For Graeme Larsen, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is the place he feels called to do ministry.
“Although I haven’t had the desire to drink for many years, I have the desire to pass on the message of hope and recovery to other people,” he says.
At a recent AA meeting in his hometown of Nelson, New Zealand, Graeme had the opportunity to share Jesus with 26 people at once.
“A lady on the other side of the room blurted out, ‘I saw you on TV last night!’ Everyone was looking at me. I’d been asked to share at this meeting and had no idea what to say, so I shared about what program I had been part of and why. And at that moment, 26 other people learned all about Hope Channel,” he says.
Graeme appeared in episode 2 of Finding Home, a series produced by Hope Channel New Zealand, in which he shared his testimony alongside other members of his local congregation at The Haven Adventist Church.
“I keep a certain amount of anonymity in my story, not so much for myself but to protect others,” he says. “Anonymity is an essential part of AA (that’s why it’s called Alcoholics Anonymous). There are people in the fellowship from all walks of life — politicians, doctors, lawyers, bankers, people next door — and addiction is very sensitive and personal, so we all respect that.”
In the episode, Graeme explains how a history of workaholism led him into a 10-year alcohol addiction and eventually destroyed his marriage.
“I lost focus of home life, lost focus of the things I loved, and put things I thought I loved in their place. It took me to some very dark places,” he explains.
After living in Australia for more than 30 years, Graeme moved back to Nelson in 2007 to look after his dying father. It was here that he met his wife, Nicqui.
“I introduced Nicqui to the church, and now she is currently serving as an elder,” he says. “I come home sometimes and say to my wife, ‘You just wouldn’t believe what God’s done today!’”
With an active presence both at church and at AA, Graeme says he combines these aspects of his life to have a greater ministry impact.
“I try to take what I learn in my Christian life into my AA life, and from my AA life into my Christian life,” he explains. “I’m blessed because we’ve got a church home group that is important to both Nicqui and me, where I can share things I’ve learned from AA.
“In AA meetings, people soon know I’m a Christian. I often get atheists and agnostics and people who cuss and swear, asking me if I’m religious, and I say no. Then they ask me if I go to church, and I say yes. They ask me what church I attend, and I say it’s a Seventh-day Adventist church and that while our services are held on Sabbath (Saturday), I’m a seven-day Christian.’”
Doctors Kim and Wayne Hurlow—close friends of Graeme and Nicqui who also attend The Haven—occasionally refer people struggling with alcohol addiction to Graeme, who introduces them to the AA fellowship. He also often takes people out onto his boat, shares a meal with them, and listens to their stories.
“I’ve just had a guy leave my home who I’ve been doing studies with through the 12 steps of AA,” Graeme says. “I’m working through them with him. The 12 steps are biblically based, and for our group purpose, there is but one ultimate authority—a loving God. Our leaders are just trusted servants.”