Russell receives Faith in Action award at prayer breakfast

Written on 01/09/2024
Patrick Munsey


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The Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast has been taking place for 20 years, and Pastor Jeff Russell has been to almost all of them. The minister at New Beginnings Christian Fellowship holds the event close to his heart. But this year held a surprise for him.

Russell was honored with the Mayor’s Faith in Action Award, which is given to someone each year who epitomizes what the award represents: doing God’s work in the local community. Oblivious to the honor that was about to bestowed on him, Russell served as emcee for the prayer breakfast and shared how important the event is to him.

“I had the privilege many years ago of attending the first mayor's prayer breakfast that was held when Mayor Matt McKillip became the mayor,” said Russell. “I remember Pastor Jack Chandler was the person leading it, and he, along with those who were part of the ministerial association led a time of prayer.

“I will always treasure just being in the same room, being in the crowd that day. Ever since that first mayor's prayer breakfast, I have sought to show up and pray with those in our community. The only years I didn't show up were years when I was fighting cancer.”

Russell returned to the prayer breakfast in 2008 and has been a mainstay ever since. He was particularly pleased that his oncologist, Dr. Annette Moore, attended the 2024 event, offering a prayer for healthcare professionals. Little did he know that she would soon join the crowd in celebrating him.

“My voice is a little rough, but my heart is filled with thankfulness and gratitude to be in the same room with the people in this community today,” said Russell.

The charade remained intact as several speakers and those offering prayers took to the stage at Cross America, which hosted the event. Nicky Farmer, pastor of Kokomo Christian Fellowship Church, energized the room with his attractive Scottish brogue and positive message prior to the award presentation.

“I believe that God has already started work in our community,” said Farmer. “I believe there are good things happening in Kokomo, Indiana, and I personally praise God that he called me, a little guy from Scotland, 3,900 miles away, to come to Kokomo and to invest my life in this little spot on planet Earth.

“That's one thing that unites all of us in this room. We have been brought here, whether you were consciously led here, or the sovereign acting of Almighty God brought you to this spot on planet Earth, I thank God for each and every one of you who are endeavoring to make a positive impact on our community.”

When it came time for the award presentation, Mayor Moore had to apologize before announcing the winner.

“This individual is really going to be upset with me because it was kind of a setup,” Mayor Moore said. “This award is to recognize someone who is a leader from where they are. They don't do it for praise. They don't do it for the accolades. They don't do it because they think that's going to get them into Heaven. They serve because they know they've been given a gift and opportunity to get others to heaven.

“This particular individual has done so through a number of avenues with a different hat on a day-to-day basis. He'll probably be upset with me because I said, ‘You know, in your opening comments, why don't you give a little bit of history of the prayer breakfast and your experience with the prayer breakfast? And then before the award, why don't you give a little history on the award itself?’ Forgive me, Pastor Russell. Will you join me on stage?”

Russell, clearly overwhelmed, returned to the stage amid a sea of applause to receive the award. It was the highlight of a morning filled with thankfulness and pleas for God to work in Kokomo and Howard County.

The prayer breakfast is aptly named, as a litany of speakers took to the stage to pray for different segments of the community, from government and healthcare to education, families, law enforcement, and the homeless.

The 2024 Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast, like all those that preceded it, is given a scripture from the Bible as a sort of theme. This year, the scripture was Psalms 67, which was read at the opening of the event by Howard County Ministerial Association President Pastor William Gary of Wyman Chapel AME Church. The full text of the scripture follows:

“May God be gracious to us and bless us and make His face shine on us so that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations.

“May the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you.

“May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples with equity and guide the nations of the earth.

“May the peoples praise you, God; may all the peoples praise you.

“The land yields its harvest; God, our God, blesses us.

“May God bless us still, so that all the ends of the earth will fear Him.”