Singer and Radio Personality Perry LaHaie
Singer and Radio Personality, Perry LaHaie, Reaches Out to the Muslim Community Around the World
Written by Samantha Baer
From a young age, Perry LaHaie loved music. As an adult, he has taken that passion and turned it into a career becoming an instrumental, on-air radio personality and recording artist, specifically leaving an impact on the Muslim world. Despite struggles of depression and brokenness, LaHaie has used those wearisome times to compose songs and provide comfort to others suffering. Risen sat down with this artist to talk about his mission, the five most common objections Muslims have towards Christianity, and how God has used what he thought were his weaknesses to craft a flourishing ministry.
Interviewed Exclusively for Risen Magazine
Risen Magazine: As an on-air radio personality and recording artist, where did your love for music come from and how did it begin?
Perry LaHaie: I would say my love for music is the first thing I discovered in my life. It was the first gift that emerged and for some reason, the influence of musicians, or the radio, meant a lot to me. At a very young age, I remember going up to my dad’s workbench and saying, “Daddy, I would love to learn how to play the guitar!” So I started taking guitar lessons, and my dad – being the wise person he is – saw early on that that was a direction I should be moving in. So there it was, music became the first gift I realized God had given me.
When I was a teenager, I started playing basketball and that became a passion for me alongside music. But when I was in college it shifted again and I realized I was better at music than basketball. So I came back to the first gift that I recognized.
Risen Magazine: How old were you when you started taking lessons?
Perry LaHaie: I started taking lessons at nine years old. We had a gal that came and lived with us for a time – kind of like a foster situation. She was a really great guitarist and influence in my life.
Risen Magazine: You host a nationally syndicated radio feature that is aired on more than 300 stations and translated worldwide via the Internet. What does this program talk about?
Perry LaHaie: I do the radio station and a daily morning show. The radio feature called “Cast Yourself In,” tells stories about how God is working in the Muslim world which is a big subject today in the West, because we have a lot of fear towards extremism and terrorism. The real untold story though, is what God is doing in their lives and that doesn’t really get shared in the mainstream media. The purpose of my job is to let people know that God loves Muslims and that He is doing amazing things within so many Muslim families and across the Muslim world. I work with a ministry called Frontiers, and we reach out with the love of Jesus across the whole Muslim world. We have more than one thousand workers in over 50 Muslim countries, and our mission is with love and respect to guide Muslim people to follow Jesus. We have a real heart to go into Muslim communities and be a blessing while sharing our faith in the process.
For example, one of the friends I have named Alex is in Central Asia, and he is a physical therapist. He has a physical therapy clinic and he serves the people in his community with their needs, but while doing that he shares the good love of Jesus. In fact on one of his physical therapy beds there’s a TV screen on the ceiling and he always asks his Muslim patients if they want to watch the Jesus film. Most of them say, “Yes!” So he combines meeting physical needs with spiritual needs in the Muslim world. Frontiers strives to be a blessing to other communities and we want to introduce them to the love of Jesus.
Risen Magazine: Your inspiration for your album, “Ahead,” draws from a quote by Dawson Trotman, the founder of the Navigators: “When you can’t see very far ahead, go as far ahead as you can see.” Can you speak more about this?
Perry LaHaie: I think what the quote really describes is the journey of faith. As a follower of Jesus Christ, I know the big picture of what God is. He is on a rescue mission, because as a believer of Jesus, I believe that we fell long ago, that Adam and Eve fell in their sin, but immediately from that time God revealed that He had a rescue plan for all people – and that is really the main story of the Bible. God restoring what was lost in the sin of Adam and Eve. That’s the big picture story; God is on a rescue mission.
God hasn’t given me the blueprint; He just shows me a light for the next step to execute my specific part in the plan. Although I want the blueprint! I want to know how everything works and how everything fits in, but God says, “Nope. Just trust me. I will give you light for the next step… just trust me.” And that is what faith is all about like in Isaiah 42:16.
