June 18, 2024

On today’s podcast, Kurt talks with guest, Dr. Andy Larsen about his outreach with the Muslim community.

Listen to “Episode 6: Stories of the Journey – Dr. Andy Larsen” on Spreaker.

Kurt: Good day to you and thanks for joining us here on another episode of Veracity Hill where we are striving for truth on faith, politics, and society. Well it’s been a busy week for us as we’ve got some great news to announce to you that Defenders Media is going in on an office space now with another company and so we’re going to actually have our own studio instead of the makeshift one that we had in the office of my house so I’m very pleased to let you know about that. We’re excited about that. Of course, it’s bee a busy move. I’ve almost moved all of my things over here, but Chris, who’s joining me in the studio today, hasn’t yet, and then Joel is not with us. He’s off on vacation this week, but I’m glad to have Chris back since last week I was solo man in all the different things.
Last week just to recap for you in case you didn’t have a chance to listen to that episode yet, we talked with Gene Calderon about the theology of sports. He had been part of mixed martial arts for thirty plus years and so given that the Olympics were on we figured it would be a good opportunity to talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly. This week, we’ve got a special guest with us. We’re starting a new thematic episode that maybe we’ll do every once in awhile about stories of the journey and listening to peoples’ backgrounds and the walk that they’ve had in either the mission work that they’ve done or the occupational/vocational work in say maybe a regular job, not just ministry, but even then a regular job can be a ministry of sorts. I’m excited to have Dr. Andy Larsen with us. He’ll be joining us momentarily here and we’re going to talk about his background in the Evangelical Covenant Church which is a small denomination based in Chicago. You’ve heard of the school North Park University. That’s the school where they’re based and also about the work that he’s done in outreach to Muslim communities and people and then also sort of related to that is how he’s worked with and consulted with churches and other Christian groups on how to reach Muslim people. We’re gonna also be talking about his photography. He’s an excellent photographer. If you check out his web site which we’ll post up at the web site for you, please do so. Take a look at the pictures that he’s got. That’s great. So if you have any questions for Dr. Larsen or just a comment you can give us a call at 505-2STRIVE. That’s 505-7287483.
So joining me now, Dr. Larsen, are you there?
Larsen: I am.
Kurt: Great! So tell us a little bit about yourself and about your background. First before we get into the Muslim outreach that you do today take us a little bit further back in history with your life.
Larsen: I’m a ordained minister and have worked in a variety of contexts, have been a pastor in a local church in the Seattle area, but also served as a missionary in Mexico and also Europe for a good part of my adult life and I’ve been engaging in what we term peacemaking and bridge-building with Muslim communities for the last eleven years. Some of that work has been based actually in Muslim majority context. Currently I’m based in Seattle and engage the Muslim community here frequently. Then I also really come alongside churches that are becoming aware that “Okay. We have Muslims in our community, in our neighborhood. There’s refugees that come from Muslim countries. How do we love them? How do we engage them as ministers, as Christian?” I come alongside churches like that and help them walk that journey and really equip and empower them to engage the community.
I also work in peacemaking and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I just finished a documentary movie called Blessed are the Peacemakers, which features the stories of peacemakers and part of my own journey in that particular region and conflict.
Kurt: So first, if you could, could you tell me about how you got involved with the Evangelical Covenant Church? That’s the church from which you’re ordained. Is that correct?
Larsen: Correct. Correct. It’s truly an evangelical denomination that I grew up in. I still serve within that community. I work cross-denominationally and with other parachurch groups and a variety of groups, but I really am from the Evangelical Covenant and find within our ranks some real, and one of our favorite Scriptures is we are companions of all those who hear you, right out of Psalms and that’s, I feel it’s a great anchor but also gives me some freedom to engage not just within my own community but across different persuasions within the church and then missionally outside of the church. I feel called in many ways outside of the four walls of the local congregation but definitely invested in the local church as well.
Kurt: That’s great, and you said you were a pastor of a church for a period of time.
