In his past, Russ Kloskin was a violent member of a white supremacist prison gang. Abused and neglected by his mother, Russ was drawn to the gang in his quest for a family and a sense of self-worth. But it wasn't until he found these things in Christ that his life began to change. He left the gang to become a child of God. He has never been the same.
When he walked free in 2013, Russ faced a lot of the fears many prisoners have upon reentry. Where was he going to live? How would he support himself? What would people think when they found out he had been incarcerated?
"I knew that I had been saved, and that God had brought me out of something," Russ says. "I knew that He would be there for me, but I just wasn't sure about what the real world would look like."
After stepping out from behind those prison gates, Russ threw himself into prison ministry and found work in auto sales. He managed to balance ministry and work as he readjusted to life outside, but God wasn't done with him yet.
"I was called into the office by my pastor to be a part of a meeting with a lady who does youth outreach ministry in southeast Houston," Russ remembers. "Her name was Maria [and] when she walked into the room, you knew her spirit. It was just awesome … by the end of the meeting, we all loved Maria."
Little did Russ know the impact this meeting would have on the rest of his life.
'A SPARKLE IN HIS EYES'
"I met Russ through my parents' ministry," Nancy Kloskin shares. "[My mother Maria] made her presentation, and Russ' job was to sort of assess and try to figure out where my parents' [ministry] needs were."
Nancy and her parents had anticipated this meeting for a long time, and Nancy was eager to hear what had happened. Maria was excited about the meeting, and she had also been very impressed with Russ.
"I met this amazing man," Maria told her daughter. "I saw a sparkle in his eyes that I only see in your eyes and in your father's eyes, so he struck me as somebody very special."
Nancy was taken back by her mother's observation, and when Maria later asked her daughter to call Russ about an upcoming event he was invited to, Nancy was nervous and reluctant to make the call. At last, she gave in and called.
"She asked me, 'Is this a good time?'" Russ remembers. "And I told her, 'It's never a bad time to talk about ministry and fellowship with the Lord.'"
"And when he said that, I was like, 'Oh, who is this guy?'" Nancy laughs.
The phone call lasted hours. When at last they hung up, Russ knew he had just spoken to someone special. "I knew that the woman that … God had for me—and that I trusted that He had for me, and I was patiently waiting for—was the same woman who had just called me."
A NEW BEGINNING
The next day, both Russ and Nancy nervously looked forward to meeting each other in person. And neither were disappointed.
"She's beautiful," Russ says. "She has a beautiful heart."
Nancy, a professional photographer, was there to photograph the event. "I noticed as I was taking pictures … that I was worried about Russ not talking to me or hanging out with me," Nancy laughs. "That would have never mattered to me before. So, I found it kind of interesting that I wanted his attention."
"[I] probably put together the best report I've ever done in my entire life to present back to the church," adds Russ.
Russ and Nancy began to spend time together, sharing with each other about their lives and their relationship with God. Although it seemed crazy for the daughter of a Baptist preacher and a former white supremacist gang leader to fall in love, it soon became obvious that God wanted them together.
"We got married shortly after and just began our new beginning," says Nancy.
'THE MAN I WAS' AND THE MAN HE IS TODAY
Today, Russ and Nancy live for Jesus Christ. Recently, they were blessed with a son named Alexander. Russ is on staff with Prison Fellowship® as a reentry counselor. He spends his days ministering to former prisoners as they transition back into society.
"Life has changed," Russ says. "Life is different … I still remember the man that I was, and I still remember what it was that God brought me out of, and having kept that within my mind, within my spirit, I'm so much more appreciative what God is doing for me now and [what He] has done in my life."
"The foundation of not only my life, but my wife's life and our family's life, is based upon our relationships with Christ," he adds. "We know that He's there with us, we know that He's going to see things through, [and] we know that there's never a moment that we're outside of His embrace."
This year, Russ and Nancy celebrate their third Valentine's Day together, and their first one with Alexander.
"[Jesus] continues to bless us and pour blessings into our lives that I don't think either one of us had expected," Russ says.
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