Going from despair to a Christ-honoring life in Northeast Florida

Russ Mason leads a Bible study for WaterMark Church at The Woods of Filmore apartments in the Jacksonville area. Even years ago, Russ Mason suspected there was some type of “higher power” out there. But he wasn’t willing to call it God.

But that all changed when God used extraordinary circumstances to make Himself known.

When Tim Larson, who is now Russ’ pastor at WaterMark Church in Orange Park, told me a little about Russ’ story, I knew I had to meet Russ for myself.

Today, Russ is a grateful Jesus follower who uses his story of alcoholism and depression to connect with other people who don’t have a church background.

Pastor Tim said his first encounter with Russ was a five-minute conversation they had at an outreach the church was doing for kids in the area.

“I saw this guy wearing all black, with gauges in his ears, and I felt a connection because that used to be me before Christ,” Tim said.

The man in black was Russ.

Weeks later, Russ hit bottom and tried to commit suicide. His wife had him admitted into the psychiatric ward of Orange Park Hospital for treatment, and it was on the second night of his stay that Russ says God showed up to have a little talk with him.

“He came to me and said He loved me; it wasn’t my choice to go and it wasn’t my time,” Russ shared. “My whole body felt warm.”

Russ said God told him to reach out to Tim Larson at WaterMark.

 “I only met Tim for five minutes, how would I remember him [several weeks] later?” said Russ, explaining how God was speaking to him.

Tim got Russ’ message and showed up with a Bible and the Gospel. Russ prayed to receive Christ right there.

When he was released from the hospital, Russ brought his entire family, including his mother, to WaterMark where they are now plugged in and serving.

“Because of the change in me all of us now are a tight family, and all four kids have been baptized,” Russ said. “We’re all hungry for the Word.”

To find out more about how God is using Russ and the ministries of WaterMark Church, be sure to check out our May print edition or access your subscription online at goFBW.com. The issue will be available starting April 27th.

Nicole Kalil is the Jacksonville-based reporter for the Florida Baptist Witness, the official news source of the Florida Baptist State Convention. She can be reached by phone at 904.596.3169 or via email at nicole.kalil@goFBW.com


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