Larsen: Yes. So in seminary days but then also in between my church planting work in Mexico and the work I do now, I was a pastor in the Seattle area for five years and then also did some interim work, local congregational work.
Kurt: Great. And what do you think are some of the features perhaps that drew you to become ordained in the Covenant Church?
Larsen: That’s a great question. I think part of it is the commitment to the historic doctrines of the Christian faith, but also a treasure and a respect for how God works among other traditions so we as ordained pastors, we definitely have a constitution that really focuses on following Scripture but seeking it best as we can although this is difficult work to. Not impose our doctrine on Scripture but allow Scripture to inform us more than the other way around. I’m drawn to that. It’s kind of an open, but historically and theologically rooted faith tradition that I felt had nurtured me and encouraged me in this journey, but admittedly too Kurt, it is the church I grew up in and is the network that I love and have deep relationships with.
Kurt: And there’s something to that as well. There’s in fact a strong thing to that as well. Yeah. A strong draw. Cool. So one of the things that really interested me about your work is your outreach among Muslims, broadly speaking in communities, or just individually. What got you interested? What drew you to do that, to be a part of that mission field?
Larsen: Yeah. I don’t want to be slipping in this answer but really there is just a keen sense of God saying “You need to do this.” A deep sense of calm that really emerged around the debris of 9/11 and I was a pastor at that point and just felt that really the response that we were hearing and just even as a pastor trying to shepherd a community through the trauma of that and what happened to us and our country. Sometimes we could be a little self-focused or tuned in just on our story, but stuff like that happened before 9/11, but definitely that brought it to a different level and then as a pastor I began to walk with people in my congregation and then opened Scripture and say “How do we respond to this?” The bigger question then is “Who are the perpetrators of that particular event?” and “Are they different or are they part of the local mosque in our community?” So I just began right then to, still pastoring to build relationships with Muslim individuals to visiting mosques to learn and then connecting with missionaries, theologians, others who had worked among Muslims for years and as I just invested in that and pastored our congregation there was just this deep sense in the sense that this is an issue that’s going to be with us. This is an issue that the church needs to respond to in a way that doesn’t just mimic our culture, but is informed more by Scripture and what Christ wants us to do.
Kurt: So as you got more involved there in Seattle reaching out, what did you find? What were some of your experiences? You had mentioned you had visited Mosques and you probably spoke with Islamic leaders. Tell us about that.
Larsen: There was fear initially, and I just thought “What’s going to happen? What’s the response to be?” So then I did some cold calls and I knew enough and had worked with some good mentors at that point just to….praying, visits….I very soon in those first introductions I would ask if I could meet the imam who is the spiritual leader of a mosque and just began to hang out and introduce myself as the pastor of this church over here and I’m a minister that wants to understand you better and be a Christian among your midst and I would say, gosh, I really can’t remember a negative experience in that initial, you know, those initial steps. I definitely felt, how can I put this, at different points especially when I continued to visit mosques, they would witness to me quite aggressively in some cases, not in all cases and it was fun. It was a deep, deep dive. I dove right in the deep end and just really felt God’s spirit and the leading of the Holy Spirit and the initial forays into the Muslim community.
Kurt: So when you sort of immersed yourself here you did so still a strong Christian. Right? I mean.
Larsen: Oh yeah.
Kurt: It’s not that you were having doubts or anything like that but so you could learn more about who these people are.
Larsen: Yes, and also, just as in any community that you’re working with you’re seeking to bear witness to, wouldn’t anybody do that? I mean you’re going and you’re trying to understand them and befriend them and love them in the name of Christ, but yeah, every time I was very clear about who I was, I wouldn’t come in and try to look for low-hanging fruit. Just really felt that being transparent was the best approach and that has yielded all kinds of deep, deep, really heart-to-heart conversations about my faith.
