Muslim Missionary Larry Brown
Heart of Submission Led to the Start of an Overseas School: Larry Brown Speaks to the Lost
Written by Kelli Gillespie
With a childhood that ranged from abuse and bullying, to choosing Christ and answering a calling to teach, Larry Brown was an unlikely candidate to become the first man to preach the Gospel to a bunch of Muslim children in rural Ethiopia. But five campuses in five cities later, this comfort-providing preacher shares a powerful message of submission and surrendering life to something greater than oneself.
Interviewed Exclusively for Risen Magazine in San Diego, California
Risen Magazine: Growing up your father was an Atheist and your mother had some Christian background, but what made you want faith in your life and when was that decision made?
Larry Brown: My mom has two sisters that have been ministers for a long time so they were always that spiritual force within the family. My mom is the oldest of 15 kids. Two of her younger sisters were these little fireball evangelistic-type ministers and that seemed to irk my dad a lot because he was trying to live one way, and they were living this other way, and that offended him. He used to say, “Anyone who believes in God is weak mentally and emotionally. Christianity or any religion is for the weak.” And in my mind, he seemed to be more successful than my mom’s side of the family. He had bachelor and master degrees in engineering; he was a career naval officer, a boxer, and part of an undefeated navy basketball team. He had to work his way through the ranks from enlisted to officer because he grew up on a farm plowing fields and slopping hogs. He really made something out of himself according to the world’s standards. I really respected that and looked up to him in that way, but he was not this warm, loving kind of guy.
I graduated from high school and that summer from June to about mid-August it seemed that every single week, while in Maryland, somebody would witness to me. Whether it was in a mall, at the swimming pool, the bowling alley, or a convenience store, even a fast-food place, someone was witnessing to me, it was different people every time. I was like, “What is going on?” I would go to Sunday school occasionally as a kid and in junior high, but by the time I got to high school my mom had to work a job so she couldn’t take us to church at all. By the time I graduated from high school, my mind was focused on college and the party life. But all of sudden God was confronting me every single week. Then I got to the prep school and after we had a couple of weeks of basic training – learning how to march and physical fitness – the academic year started. This guy, Allan Camaisa, came by my room every Friday and Saturday night before I could catch the taxi to go out to the clubs and disco, and would talk to me, and somehow the conversation always ended up about God. I became accustomed to it and was beginning to enjoy it. He was a friend helping me think about life and my values, and what direction I was heading. It was good.
[Another influence] was a navy captain, two ranks higher than my dad, who was a lieutenant commander in the navy. This guy and his family loved God. They went to church and did things together. And I remembered my dad saying, “Anyone who believes in God is weak.” And then thinking that, “This guy is two ranks higher than you Dad. And probably more educated, more successful at this point, and he believes in God.” So that started changing my belief system.
Finally by Easter, my heart was softened to the point I agreed to go to a retreat. One of the leaders of the group sat me down in the first thirty minutes I was there, and the next thing I knew was that had I accepted Christ. I made a decision that has lasted from March 24, 1978. I never turned back.
Risen Magazine: How did your life look different after you made that decision?
Larry Brown: When I was seven years old I was sexually molested by somebody and I went from being an outgoing kid where my mom said, “you would be the type to get in front of the family and the company and you would rhyme, sing, rap, dance… you were just really friendly, outgoing, and loving, ” to that same year flunking the second grade because of the trauma. They [my family] didn’t know what happened to me until I was an adult and began to share my testimony about how God set me free from all the pain and fear. My mom said, “We always wondered what happened to you because it was like a switch flipped and a part of you died.”
I went to 11 schools between kindergarten through high school. I had to go to the same school to repeat second grade and see all the kids I knew from previous year. That humiliated and crushed myself self-esteem. I was already very fearful of what happened because the person that molested me threatened me by saying, “If you ever tell anybody you’re going to get in trouble because it’s your fault and I’m going to find you and get you.” And when you are a seven-year-old, what do you do with that? How can you cope with that? Back then you think you’re the only one experiencing this.
So I lived with that fear driving me and I began to isolate myself; I was a loner with no friends and thought about suicide at the end of elementary school. I remember moving from California to Maryland and I thought, “I can’t live like this anymore. If I go to junior high and have another year like I’ve had, then I’m just going to end it.” No matter what school I went to the bullies would find me within the first week. The fear in me was like a magnet to them. I had big eyes and they would call me “bubble eyes,” and that hurt. Or they would tell me I’m stupid, I’m ugly, I can’t do anything athletically, and since I didn’t live in a family that believed in God I just thought, “What’s the point? I’ll just end it and my misery will be over.”