I think God leads us one step at a time, in two ways. He leads us one step at a time more into knowing Him and this love relationship with Jesus. The other way He leads us, is to be a blessing to the people around us. I believe that Jesus’ DNA to be a blessing to the world is in every follower.
For example, if it’s on my heart to pray for a particular group of people in Sudan that have never heard of Jesus’ love, I pray for them. Then He might put on my heart to write a song about that country, so I do. He leads me one step at a time into His love and into my destiny to be a blessing to people around me. For a long time I tried to make a lot of things happen, then I realized that God doesn’t need me! He doesn’t need me, but He wants me. It’s a process, but I think I’m getting the message a little more clearly these days.
One way that God has caused me to let go and trust Him was actually through some suffering in my life. Something I have struggled with in my life is depression; God has caused me to learn to be dependent on Him through that instead of being so prideful or self sufficient, or instead of being a person that tries to make things happen my way. By Him allowing that kind of suffering in my life, He has helped me not be that way. He knows what to do in our lives, which will cause us to let go of our own agenda.
Muslims have a huge misunderstanding of Christianity. They think that Christianity is synonymous with immorality.
Risen Magazine: What encouragement can you give to others who have also struggled with depression?
Perry LaHaie: That is a huge subject, but I would say having depression is more than just having a down day or two… or even a week. It can be months, or it can even be years for some people. I have friends that have actually struggled their whole lives with depression and have never gotten better; they are disabled all their lives. I’m thankful that God has given me grace in my struggle and that it hasn’t been too extreme. It is important to remember when God says, “When you are weak, then I am strong.”
I think that’s what the Bible screams at us, it’s not our strength that God wants, it’s our humanness. He wants to work through regular broken human beings. I just think that God uses weakness and creates ministry out of suffering. I think day-to-day it’s just learning how to not rely on our feelings, because I so often would align my feelings with faith, and faith really doesn’t have anything to do with feelings. Faith is a decision and understanding certain truths about trusting God. I think really getting that clear in my mind, that faith and feelings are different helped. I knew some days I wasn’t going to feel great, but I needed to stand on what was true whether I felt it or not.
I think another helpful thing is that we have a conversation always going on in our heads, and so many times it is negative. We can talk negative things to ourselves, and as a Christian I believe we have spiritual enemies called the devil and demons. And they can introduce thoughts in our minds, so I think that a practical thing is just to realize that when you have negative conversations in your head or the enemy is accusing you, you need to interrupt that thought in your head even if you have to say, “Stop!” out loud. Then introduce the truth and stop those negative thoughts. Personally I have also found help in medicine, for which I have been thankful.
I’ve written a lot of songs out of my brokenness, weakness and oppression that God has used to help others. It’s given me more empathy for people who suffer with their struggles as well. God has really created a ministry not so much out of my strengths, but really out of all my weaknesses.
Risen Magazine: When did you start following Jesus?
Perry LaHaie: When I was ten years old. My parents had a spiritual awakening in their lives that was so real, authentic, and genuine that I wanted it for myself. I privately asked Jesus to be the leader of my life and forgive me. I didn’t tell anyone about it. It was during recess when I was in fifth grade and I knew that this other kid was a believer because he was outspoken about his faith. He said after recess one day, “Perry, I hope that you can follow Jesus one day.” And the first thing that came out of my mouth genuinely was, “Well I am a Christian.” And that was the first time I said that out loud to anyone, but I knew that it was true and the Holy Spirit gave me assurance that I belonged to God as well.
I went on from there but struggled a lot during my teenage years with sin; with immorality and feeling trapped by my sins. I felt a lot of shame because I was truly a follower of Jesus, but I didn’t really know how to follow Him every day or how to tap into His power. I was trying to break free from sin with my own strength. Most of it was sexual sin. My senior year in high school, I had a turning point. I was playing basketball and I sprained my ankle badly. My friends carried me home and I asked my mom to pray for me because I was in excruciating pain. She prayed for me and all of a sudden my pain went away. God took away the pain in my ankle! The swelling was still there, but there was no pain. I was blown away because I knew how dark my heart was, but still Jesus was reaching out and helping me. He found me at my worst and loved me!
