Member Spotlight: Matt Larson, The Morning Center

By Michael Miller  ·  Dec 21, 2023

Why SMI? Consistent, compassionate health care

Various strands of Matt Larson’s ministry journey have led to his service as national director of the Morning Center, where he leads the effort to help families in need find loving, Christ-based maternity care.

Matt stepped into the leadership role of the ministry in 2016. Started by Samaritan Ministries in 2011, the Morning Center provides free prenatal care and other services to moms in need. It has one clinic operating in Atlanta, one in relaunch mode in Memphis, and another in the early planning stages in Dallas.

Apart from his Morning Center duties, Matt is writing his fourth book and recording his fourth music album. He also recently started roasting his own coffee.

“My mind is constantly running, which is why I always seem to have a project going on.”

Matt says he has a “pretty ridiculous resume, probably for the same reason.”

Ministry journey

As a young adult, “I changed jobs about every two years for one reason or another,” Matt said.

After serving as a worship leader at various churches for about seven years, he toured as a musician on college campuses for a few years, spending several months in an RV. He then worked in data center virtualization for a while, ultimately landing as ministry coordinator and then executive director of the Dream Center Peoria.

While his time at the Dream Center was challenging due to budget shortfalls and ministry trials, he now believes it was a training ground for reliance on God. Shortly after becoming executive director there in 2014, without any real business experience, Matt had to lead the ministry through several challenges. One was the last-minute loss of a major sponsor for a $50,000 event, and another was the discovery of budget shortfalls.

The Lord provided for each need that arose.

“The biggest challenge was knowing the Lord’s leading and constantly pushing forward even if no one else understood,” Matt said. “There were several things like that where the Lord gave me insight to proceed, even though there were so many reasons something shouldn’t have happened. Some of the results I didn’t get to enjoy while I was there, but I saw them happen afterward, and they happened because of the stuff that the Lord led me in while I was there. This is a difficult aspect of ministry. Our world thrives on instant gratification. As a Christ follower you don’t always get the privilege of seeing the result of your work you have done for the Lord, but it’s such a blessing when you do.

“If you know the Lord is leading in something, it may be scary, but you can’t allow the conditions of the environment to inform whether you’re doing the right thing. Just because things aren’t going well doesn’t mean the Lord isn’t with you or you’re not supposed to go through it. There’s a sanctifying process that happens to you personally. Also, you get to see where your faith is at.”

Between managing the ministry and personally helping those in need, Matt says he weathered a lot in a very short amount of time.

“My heart was broken a lot,” he says. “There were so many hurting people. With the Morning Center, it’s oftentimes a similar ministry—people who are in a tough situation and need a little help.”

New direction

The chain of events leading him to the Morning Center started when he was praying one day for the Dream Center board of directors. He says he very clearly heard the Lord prompt him to ask James Lansberry, then Samaritan's Executive Vice President, to be a board member there.

Matt knew James from working for Samaritan briefly during the ministry's "chicken coop" days.

A few years later, James, who had first envisioned the Morning Center, asked Matt to interview for the ministry’s lead national position.

“He got to see me go through a lot of stuff,” Matt said. “I think the Lord brokered that. James had first-hand watched me deal with really difficult situations.”

Morning Center fit

The Morning Center job appealed to Matt because he was having various life difficulties. Health problems complicated the situation, and he was dealing with emotional stress.

“I knew that my being angry was not what the Lord wanted,” Matt said.

A few weeks after Matt returned to his Dream Center job from sick leave, James Lansberry called about the Morning Center leadership position. It would be an unusual move for him since he hadn't been involved in right-to-life issues.

“I came from outside the pro-life movement,” he said. “I had always been pro-life, but I hadn’t gone to jail or picketed in front of abortion clinics. I see now that I bring value because I’m outside of the pro-life movement. I look at things differently.”

Matt Larson sits and plays guitar

Matt Larson (supplied photo)

He was offered the job and took it but says it was an adjustment.

“At the Dream Center, I moved from being ministry coordinator, sitting on the ground with homeless people every day, to running the organization,” he said. “You become removed from the hands-on ministry. Coming into this role, it’s even one more step removed. That’s been one of the more difficult challenges for me, is to be the one who’s trying to build the ministry so that other people can do the hands-on part. That’s been a surprising challenge.”