Kurt: Yeah. It seems that, and correct me if I’m mistaken, in other outreach type of events where there’s this label of interfaith dialogue, that there isn’t necessarily an attempt to bear witness, to share the Gospel. It can be more like, “Well here’s what we believe and here’s what I believe and here’s what you believe” and sometimes they can be about co-existence, living peaceably among each other which is of course needed, but there isn’t that focus about sharing the Gospel with people and I think maybe that coming from a theologically conservative background I want to see more of that happen.
Larsen: Sure. Sure. Sure.
Kurt: Do you have the same observation?
Larsen: I do. I do Kurt and that’s a great observation. I prefer to actually call what I do as multi-faith instead of interfaith. I’m in some circles where I’m hanging out with people who are more committed to just trying to be than hanging out in interfaith. But what I do notice, a couple of observations. One is that it tends to be the same kind of people and leaders and progressives in their respective movements, but what they’re doing doesn’t filter down to the local congregation. So often it becomes kind of people preaching to the choir, people who are convinced that we need to coexist. Those are valuable objectives I think in their effort, but I also feel that sometimes what happens, and it may be subtle, it’s not explicit, that we need to find the common denominators and the minimum of what we agree on so that we can be together and I in contrast to that stand their fully holding the Christian message and say that they, and I expect them to be fully who they are and we in friendship, building up friendship and that trust and transparency is probably the key. We are. We are committed in our communities but we are also seeking to engage and love the other and that yields really interesting, I think deeper and sometimes more genuine conversations. I don’t want to characterize the interfaith movement as invalid or as people who are naïve, but I’m definitely a Christian with my Muslim friends.
Kurt: Yeah. Yeah. So give us some stories, some examples of how you’ve been able to share the Gospel with people there in the Muslim communities.
Larsen: Sure. One of the things that I like to do, it’s a high moment in the Muslim calendar so during Ramadan, during prayers, I go hang out. I just go and be with them and so I listen to a lot of sermons. I’ll sit down in some community and be in a circle where they’re reading the Koran and I’ll sit with them and engage in conversation and often I’ll say, first of all you should know and your audience should know this, that Jesus is not a stranger to Muslims. He’s just not God as you probably well know, but all of that is to say is I can share about Jesus and often do and I say “Jesus said this” and the parable of the wheats and the soils. I talk about that. I just share from that and there’s a real interest, a keen interest in, so let me also back up.
Each step I’ve gained their trust, my Muslim friends’ trust, and because of that I have more permission to actually be who I am and fully articulate my faith and I’ve even had Muslims come to me and say “Well what do we do with” and then they’ll name a certain experience they had with a Christian that was really negative who came to just kind of throw the Gospel at them. It’s a communication process. What they hear when we say Jesus is the Son of God, what they hear when we say that, and if you just throw out, just take the tenets of the Gospel, just lay it out, they won’t understand what our Scripture teaches. It’s received in a way that’s not heard and I don’t know how better to say that. The greatest sin in Islam is to attribute partners to God and so when we say Jesus is the Son of God, you can just see them, there’s this internal turmoil. They can’t say that. They won’t say that. As I’m sitting with Muslims I begin to share stories of Jesus and how He’s unique. There’s a receptivity to who I am and to what I’m saying.
One time there was a sermon and I was friends with the imam and he preached about grace and he was a really fascinating view on grace and the commentary was he was reading some ancient theologians from, actually Persian,, Shi-a theology, was saying that Christians are lazy because they just want their sins forgiven. Immediately, Kurt, as you may be smiling right now, I immediately think The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, you know, Costly grace, that whole concept, so I had probably a forty-five minute discussion with the imam just about that and I said “Honestly, I believe there’s some truth to that sermon.”
Kurt: Yeah. Right.
Larsen: The whole point of “What is the Gospel for us?” Are we transformed into the image of Christ or is our relationship with God just a transaction where we get our ticket to Heaven? Are we transformed people so that was the discussion I had with this imam for a long time.
Kurt: Yeah. Really sounds like you’ve had quite the experience in going out and the things that you had to deal with internally in reaching out to the Muslim community and it’s really something that not a lot of Christians do. They’re not willing to talk to those Samaritans to use a Biblical analogy perhaps.
