJC has enjoyed an era of strengthening, solidifying, and broadening of influence. With his considerable abilities cloaked in genuine humility, my dear friend has set a godly and biblical standard for others to follow.
In his “retirement” speech Russ chronicled his family history from the emigration of his Russian Jewish great grandparents to his grandparents’ life as part of the New York immigrant phenomenon, to his parents’ migration to Southern California. Now, he and Jane are actively passing on the legacy of their devotion to the God of Israel to their four children and seven grandchildren. He will also continue to serve as a mentor to congregational leaders.
“There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).
“Do not forsake your friend or your father’s friend” (Proverbs 27:10).
Through the fifty years that we have known each other, I have found a faithful friend, and a truly good man. By God’s grace I will never forsake him. Over time, our friendship becomes sweeter, deeper, more enjoyable and rewarding. Deep friendships are an essential portion of God’s design for us, and a major segment of His architectural plan to build an eternal kingdom on earth. May your friendships be as rich and life-impacting as mine is with Russell.
This article originally appeared in Israel’s Restoration September 2016 Newsletter and reposted with permission.