The Russ Montgomery Story
In October 1998, Russ Montgomery carried into Cuba a leather bound Life Application Bible for Fidel Castro. In November, Russ received word that Fidel had read the Gospel of Luke and the study notes, which gave him a new understanding of the meaning of Christmas. Russ was delighted – and even more so in December 1998, when Fidel declared Christmas a legal holiday in Cuba for the first time in thirty years!
Russ’ adventures in Cuba began 1995, in the middle of the U.S. embargo, when he visited as a guest of the Cuban United Methodist Church. At the end of his missionary visit, Russ found himself on the shores of that island nation, looking toward the United States. Suddenly he heard the Lord say, “Your back is turned against Cuba. Which way will you face?” He turned around to face Cuba and said, “Here I am, Lord.”
This was at a time when there were virtually no Americans in Cuba.
Russ began to take steps of faith to bring help to a country plunged into deep poverty when the collapse of the U.S.S.R. left them without foreign aid. Beginning in 1998, he sent containers of humanitarian goods to the church in Cuba. In 2001, he sent the first container of humanitarian goods to be sent directly from the United States in decades. In 2003, Russ arranged for the first private ship in 42 years to legally deliver food, medicine, and clothing to Cuba since the embargo started. Flying the American flag, the Cuban flag, and the Christian flag, the ship was quite a sight to see entering Havana harbor.
A friend from Russ’ church started attending Life Christian University and talked Russ into taking a class. He did and then took another and another and another. Russ has completed his Masters degree in Theology at LCU with highest honors and is now working on his dissertation for a Doctor of Ministry degree.
Russ’ faith kept growing, as did his ministry in Cuba. Over the years, he developed relationships with Cuban pastors, working together to meet both spiritual and physical needs. Since Russ’ first history-making journey, he has made trip after trip to bring supplies to this isolated country. He has expanded this to include prenatal vitamins, eyeglasses, and water purification systems. On the spiritual side, Russ has also supplied the churches in Cuba with Bibles. Seeing the need to offset the atheist mindset of the Communist culture, Russ found appropriate discipleship training material, translated it, and trained facilitators as needed. Russ has mentored a number of young church leaders in Cuba to reach the next generation. And Russ does not visit these countries alone. He assembles teams of American Christians to “go into all the world,” activating their hearts to see beyond their own doorsteps and fulfill the Great Commission of Jesus. They return to the U.S. different people – touched forever as they experience the compassion of Jesus flowing through them to meet the needs of those so much less fortunate.
Expanding into Haiti, Russ has established many of the same programs there: discipleship, clean water, prenatal care, and eyeglasses. In Haiti, opportunities opened to have an actual vision clinic. Russ himself trained to be an optometrist to fit Haitians with glasses. This work has expanded - and Russ has recently been taking teams of eye surgeons and other professionals, doing week-long eye clinics for cataract surgery – literally healing the blind!
Recently, eye surgeons who have gone with Russ to Haiti have been donating equipment to furnish the eye clinic there. It is recognized as one of the best eye clinics in Haiti. Patients feel the presence of the Lord in that clinic and experience the love of Christ. Now Russ is looking at building an eye institute to train Haitian doctors and technicians. God is certainly blessing this work!
“Living in Faith” is the name of Russ’ ministry – and it is a great description of Russ’ life!