Larsen: That’s a good one. Yeah. I actually speak on that, the parable of the Good Samaritan, but the woman at the well. There’s a lot of texts.
Kurt: And with the Samaritans, there was at least some common theological background which is also the case between Christians and Muslims.
Larsen: Right. Exactly. I read the story of Cornelius. In the first two verses of that section in Acts 10, it’s almost a resume of my faithful Muslim leaders. You read who they were. They served God. They gave generously to the poor. They love their family. The discussion of Cornelius is a description of many of my Muslim friends.
Kurt: Yeah. Yeah. Wow. So tell us, you’ve done international traveling and you’ve spent time in the 10/40 window, have you encountered people that have, they’ve heard of who Jesus is because he’s there in the Koran, but what have been their views and how have you shared the Gospel with them? How have you been able to tell them about the real Jesus?
Larsen: It’s hard to take each encounter and say the full piece was done in that encounter, so I’ll see if I can make sense here. My objective in each encounter with Muslims is to go to the next step, to build more trust, and that doesn’t always get them to the Romans Road, if I can say that. I do have those critical conversations where I get down to the nuts and bolts of where we disagree theologically and generally that comes to the point of who is Jesus and historically the sense among Muslims is that Islam is the correction of the mistakes of the previous monotheistic religions. Now that’s not commonly subscribed to or known, but that’s basically kind of the objective of Islam so I go back into that and I delve into that with my Muslim friends, but the more we really speak from the stories of Jesus, as we read in the New Testament, in the Gospels especially, the parables of Jesus, those are compelling. Those are compelling. They just are and the more we’re able to list just the profile of who Jesus was and what He did, it strikes a chord with my Muslim friends.
Kurt: I’m curious, have you in your experiences, have you found some Muslims that have read the New Testament or have they only read what the Koran says about Jesus? Were they aware about the New Testament even or was it just prohibited reading?
Larsen: Yes, in some cases, no in a lot of cases. Part of this is because many Muslims in developing countries may not have even read the Koran themselves so you have to put out issues of literacy, you also have to think the Koran is in Arabic, the way it’s supposed to be read is in Arabic and the majority of Muslims around the world do not speak Arabic. That’s one thing I think your listeners need to be clear on, and so they’re getting the teaching of Islam from the imam in their community interpreted into their language. Now many Muslims of course memorize the Koran and they’ll know some of the words but they don’t know Arabic.
Kurt: It’s almost like medieval Christianity where the priests knew Latin and they would read the Bible in Latin, but the regular population, the lay level didn’t know Latin at all, would you say that’s….
Larsen: Yes. I would say that’s a little pejorative but yeah.
Kurt: And as you mention that’s not always the case everywhere around the world like that.
Larsen: Yeah, but I will say that I do have, and I feel particularly called to Muslim leaders and they tend to be very literate and have studied theology so in those cases we can talk about Jesus as I understand from the Bible and they would have read, but in many places the New Testament is not read. I mean that is just the clear facts.
Kurt: Well, if you’d like to have your voice heard give us a call at 505-2STRIVE. That’s 505-278-7483. Dr. Larsen, Andy, this has been great. I want to continue our discussion after we take a short break from some of our sponsors.
Larsen: Okay.
*Commercial break*
Kurt: We are back here joined with Dr. Andy Larsen and we’re talking about his story, his journey as an ordained minister in the Evangelical Covenant Church and the outreach that he does to Muslim communities and chiefly, the event that inspired him was the 9/11 terrorist attack and he became interested in learning more about Islam was about and then reaching Muslim people as well. Andy. We’ve got a special segment of the show coming up here today and that’s called Rapid Questions, and so this is a segment where we go off topic, we ask short lighthearted questions, and we’re looking for fast responses and so I’m wondering if you are keen to play this very humorous fun game with us.
Larsen: And I don’t have to reveal anything too embarrassing?
Kurt: Hopefully not. Hopefully not. So here we’re gonna start the game clock and then we’ll have a minute here so here we go.