I remember in junior high, when my parents separated and eventually divorced, my mom decided to go back to church and I went with her. I cried out, “God if you are real, I need help. I can’t live life like this anymore.” And like in Romans 2:4 where it says, “…God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance,” I think God reached down and knew what I was going through and how desperate I was, and he helped me.
That year I made Honor Roll two out of four quarters, and that gave me hope. Then I went out for the track team and I made it, which gave me more confidence and hope. I thought that maybe the rest of my life wouldn’t be that bad. So even though my parents divorced, seventh grade gave me some hope.
By the ninth grade I was on the high school state championship track team, undefeated in wrestling, and National Honor Society, but in the midst of all that I never had a relationship with God. Even though I prayed for God to help me, it still wasn’t until the summer when people were witnessing to me, and Allan [talking to me], and the retreat, that I actually accepted Christ.
When I headed to the Naval Academy I thought, “Now life will be perfect because I’m a Christian, I’m at my dream school, and my dad is proud of me.” Everything seemed to start going wrong, so I began to seek the Lord and he began to show me from his Word [the Bible], “I have a plan for your life, and this is not my plan for you.” I said, “But God what about my dad? He lives in Annapolis; this is his dream school for me, and I’ve always wanted to please him.” And God said, “Well who you are going to stand before when you’re judged one day…your earthly father or heavenly father?” I said, “Well, that’s a no-brainer. You Lord.” And in Ephesians 2:10 it says, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” This is not what he had planned for me and he needed me to leave. I didn’t know where to go, but he just said, “Trust me and leave.” That’s the life of faith.
After I left the Naval Academy that summer, I had to live with my dad. I asked, “God, what are you doing to me?!” By the middle of the summer I accepted an academic scholarship to Louisiana, and back in 1979, Louisiana was not a place a black man wanted to go. All I saw was Mississippi burning in the news. But the more I prayed, I finally discerned if there is a desire inside and you know it’s not natural, but it’s on your heat, then more than likely that is God.
The Bible says in Proverbs 3: 5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Sometimes we reject what God is putting in our heart because we don’t understand it all, but God got his point across to me and I went to Louisiana.
I got involved with the campus ministry and fell in love with the place. I began to discover there was an anointing on my life to minister the people, teach, and preach the Word. It was a secular college, in fact a party campus, but it seemed like there was grace and favor to everything we did. If I would’ve stayed where I was at, I would’ve missed out on all of this.
Risen Magazine: When you talk about hearing God speak to you and he tells you where to go and how to navigate your life, how would you describe that to someone who doesn’t have that as their routine?
Larry Brown: When I accepted Christ on the retreat they really emphasized not only prayer, but while in prayer, a quiet time with God. It needed to be a daily discipline. They really encouraged me to give 30 minutes to an hour of my day to prayer. And out of that quiet time, to cultivate a lifestyle where I could be quiet inside even through the midst of my working and talking day.
1 Peter 3:4 says we should develop a “gentle and quiet spirit.” Which tell us even you when are born-again, not everyone has a quiet spirit, and it’s more difficult for them to receive communication from God. Sometimes God will speak in a very authoritative voice on the inside, and that’s the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to you, and sometimes it’s a still, small voice, and if you’re not quiet you will miss it. So the more you develop that inward spirit, the more you are able to perceive that guidance, and you always want to judge what you perceive on the inside, by the Word of God.
Risen Magazine: Tell me how you ended up founding Turning Point Ministries?
Larry Brown: One day when I was in the Navy, I heard the founder of Rhema Bible Training College on the radio station saying, “God gave me a mandate to teach my people faith.” And I said, “Lord, you are telling me to leave the Navy, go to Bible College, and become a minister… well what’s my mandate? What’s my assignment or my call?” And he said, “Comfort. Comfort my people.” Isaiah 40:1. He said, “It’s something I spoke to you in college. You will develop in teaching and I’m really going to expand that comfort ministry that I’m giving you.” And he said, “You’ll go into mission field and I’ll give you a burden for them.” And so out of that he began to saturate and soften my heart, giving me compassion for the grieving, the hurting, the wounded, and the crushed. And of course with what I went through, I could relate to that very much.
In the mid ‘90s when the Lord said to get my ministry incorporated and become a nonprofit, I said, “What name should I have?” And he said, “It is going to be, not just Larry Brown Ministries, but Turning Point Ministries.” And I asked, “Why?” And he said, “Because you are going to turn people cries to Christ. You will go to churches, and on the mission field and the things I will have you share or supply – whether its material things or spiritual things – it’s going to be a turning point for people’s lives. Sick being healed, the lame walking, or somebody delivered from demonic possession; it will be a turning point in their life.”
No matter what school I went to the bullies would find me within the first week. The fear in me was like a magnet to them.
