Jubilee Stories: Nicole Russo

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If you’ve hung around the Harbor for any length of time, you’ve probably heard us invite you to the CCO’s Jubilee conference. Perhaps you’ve wondered why we care so much about getting students to come to this. In the weeks leading up to Jubilee 2018, we’ll be sharing a series of stories of our own experiences at Jubilee and how God has used this conference to transform our lives. This is why we work so hard to get students there.This week, we’re sharing a story from Nicole Russo, our 2016-17 CCO Fellow at SRU. Read on!

So I was told to write about an experience at Jubilee that was transformative for me, that made me ask questions, start conversations, or maybe even pick up a book. To tell you the truth this was really hard for me because there were a lot of experiences that have been so impactful during the last four years that I have gone. Jubilee really offers so much. I’ve felt love, redemption, forgiveness, joy, the pain of others, and many more emotions at this conference. I decided to go with an experience that changed the way I interact with the people around me.

I used to be someone who was just very stuck in my ways in what I believed in. I argued for the sake of arguing, and no matter what the other person said, I wasn’t really listening I was just waiting to argue my point. They were wrong. My way of thinking was right. That was not very biblical of me, was it? There is a summer opportunity through the CCO called the Ocean City Beach Project which is an 8-week community living summer opportunity. (Shameless plug: everyone should experience it! This is another opportunity that is challenging and a beautiful place to grow in one’s faith. I promise I’ll get to Jubilee; I just need to set the stage). I attended OCBP in between my junior and senior year of college. Each week we had a specific topic and a speaker would come in and engage us in that topic (ex: academic faithfulness, evangelism, leadership strengths, etc.). The topic that impacted me so significantly was racial reconciliation. God softened my heart and opened me up to how different people think. I then became radical the other way. I didn’t understand how I could have thought the way I did before, and how people weren’t believing what I was. I kept saying let’s love those different from us, their opinions, thoughts, actions. I’d say, “Let’s not be quick to judge,” yet that’s exactly what I was doing with the people with whom I no longer thought alike.

Fast forward to two years later. I decided to attend a political panel at one of the breakout sessions at Jubilee. Here I found people all over the spectrum loving and caring for their brothers and sisters. They implored us to not be hypocrites no matter what side we were on. To seek redemption through caring for our neighbors and those elected. To get involved by writing or calling your representatives and senators. I realized I was preaching one thing and practicing the complete opposite. On top of that, later that night during the main session, the worship team performed the song “Brother” by The Brilliance. Here are some of the lyrics:

When I look into the face of my enemy, I see my brother, I see my brother

Forgiveness is the garment of our courage The power to make the peace we long to know Open up our eyes To see the wounds that bind all of humankind May our shutter hearts Greet the dawn of life with charity and love

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How powerful and convicting are those lyrics?! When I saw those lyrics pop up on the screen, I immediately broke down and began to cry. I started praying to God asking for His forgiveness from the bitterness I’ve harbored in my heart for much of my life surrounding politics.

This instance, which came from a seed planted at the Beach Project, has significantly changed the way that I interact with the people around me. I now listen—truly listen—to the people whom I may not agree with. There have been times where what they have said makes more sense than what I was saying. But, even if I end up not being persuaded by what they say, I make sure we are having a discussion, not a yelling match, and that the person knows I love them in the end. Our relationship is more important than what we are discussing. It’s been a humbling experience and  also challenging. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not just some sort of zen master who never gets upset now. That’s not what i’m trying to say here. I’m human. I’m broken. I have emotions. I get angry. But like the line in “Brother” says, “Forgiveness is the garment of our courage, the power of the peace we long to know.” I ask for forgiveness when I am not righteously angry, and I forgive those who may have hurt me or those that are oppressed. Isn’t it amazing that we serve a God who loves and loves and loves and relentlessly pursues no matter our faults? Thank you, Jesus, for bridging that gap, and for paying for our sins! Now let’s go out and model Jesus, and look into our enemies faces and see our brothers and sisters.