Kurt: What’s your clothing store of choice?
Larsen: JCPenney’s.
Kurt: Taco Bell or KFC?
Larsen: Taco Bell
Kurt: What school did you go to?
Larsen: High school?
Kurt: Sure.
Larsen: Curtis High School.
Kurt: Where would you like to live?
Larsen: I would like to live in either Seattle or Barcelona
Kurt: What fruit would you say your head is shaped like?
Larsen: That’s an apple.
Kurt: Do you drink Dr. Pepper?
Larsen: No.
Kurt: What’s the one thing you’d be sure to keep with you if you were stranded on an island?
Larsen: My Bible and my camera?
Kurt: Which celebrity are you most like?
Larsen: I don’t have a good answer.
Kurt: If you were a baseball pitch, which one would you be?
Kurt: Go ahead.
Larsen: Curve ball.
Kurt: A curve ball. Alright. Thank you so much for playing Rapid Questions. Nothing too embarrassing there huh?
Larsen: That’s funny.
Kurt: Good. Good. Tell us how many years have you been spent now reaching out to the Muslim population, let’s say here in America and then how many international trips have you done as well? How often do you get to do that sort of thing?
Larsen: I’m abroad quite a bit so I was in Spain for a year teaching Muslim immigrants and I’ve lived in the West Bank, the city of Hebron which is in the lower part of Palestine for three months. I’ve been there seven times. Israel and Palestine. I’ve been to Jordan. I was there kind of shadowing a group that was doing similar work that we’re doing. I learned a lot. Been to Morocco and working with different projects there. All of these times I’ve been engaging and loving Muslims, serving and partnering with different ministries and initially but all total I’ve been doing this for eleven years now. From a U.S. context here in Seattle but now I’m getting overseas quite a bit. I actually was in Lebanon this past spring. Also in Israel and Palestine another time. I was at a pastor’s conference and we had pastors from both Syria and Lebanon. We were there to partner them and support them and encourage them. I get out to Fairmount, but am based in Seattle and Kurt, what is happening more now, I do a lot of stuff here locally, but churches across the country, I’ve been to Canada a couple of times, where they’re asking “Help us. Help us reach and engage our Muslim neighbors.”
Kurt: Yeah. Tell us what that’s been like. You’ve spent all these years. All of your experience and your studying and now it’s sort of like you’re bringing it back shall we say more focused to Christian groups that want to learn more about what you’re doing and how to do it. Tell us about that.
Larsen: Yeah. I’ll try to be brief on this. I still engage. I never wanna be kind of the armchair, I’ve learned it. I’ve been to mosques quite a bit and I’m still engaged with my Muslim friends. But an experience last May, early May, I was up in Canada in Saskatoon.
Kurt: Okay. Yeah.
Larsen: And there was a church there that they were aware of what I was doing and the pastor and leaders of that church were the question, well what do we do? Especially in this political climate currently with the fear of refugees from Syria? This particular community was receiving refugees from Syria. They wanted to love them and be Christian and help them, help with resettlement, but not just do the thing and walk away but be engaged.
Kurt: Right. Right.
Larsen: So I encouraged them and kind of walked them through “There’s a couple of mosques there. Go meet them and introduce yourself.” Then when I came into town, I came in on a Thursday and then on Friday, we took there was twenty from the congregation. We went to the local mosque and they did kind of an open house, a very special time of Q&A. We observed them doing prayers then afterwards we had a meal. They served us and that particular weekend I was both preaching on Sunday, but then we were gonna screen my movie on peacemaking on Saturday night so we said to this community, “Oh by the way we’re from this church and we are showing a movie tomorrow night. Come and join us.” So we probably had fifteen Muslims from that mosque come to the local church where I was speaking. We viewed the movie and we had probably, it was such a rich time, let me just tell you, to see these Muslims meeting Christians who didn’t hate them, we didn’t want to say you can’t come in our country, but just loving them as Christ called us to love our neighbors, whoever they are, regardless of whether they’re Muslim or something else. We’re to love our neighbors and also to love our enemies, so this church was modeling that and I’ll just tell you you could see it in peoples’ body language, the conversation, the things that were happening were just really powerful. It was very Kingdom. Things were happening on both sides of that divide, typical divide, that were beautiful.