Risen Magazine: What types of modern-day miracles do you see when ministering overseas?
Larry Brown: One recent miracle was a little boy that had a learning disability. He came to me for prayer at the end of a church service in Ethiopia, he was seven years old and I asked him, “What can I pray for you for?” He said, “Will you pray for me that I can learn better in school?” I said, “Do you believe God can do anything?” And he said, “Yes, yes I do.” He was part of a church where he had seen the Lord heal people from other things and his faith was definitely there. And I said, “We’re going to pray right now to Jesus, who is the healer, to improve your ability to learn.” That was in October 2011, and then in June 2012, this little boy was tugging on me at a ceremony where his pastor was graduating from Bible school. He said, “Do you remember me?” His eyes were all lit up and he said, “You prayed for me to learn better and I’m the top second grader in all the school, and in every subject.”
There are a lot of miracles. I’ve seen people come up that could not hear, and instantly their ears pop open and they can hear after not being able to for years. There have been a number of women who have been barren for years. And in just about every African country I’ve been to if you’re married and not having a child with in the first two years there is great social shame and pressure. I remember one lady in particular, I was in Kenya, she was a hotel clerk and she called my room and said, “Are you a missionary? Can you come down to the front desk? Please sir. I’ll tell you when you get down here.” I felt a peace that I should go, so I went down and she said, “Would you pray for me for God to bring my husband back and for us to have children?” She continued to say, “We’ve been married five years and no children. We moved from the city we were living in to the city we’re at now because the pressure from our family, church, and community was so bad. Once the pressure here got bad, my husband left working at the hotel here with me and moved to Nyrobi, which is like 6-8 hours away by car, running from the shame of not having kids.” I said, “Sounds like we need to pray for him to come back first, because you can’t get pregnant without him.” I asked her a few questions to see where she was at in her faith. I felt good in my heart she was ready for me to pray for her. So I laid hands on her and prayed for her. One year later I was in that same hotel and I asked her, “How are you doing?” And she said, “Well, not only is my husband back, but we’ve had our baby!” It’s fun going back to places a year later, because that has happened numerous times.
Risen Magazine: Obviously miracles can happen anywhere, even in the United States. Do you think we hear about them less here or is there a higher percentage of miracles occurring in other countries?
Larry Brown: I think the percentage is higher overseas in these third world nations because they don’t have the luxury, option, or opportunity to go to the pharmacy, or the doctor or access the better medical treatment like we have here in the States. The people overseas are almost forced to depend on God. Sometimes they are traveling three or four days to come to a crusade or church service where they hear someone can pray for them to be healed. These people are putting their faith, hope, and being, into trusting God.
Risen Magazine: What happens if the miracle they are asking for doesn’t occur?
Larry Brown: I’m big on teaching and preaching the Bible, so one thing we explain to people is that with Jesus’ healing ministry, there were many instant healings and there were others where it was a gradual process. In Mark 16:18 the Bible says, “You shall lay hands on the sick and they shall recover.” In the Greek, recover means, well shall they be. That can be instant or that can be gradual, and I’ve seen it happen both ways. What I like is going back a year later and the people that didn’t have the instant manifestation, are now totally healed.
Risen Magazine: You’ve been to 20 different nations, but most recently you’ve been focused on Ethiopia. Why has this country been placed on your heart?
Larry Brown: I believe that for this season, if not longer, God has given me a burden to help rise up ministers to reach their nation of Ethiopia. In January 2006, I was speaking at a church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and a lady I have known [for about 12 years] came to the meeting. She is an Ethiopian lady who approached me and said, “I have been looking for teachers and my Ethiopian pastor in Washington, DC, has given me an assignment to go to our nation and start a Bible College.” She said, “Islam is very aggressive there; their agenda is to start a mosque every 25 kilometers throughout the country. And my pastor’s vision is to raise five thousand churches in the nation. But in order to do that, ministers need to be trained. Would you prayerfully consider going to Ethiopia to help me start this school?”
So I prayed about it. Ethiopia had been in my heart for several years so I went with her in September; God did a deeper work [for that nation] in my heart in terms of compassion and vision. Over time, it has developed more and more. I’ve probably preached in 50 different churches or ministries in the country. I’ve been to ten different cities, so God has really expanded my territory. In addition to teaching in the Bible School and helping administrate, I’m involved with some very solid outreaches to widows and orphans.