After that, my life started to change; the ugly stuff started falling away because now Christ was changing me. I think that one of the things that people misunderstand about Christianity is that they think just being a morally good person is enough. And certainly being good is important, but at its essence the Gospel says we need a Savior who is Jesus who lived a perfect life and died the death that I deserve, and rose again to prove that the Father accepted the sacrifice for all my sins.
Risen Magazine: Earlier you talked about Frontiers. How did you become involved with the organization and what does it means to you today?
Perry LaHaie: Frontiers was started by a guy named Greg Livingstone and has been around for about 30 years. It is the largest mission agency exclusively devoted to the Muslim world. Frontiers is in more than 50 Muslim countries and we have more than one thousand workers blessing the Muslim communities and sharing Jesus.
I’ve had mainly three passions in my life; reaching people who have never heard the gospel, the love of radio, and the love of music. I thought that my wife and I would end up going to another country and God surprisingly said, “No.” Which was strange to me because here I want to go where most people don’t, and He clearly closed the door. But what happened was I then went into radio and God continued to give me songs and develop my craft as a worship leader. That’s where I found my passion of reaching people in the world through radio. I contacted a bunch of mission agencies and asked if they needed a radio and music guy. Frontiers was the organization that we really connected with and we just found a kindred spirit with them. So we joined the Frontiers community in 2007. I resigned from my current radio position and my family and I packed all of our belongings and traveled two thousand miles to Phoenix, Arizona, so that I could use radio and music to reach the Muslim world.
After three years, and after creating a position to use music and radio to mobilize people in the Muslim world, I hit a wall. I thought, “This is not going to work.” That’s when a friend confronted me and said, “You’ve done what you’ve had in mind, now let’s see what God has in mind.” And that’s when it really started to take shape and take off. I started traveling, doing concerts, leading worship and talking about Frontiers. My wife and I found out we didn’t like living in a large city – or heat. We realized that what I’m doing was not limited to living in Phoenix, so we moved back to our home state in West Michigan in 2010. Since then things really started exploding and continued to grow with so many different opportunities to make God known to the Muslim community through radio and music.
I wouldn’t say I’m an entrepreneur, but I think God saw something in me, pulled it out and allowed it to happen. It was a little painful at times but the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.
Risen Magazine: What have been the biggest obstacles you have seen while helping Muslims to fully understand and comprehend the Bible?
Perry LaHaie: It reminds me of an article I just read. You see, Muslims have a huge misunderstanding of Christianity. They think that Christianity is synonymous with immorality. They figure the West is Christian and they see the immorality of the West and automatically think that Christianity must be immorality. They associate pornography with Christianity; Madonna and Britney Spears with Christianity; they associate all the movies that come out of the West with Christianity, and it’s because most Muslims have never been a follower of Jesus. This is why it’s so important that we go and show them that we are passionate for God and passionate for holiness. When they start seeing that there is a difference between following Jesus and from being an American, or from the West, perceptions shift. That is a huge hurdle for them to get over.
There are five common objections Muslims have to Christianity. One is that they believe the Bible has been corrupted, that somehow it has been changed throughout the years and it’s not really God’s word anymore. The response to that would be, God is powerful enough to protect His word, who can be strong enough to corrupt or overcome God’s word?
Another objection is the whole idea that Jesus is God’s son. Muslims think that God the Father had sex with Mary to produce Jesus. I would say, “I do not believe that God would defile Himself in a physical relationship with a women – just like you don’t.”
The third objection is that Muslims believe that we serve three Gods. They have a difficult time with the concept of the Trinity. They think our Trinity is God, Jesus, and Mary. So we have to clarify, and the response to that is, “We worship one God revealed in three persons; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” I would then ask my Muslim friend which existed first in eternity, God, His Son, or His Spirit, to get them thinking in a different way.
A fourth objection is that they don’t believe that Jesus died on the cross for their sins. They have a hard time believing that God would let a great prophet suffer such a great defeat. Muslims greatly revere Jesus. He’s mentioned 93 times in their holy book. It’s blasphemous for them to think that God would allow His prophet to be killed. A response for that would be, “Which is greater, for God to save His prophet by keeping Him from death, or to save Him by raising Him up and defeating death?”