Kurt: Yeah.
Larsen: Now those relationships are solid and so now they do stuff after we’ve had our weekend experience there and those relationships are fostered.
Kurt: Yeah. That’s awesome. Wow.
Larsen: Well just the more you hang out with someone who’s not a Christian and if you really are who you say you are, it will be seen, it will be seen, and opportunities to share the Gospel come out of that trust that we’ve nurtured with our friends.
Kurt: Tell us a little bit about the movie here on peacemaking. So you mentioned that you invited the Muslim community to come and view it there. Is it overtly Christian? Is it sort of you’re trying to play to the middle to use a more political term? Tell us a little about it.
Larsen: I’ve been there quite a bit as I mentioned, lived there, worked with a group that was advocating and supporting vulnerable communities so that typically where I was living that happened to be Palestinian communities, but we don’t come in with a particular biased towards one side or the other in this particular conflict. So my objective was to tell the stories of peacemakers and I’d lived there. I had developed relationships with a variety of organizations. Some of them were Israeli. Some were Palestinian. Some were foreign nationals working on specific peacemaking initiatives within Israel and Palestine. Some are Christians. Some are more probably, not represent one religion. I worked with groups that that was my objective was to bring out those who were focused on peacemaking and not one side or the other. So the movie is a 45-minute documentary. It’s called Blessed are the Peacemakers.
Kurt: Okay. Yeah.
Larsen: And we pull out the stories, mostly the stories and my goal is not to tell people what to think but to tell them the stories of real people and it’s been really well received and this fall I plan on doing more screenings around the country and whoever wants to see it.
Kurt: Sure, and do you, I mean, in the movie do you interview people that have experienced violence as a result of the conflict going on there?
Larsen: Absolutely. In fact, almost everyone has experienced violence.
Kurt: I can’t help but think earlier this week I watched the video of the little boy Omran in Syria. I don’t know if you got a chance to see that.
Larsen: I haven’t.
Kurt: So this little boy, his house was blown up from what I think was some missile. Thankfully, his whole family survived.
Larsen: Wow.
Kurt: But what happened, the imagery, I mean not just a photo, it was a photo that went viral and then to watch the video, it was so heartbreaking to see him.
Larsen: Okay. Saw the picture yes. I saw the picture. I didn’t watch the video.
Kurt: It’s this little boy and I’ve got a little two and a half year-old, you know. I was just crying when I watched it because I thought “Oh my gosh. That’s my kid. He’s about that age.”
Larsen: Yeah.
Kurt: It’s true. I mean, violence, we need to be remembered. Perhaps some trigger-happy Americans as well.
Larsen: Yeah. And Kurt, one of the things that’s important here if you want me to dive in, I think I’ve run into people who were on this slide towards violence and what happens when we love them and share the Gospel. I’ve got some stories if you want to feature that right now.
Kurt: No. Go ahead. Tell us what your experience has been like with people like that.
Larsen: We’re doing a study on this and my organization, Peace Catalysts, International. So I work with a group called Peace Catalysts International. We’re a cross-denominational evangelical group that is deeply invested in this and we think we’re on the cutting edge of some of this, but we truly believe that there is a path towards violence and towards terrorism, but that path sometimes starts from a community that has been traumatized, that they have seen violence in unjust ways so it’s like we’re learning that people are innately or just randomly violent, that there’s a cause and effect.
Kurt: There are causes. Yeah. For sure.
Larsen: In one of my experiences, I was in Jordan and the community we were with, a Christian community, loving and serving Muslims, bearing witness, sharing the Gospel, but in deep relationship with some students and there was one man that said “oh you gotta meet this guy.” So he came over one evening. There were two Muslims with us and the one was clearly his ..I want to go to Iraq, this was back a few years ago, and I want to kill American Marines. That was what he stated.
