The Rev. Phil Larson stands in the midst of fictional greatness — Gandalf the wizard, Batman, Iron Man and the actor John Wayne as a movie tough guy.
He uses life-size cutouts of such characters to help convey a message to fathers across Oklahoma: They are the God-ordained heroes of their families, the real-life champions their children want and need in their lives.
“If Dad is not there, there's a hole and that hole is passed on to their own kids,” Larson said.
The Yukon businessman and evangelist has made it his mission to connect fathers to their families. He has a map of the Oklahoma City metro he said is “emblazoned” on his heart that shows where the majority of children live in households where a father is not present.
Larson calls them “abandonment zones,” and his effort to help them is a key part of the Community Transformation Initiative he started about a year ago. He has teamed with LifeChurch.tv Northwest Oklahoma City to help provide men for a fathers' group at a local school where there aren't many dads around.
He also provides training and encouragement to men who are active in their children's lives and striving to be better fathers.
A fundraiser for the fatherhood initiative, a golf tournament and luncheon, is planned for Monday in Oklahoma City and will feature special guests U.S. Rep. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City and Carey Casey, CEO of the Kansas City-based National Center for Fathering.
Larson hosts “Fearless Fathers” conferences across the state and in Mexico. He starts WatchDOGS groups connecting men from local churches to schools where more positive male role models are needed. He offers his “Dad's University” classes at churches, community centers and online.
He said his superhero cutouts grab attention at fatherhood conferences like the one held in August at Tabitha Baptist Church, 1219 NE Grand Blvd.
He said he tells men as fathers, they will be called upon to bring such attributes to the forefront. Like John Wayne's film characters, they will need strength.
He said they will need the kind of love the comic book character Batman shows for orphans and the innocent residents of Gotham City. Iron Man, Larson said, stands for energy and power that a man needs when his family requires protection.
And Gandalf of Tolkien's “Lord of the Rings” represents faith because the wizard shows up time and again to rescue his friends.
“For a man to stay in the game, he needs faith,” Larson said.
Larson is founder of a ministry called Prayer Metro. About a year ago, he left his job as assistant vice president of enterprise operations at American Fidelity to take his fatherhood message to the streets full time.
I'm hoping to see more positive males that our children can identify with — additional male role models that care. They will see that these men want to help them make good decisions.”
Tulakes Principal Lee Roland,