The final objection is, Muslims say you have to pay for your own sins, and Jesus can’t do that for you. They have this real “works” mindset. Muslims are really trying to atone for their own sins by doing all of these good works. A response for that would be, “You’re right. Sin is serious. Maybe you would like to take a look with me about what the Bible says about Jesus forgiving sins, so that we can have hope on judgment day.” If the Lord is working in their hearts, they are going to sense the heaviness of how to earn God’s favor and perhaps take another look at how they don’t have to atone for their own sins and that maybe Jesus really has paid the debt for our sins. And then you get into a Bible study with them.
Those [answers to the] five objections have been extremely helpful for me as far as the main things Muslims struggle with.
Risen Magazine: What story sticks out in your mind or has affected you since working with the Muslim world?
Perry LaHaie: I will tell you two stories. When I was in Turkey I met a Muslim who is now a believer [in Christianity] named Savosh. He came to know Jesus through a dream. In his dream, he was levitated off his couch where he was sleeping and his arms were wrapped tightly around him as if he were chained to himself. During the dream he felt like someone had come into the house through the sliding glass window, but it was the Holy Spirit. He realized he was being held in bondage by himself and then the Holy Spirit came into the room and said, “You are free.” That’s when he wakes up. And he felt like the dream was so real that he went to the sliding glass door to see if someone had come in, or if there were footprints in the snow. But there was nothing. So that led him to go to a church for the first time, he heard the Gospel in the church that day, and received Jesus as his Savior. Savosh had never heard the gospel before that time and was actually part of the Kurdish resistance – which is in the Middle East because the Kurds don’t have their own country and are oppressed. There is a Kurdish resistance where they rise up against different governments in the different countries where they live, which is the reason they eventually bought their own country. Countries like Turkey, or Iraq, hate the Kurds because they don’t want them to have “our” country, so the Kurds have resistance. Savosh heard about Jesus through this Kurdish resistance, but only the fact that He was “a great man that laid down his life for us.” And then he had this dream, connected that with the Jesus he had heard about, went to church, and heard the gospel. What is so special is that God can reveal Himself to people who have never heard. And this is exactly the case. God is not limited by our ability to get somewhere. He is there already and can reveal Himself. I wanted to tell that story because I heard that directly from Savosh.
Another story concerns a pastor in Egypt who was sleeping and then awakened rudely by a masked gunman who forced him out of his house and up onto the roof. He was then forced to jump to another roof and down the stairwell into a small room lit by one candle. In this room there were 30 people, and this gunman took the mask off his face and said, “I’m really sorry I had to do that to you but I figured that was the only way to get you here.” He said, “We are 30 imams (which is Christian equivalent to a pastor) and we’ve been having Jesus dreams. We don’t know what this means but we want to know about the Bible. Will you teach us?” So now this pastor is teaching a secret church about the love of Jesus!
I can’t tell you how many stories I have like that, it’s not like something rare, it’s just where God is working in the Muslim world and there are true signs and wonders, dreams and visions. This is also happening in America where my friend Tom was doing an outreach to Muslims and he stopped at this gas station to fill up his gas tank. He swiped his card and it said, “See cashier.” So he goes in and the cashier happens to be a Muslim woman and he says, “You’re a Muslim, I’m a Christian. God has given my wife and I a real love for Muslims.” She was blessed by that and then he said, “Have you heard about this phenomenon that’s been happening all around the Muslim world?” She said, “What is that?” He said, “Muslims are having dreams and visions of Jesus all over.” She looked at him and said, “I don’t understand but I’ve been having Jesus dreams too, and I’ve been having them for 40 years!” He came back the next day and brought her a copy of his book about Jesus awakening the Muslim world through dreams. Thankfully there was no one in the station at that time and he shared the gospel and she received Jesus. So it’s not just in other countries, Muslims are having dreams even in America!
Exclusive interview originally published in Risen Magazine, Winter 2013
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