Kurt: Wow. Yeah.
Larsen: But our friends, our friends loved him, they confronted him about the futility of violence, the story of violence begetting violence and they loved him and we spent an evening with this young man and I tell you that slide was broken, that slide towards violence and him running to do what he articulated. It was slipped because we listened to his story, but then we challenged him and we said there’s a better way. I’m not at liberty to tell the details of that story.
Kurt: Of course.
Larsen: I was in a situation where I clearly saw that we had as peacemakers to slow that slide. And too often the opposite happens.
Kurt: Yeah. We push people the other way huh?
Larsen: Yeah.
Kurt: And perhaps its, my thinking is when we, there are two perspectives we often see. It’s, I had mentioned this before, it’s the interfaith dialogue sort where it’s just keeping our beliefs separate, but then there’s the other end too where you have people that don’t want to reach Muslim communities so I’m thinking here these are Christian people that don’t even want to reach Muslim communities and that’s really a problem because that’s not what Jesus calls us to do. We need to go and share the Gospel and not just vocally, but we’ve gotta live the Gospel. We have to follow the Way and it’s not just a bunch of beliefs that we hold, but it’s living it out. We’ve got to go and do. It really sounds like that you’re towing the line and you’re following the right path, following the Way, but you’re sharing the Gospel as well which is just so awesome and you’re just a role model for us to follow so I want to thank you for the work that you’re doing.
Larsen: Thank you. There’s many ways that the body of Christ, the church bears witness and I don’t believe that I in the best way or have at all figured it out, but we are seeking to learn, we are seeking to follow Jesus, and there’s so much work to be done and it really is quite energizing and my own walk with Christ, my understanding of Scripture is sharpened through this. I just have to tell you it’s rich and some people think my work is hard and there’s a part of it that’s hard, but it is quite exciting.
Kurt: Yeah. Wow. That’s great. So we’ve talked a little bit about the movie but tell us about photography and your interest in that and the calling that you have about its importance for us.
Larsen: Sure. Photography, I’ve been a hobbyist of photography for a long time.
Kurt: You’re a good hobbyist from the photos I’ve seen.
Larsen: Thank you. Thank you. I publish a calendar every year and in the calendar I tell of Muslims and share verses, but there’s a couple things. I’ll be brief here. I do photography kind of as a spiritual discipline and it helps me connect with God, it helps me understand and be quiet and listen and practice prayer and solitude and meditation, so some of those experiences are just, they ground me, I’m up in the hills and the mountains. Two or three weeks ago I was taking pictures of the Milky Way above Mount Rainer and it was breathtaking, but there’s another piece of what I call visual peacemaking and so there’s a growing interest and concern among people like myself to as best using photography and video to tell stories that humanize the other, whoever the other is.
Kurt: Sure. Sure. Yeah.
Larsen: And too much of news stories and also some photography, it’s to vilify the other. I don’t want to minimize the fact that there are elements out there in our world that are to be feared. There for Jesus that go, you know, when he sent the seventy out, he says go and find a person, a man or woman of peace, and that is what you do.
Kurt: Yeah. And surely cable news television has not helped in the peacemaking process.
Larsen: No.
Kurt: Yeah. I mean instead of sitting on the couch we gotta go out and meet people.
Larsen: Yeah. So I actually try to normalize my Muslim friends and Palestinian friends and help people see that these are people that cry like we do, they celebrate like we do, to humanize the story of the other, so that’s a big part of what we’re doing and that’s part of….
Kurt: Wow. That’s great. Wow. We’ve talked about so much today already, your background as an ordained minister in the Evangelical Covenant Church, the experiences you’ve had in reaching out to Muslim communities, and the international work that you’ve done as well. Tell us, what’s some of the best ways to get a hold of your movie that you’ve made on peacemaking?
Larsen: Yeah. Okay. The best way is to go right on my blog, it’s called worldly holiness.
Kurt: Worldlyholiness.com.