One of our Bible School graduates started a school for children in a Muslim community where they had rejected her when she was 12 because she accepted Christ. More than ten years later, God sent her back to start a school and to minister to the Muslim community in some practical ways. This is a rural area where kids have zero opportunities for education, so these families greatly appreciate that a school is there. We have been helping financially with that, which has opened the door to the families wanting to meet me. “This Christian foreigner; why is he helping us?” they ask. “Why are you doing this in a Muslim community?” She invited me and told me, “You’ll be the first one to ever teach the Gospel in this rural area.” And I was like, “Really? Lord please help me not to mess this up. She started a good work here. She’s had the school going for two years, building up a report, trust, and relationships; I do not want to jeopardize that or damage it in any way.” So I was really seeking God for wisdom, “Lord, how do I do this? What do I say to them?” And he reminded me that his grace is sufficient and then reminded me of some things I learned about Islam a couple years before that – one being that one of the meanings of Islam is submission. Another is surrender. God said, “When you go there and speak to them, talk about a God that loves people.” That is not something that is said in Islam, that Allah loves you. They’re hopeful that he will be merciful. And God also told me to talk about Christian submission and surrender to the cause of Christ. That even Jesus left all of what he had in heaven and summited to the will of the Father to be crucified for the very people who sinned against him.
Out of that the Lord told me to talk about my submission and where the Lord led me from to what I am doing now. The director of the school for kids said, “Brother Larry, all the parents that heard you the first time want their kids to grow up to be a Christian. They were touched by your testimony of submission to God.” Now that they trust and respect me, I have the ability to preach the full Gospel and over the last four years, we have seen between 200-300 of these villagers accept Christ.
Risen Magazine: You are ministering in a region that is predominantly Muslim, so what are the biggest challenges you are seeing when it comes to sharing the love of Jesus in those areas?
Larry Brown: The challenge we are having with the Muslims is that they are very organized, very systematic, and very strategic. What I mean by that is they have short term, mid-range, and long term goals for infiltrating Islam throughout the entire country. Their plan is that if I were a Muslim mentor, if it takes my whole lifetime to strategically prepare and position a child to become a person of influence in that country, then I will do that. That’s how they operate. Then they have some rich Muslims, and radical Muslims from the Middle East that are financially supporting this. They will take poorer people and say, “Here is a bunch of money if you will convert to Islam, and then this is what we need you to do.” They like to start grassroots.
So my challenge, and the challenge of the other Christians there, is to educate the church concerning this in Ethiopia. Make them aware of what is going on right underneath their noses. For example, the goal of the Muslims in Ethiopia is to set up a mosque every 25 kilometers in the country. They want to establish their presence, even if they only have one family attending that mosque; whatever they can use to influence and promote the Islamic agenda.
Risen Magazine: With the wealth and bribing of individuals to convert it Islam, how then do people receive Christianity? Do they ask, “What can you give, or offer me?”
Larry Brown: I can only speak of my experiences on that, but the places that I have gone to minister, the Christians have been persecuted, so the bribe-thing isn’t going to happen. They know if they accept Christ they are going to be social outcasts. And that’s mild compared what happens to people in other locations. Their houses are burned down, their own family has them arrested, sometimes they are beaten or even executed. I haven’t heard so much of that Ethiopia. It’s more loneliness from being socially ostracized. You’re living in this rural community and you have zero friends. And you’re a baby Christian; you barely know what it means, you just gave your heart to the Lord when he appeared to you in a vision. You don’t have a Bible, you don’t have a pastor, and you have nothing.
Risen Magazine: What about loneliness from your perspective? You have a wife and family, so how do you balance all and have you thought about just moving permanently overseas?
Larry Brown: I’ve thought about moving there, but I know my wife is not up for that. She is fine with me going as often as I need, and as long as I need. She married me when I was in the Navy and I was deployed a lot. So yes, we might be apart; but at least she’s with family and friends. It was 10 years of me working at the Bible college [in the United States] before I finally got that release to go full time into ministry like I [currently] am. We struggled through that together and we both know and understand the investment of our life. For us, this is fulfillment of something that a good chunk of our life was poured in to. There is a lot of support.
Risen Magazine: On a daily basis, what are your biggest needs and how do you have the fortitude and strength to carry on?
Larry Brown: We rely a lot on donations so there are the ministry needs and the family needs, and those are connected in a lot of ways. It’s not like your typical 9-to-5 job and you have a paycheck. Finances can really fluctuate, and needs can really fluctuate. God provides from big to little donations, even cars have been given to us over the years. Spiritually, this last trip I was teaching seven courses, Monday through Saturday, day and night. That’s the most I have ever done over an 11-week trip. I preached every Sunday in the church, some of that involved travelling and we did three big outreaches. So for the time, the energy, and the finances, I really just have to press in and believe God to provide for all that. I felt it physically and spiritually after that, more than I ever have; but God’s grace was sufficient. He helped us to do it and the results were outstanding.
Connect with Larry Brown:
Web site: http://www.turningpointmin.org
Exclusive interview originally published in Risen Magazine, Fall 2013
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