While leading a round of trips to Israel in summer 2019, Russell Davis learned that he would be meeting with Managing Director Jeremy Rivers for an interview to work full-time for Passages as an Account Manager.

“I said, ‘All I have is jeans and polos and shorts…what should I wear?’ He says, ‘Well I’m wearing shorts and flip-flops.’ So, I said, ‘Oh! Well, I’ll wear shorts and flip-flops!’ It was a breath of fresh air actually. This is an opportunity to better myself, to work for a great, five-star organization, but here I am going to the interview in shorts and flip-flops.”

On the day of the interview, the groups were touring Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Israel. After the tour was over, Jeremy and Russell sat down for lunch—both wearing shorts and flip flops. Long story short, Russell got the job.

His journey with Passages began two years before that, as a participant on a trip to Israel. He went with a group from his church. He remembers developing strong connections with people he knew going into the trip and with people he didn’t.

Before going on the trip, he said he was in need of renewal, refreshment, and joy. One of the most meaningful experiences for him was being baptized in the Jordan River.

“The Bible says baptism is a watery grave; we kill the old man and we come up a new. That’s how I felt in the Jordan River,” Russell said. “I went down with all the problems, and then came up just feeling good, feeling refreshed, feeling renewed, feeling like I could go on a little further.”

Russell is baptized in the Jordan River | Summer 2017

He returned to Israel that winter as the fellow for the African American Leadership bus. Six months after that, he returned as a fellow again. Six months after that, he returned as a senior fellow, and then as a trip staff. It was during that time, working as a trip staff, that Russell interviewed for the job he has now with Passages.

Breton Oesch, Deputy Director of Trip Operations at Passages, said Russell had an “amazing reputation” when he was brought on staff as an Account Manager.

“That amazing reputation has only grown as he continues to encourage and support our team and our partners across the nation,” Breton said. “He has progressed our team’s customer service to a new level and has developed our African American Leadership Initiative with passion and intentionality. In all of his work, he shines the light of Christ clearly. It was been a joy and blessing to know him.”

Russell said that the mission of Passages and his personal mission, his “why,” are similar. With a passion for strengthening the Christian faith of young leaders, of empowering leaders to “rise up,” Russell sees his job at Passages as more than a job, but as an opportunity to live out his own life calling.

“I’ve worked a handful of jobs, most of which just to make a living. But every day at Passages, I wake up excited to do what I do,” Russell said. “Passages is a place where we push people to the next place in life. We are springing board…be it spiritually, in career, or in ministry, and I can say that all of the above has happened for me in the three years I’ve been connected to Passages.”

In the future, Russell sees himself possibly pastoring and launching a non-profit or ministry aimed at mentoring young people, especially young men.

He currently serves as an elder at his church and has a passion for ministry. He said that sometimes people forget that spiritual leaders need to be poured into, especially because they pour out a lot. Passages was life-giving for Russell, because it was a way for him to be refilled.

“From [my] first trip, I knew that I wanted to go back to Israel, that I needed to go back to Israel,” Russell said. “I had no idea why…but I felt just this sense of passion and this sense of call. There’s a song we sing in our church that’s called ‘Zion Is Calling Me to a Higher Place of Worship.’ I was literally in the place of Zion, and I could hear God calling me to a higher place. To this day, I couldn’t even tell you what that place is, but I know I’m getting closer.”

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