Remember Marcia Larson, who we interviewed a few months back about her experience in Hurricane Sandy? This week, we spoke with her mother, Margaret, about their family’s history of taking overseas mission trips together.
Margaret, Esther, Wally Jr. and Marcia Larson on one of their family mission trips to Tanzania.
4word: First, can you tell us a bit about yourselves and your family?
Margaret: There are eight of us in the Larson clan. My husband and I live in Phoenix, Arizona and are blessed with four daughters and two sons. Five of our kids live in Manhattan, four of them are together in one apartment, (they’ve abandoned us!) so we split our time between coasts. So you could say we’re bi-coastal.
4word: Where was your most recent mission trip. Can you tell us about it?
Margaret: Most recently, we went to Tanzania. When the Psalmist writes that the “desert tribes will bow before Him,” it’s clear that God is talking about the Maasai in Tanzania. We’ve ministered there as a family and with volunteers from churches in Oklahoma, New York and Phoenix over the past six years. We partner with on-going ministry work in education and with local orphanages, most notably the “Dumpster Orphanage.” Our projects there are not about bringing stuff. We are there to bring the Gospel, an “inheritance” that does not fade and something that no kleptocratic government can take away.
4word: When did you first go on a mission trip as a family? Why did you decide to bring the whole family?
Margaret: My husband and I joined Chuck Colson back in the 1970’s on a Prison Fellowship trip to Europe. That’s when our global and missional perspective was first awakened.
We embarked on our first family mission trip in 1997 through a foundation we established, The Micah Global Foundation. Nothing bonds you quite as much as roughing it in Africa together. As our kids grew, we realized that we could do more as a family than as individuals and that we could use their law degrees and professional experiences as a platform for outreach and ministry. Mostly, though, we were inspired by Nehemiah 4:13-14 that the family unit has often been a vehicle through which God has carried out His work:
“Therefore I stationed some of the people behind the lowest points of the wall at the exposed places, posting them by families, with their swords, spears and bows. After I looked things over, I stood up and said to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people, “Don’t be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your homes.”
When I say “family,” I’m also referring to the broader family of God. Outside of our clan of eight, we’ve brought dear friends with us on projects, friends who bring their own unique God-given talents to serve as teachers, law professors, media consultants and economists. The family of God also “partners” with us by providing pillowcases, dresses, food, soccer balls, etc.
4word: Why do you think that serving others as a family brought you closer? How did it help instill the value of service in your children?
Margaret: On our mission projects we spend time together in prayer and devotions each day. It’s a way to keep our eyes off ourselves and our discomfort and to maintain family harmony. Working together also helps us appreciate the unique gifts and talents God has bestowed upon us as individuals. The projects enable us to see all these gifts come together. We have our moments of strife, though, which is why God created iPods.
4word: How do you see that legacy of service playing out in your childrens’ lives today?
Margaret: Leslie is mentoring a student in Harlem through Hope for New York (HFNY). Esther’s full-time job at HFNY is to connect Christian volunteers to high-impact, kingdom-minded organizations in New York City. Marcia serves on the National Advisory Board for Salvation Army and on its NYC Advisory Board (co-hosting the December Gala). My son Wally volunteers at the Bowery Mission, providing interviewing and resume skills to the homeless. My husband Wallace serves on the Southwest Division Salvation Army board, and I serve on their Women’s Auxiliary board as the liaison for the Women’s ARC (Adult Rehabilitation Center) in Phoenix.
As a family, our service isn’t through one organization or one mission trip each year. It’s a way of life. It’s what God’s called us to, the theme of Micah Global: “do justly, love mercy, walk humbly” – Micah 6:8.
You can learn more about The Micah Foundation at micahglobalfoundation.org. If you’d like to hear more from Margaret, you can read her blog or follower her on Twitter @mmargaretlarson.