Larsen: You can print that out and right in the banner there’s the category that says “Movie about peacemaking.” That picture right into my section and there’s a trailer, Blessed are the Peacemakers: The Journey to Palestine. There’s some endorsement, kind of what people have said when they see it. Then you can rent or buy the movie and I’m developing a section of research, you know, news stories and such that happen and are related to it and then the screening, there’s no screening scheduled for right now but there’s gonna be a big push this fall. You can stream it in the rental and the rental is really minimal.
Kurt: Sure. Yeah. We’ll put this up on our web site and we’ll share about it on social media because we really need to get the word out about the good work that you’re doing and your peacemaking.
Larsen: Thank you. I appreciate it.
Kurt: Of course. We’ve gotta go do.
Larsen: I appreciate the work you’re doing, you seem to have taken on some very relevant and kind of heavy questions so good for you.
Kurt: Sure. Thanks. I got a variety of topics as well. That’s what keeps me going. Andy. Thank you so much for coming on our show today. We’ll definitely have you on in the future and please do keep us in touch about the work that you’re doing.
Larsen: Thank you. What’s the best way to do that?
Kurt: Just stay in touch with me and we’ll go ahead and share about the work that you’re doing on our web site and we’ll have you on again too, perhaps in a couple of months that would be great.
Larsen: Okay. Great. Let me just mention also in the movie, a big part of the story is Palestinian Christians so people don’t think that there
Kurt: That there are any.
Larsen: Category. Yeah. So their story, in fact the church is Palestine is quite strong although its been very difficult and I do think that they’re the key to eventual peace in my area. That’s my deep heartfelt convention.
Kurt: Good. The Defenders Team will certainly be watching that movie. We’re gonna sit down together and watch it together at our next staff meeting.
Larsen: Alright.
Kurt: Awesome. Thanks again Andy for coming on and we’ll be in touch.
Larsen: Alright. Thanks Kurt.
Kurt: Of course. Take care.
Larsen: Yep. You too. God bless.
Kurt: Bless you too. Wow. What a powerful story from Dr. Andy Larsen, going from his interest in pastoring in the Evangelical Covenant Church to the experiences that he had with 9/11, the terrorist attack in New York City, leading him to get involved with and learn more about Muslim people groups, not just Islam as a worldview, you know sometimes people like myself that are interested in apologetics, we want to learn about what Islam teaches and that’s very much important, especially when we want to reach Muslim people, but we have to remember, we have to reach Muslim people. We can’t forget that. We can’t just sit in the armchair. We have to go do. We’ve gotta be the body of Christ and go out and reach people and share the Gospel with them and so Andy is clearly doing that and we want to commend him for the work that he’s doing. We’re gonna help share about his work and we’re gonna put that all up at our web site and we’ll give you the links to peace catalyst, to worldlyholiness.com where you can learn more about Andy and some links in the Covenant Companion Magazine about the work that he’s doing and then also we’ll embed the trailer for his documentary on peacemaking so it’s really great to have him on.
That does it for our show today. Just a few, a quick announcement there that I forgot to mention. So we’ve got pictures from our Defenders Conference weeks ago. We’ve got those up on our web site now. We’re going to be loading those to social media hopefully soon, but if you’re interested go ahead and go to our web site where we’ve got a link available for you to check out. If you’re a participant you can see all the fun that we had. If you weren’t there you can see all the fun that you missed out on and hopefully at the next one you can participate and join us as well. So that does it for our show today. I am grateful for the continued support of out patrons who chip in and help us to have the show happen and I also am very thankful for the partnerships that we have with our sponsors, Defenders Media, Consult Kevin, The Sky Floor, Rethinking Hell, and the Illinois Family Institute. Thank you to our tech team Chris and Joel. Joel interestingly enough was still helping us from afar so thank you for that and I want to thank our guest today, Dr. Andy Larsen and then also thank you our listener for tuning in to Veracity Hill where we are here striving for truth on faith, politics, and society.

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Michael Chardavoyne

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