But, he says, he knows he is helping vital work to happen. Women in need can go to the Morning Center for free prenatal through postpartum care at no charge. Morning Center clinics also offer health education, parenting classes, a birthing plan, and delivery services, and help moms transition into motherhood. The Atlanta Morning Center partners with a local baby delivery group. Leadership realized that staffing such a team wasn’t practical and was quite expensive. However, building birthing centers is a long-term Morning Center goal.

‘Jesus changes everything’

More importantly, Matt says, the Morning Center offers all its services in Christ's name.

“Jesus changes everything,” he says.

“When you’re coming alongside somebody at one of the most vulnerable times of their lives, when you’re in a tough situation, your defenses are down, and you're open to what you might not have been open to before.

“I love that we deliver babies, but hospitals already do that,” Matt said. “What sets us apart is the Gospel and seeing lives transformed. We are reimagining maternity care.”

Such care also has the potential to transform culture.

“The issue of caring for life is central to just about everything else,” he said. “If our culture understood and valued life, it would fix so many problems. It’s not a political issue. Everybody wants to make it a political issue. At the end of the day, if everybody in their heart understood that life was valuable, then the law would be irrelevant. This initially shocks people, but I don’t believe life begins at conception. I believe life begins in the mind of God. You are His intellectual property. Our value is based on this truth, and no human can ever change that.”

Status of the clinics

The Atlanta Morning Center is the only one currently operational. The Memphis Morning Center was “wound down” temporarily in May, mainly because it lacked local support. Efforts are underway to change that, though, and reopen the doors in the very near future.

“Memphis was where we learned everything,” Matt said. “We struggled with interim leaders for a year and now have Pia Reynolds doing preparatory work for the Memphis center to be up and running. She’s a powerhouse leader.”

Support for the Atlanta clinic is all local. It has one clinic day per week and classes three days a week. The clinic is overseen by Daphne Robinson, who was instrumental in raising initial support to launch and continues to lead the team.

“She has done a tremendous job fighting for the cause of life,” Matt said.

Matt feels like the Morning Center has a solid base and promising future as it looks for its next clinic site.

“We’re forging different relationships with people and trying to figure out where our next place to launch is, and what’s the right recipe, so to speak,” he said. “What God calls you to may not be easy, but with the Lord it will succeed.”

Morning Center logo

Matt says an affiliate approach is being developed for Morning Center clinics, where the national organization handles the back office responsibilities—maintaining technical support, medical care standards, compliance, various insurance policies, and other necessities.

“That way the clinics can be a local expression of the Morning Center,” Matt said. “I can’t presume to understand every subculture across the United States. I’ve been practicing this in Atlanta. Daphne’s connected, but she’s also autonomous. It’s working well. She’s got a great team. We are really excited to continue to move forward with this project.”

How to help

While donors nationwide have been helping the Morning Center through its initial years, Matt is trying to take that to the next level. Besides getting local churches to support their local clinic, he is developing a donor club.

“The donor club is going to be for the people who want to get more information about the Morning Center,” Matt said. “We’re looking at asking members to donate a dollar a day and pray a minute a day. If I could have a thousand people pray for a minute a day, that’s a thousand minutes a day of prayer. That’s a lot of prayer. We could use it.”

His heart at home

Supporting Matt all the way has been his wife, Kara.

“Kara prays for me and listens to my heart related to the ministry,” Matt said. “She also gives me the freedom to travel as the ministry needs me to. It may sound simple, but these things are incredibly important.”

That’s especially true with the travel involved in Matt’s job.

“I can travel sometimes for a week or more depending on what needs to be done,” he said. “She becomes a single mom for those moments in the sense that she has to take care of everything. She has always been a huge support as the Lord has opened doors for me to do ministry.”

Prayer requests

Matt asks for prayer for the following:

  • For wisdom to follow the Lord and not just what seems to make business sense.
  • For protection over leaders and staff.
  • For the Morning Center staff to have the heart of Jesus so they can love clients well and see transformed lives.
Michael Miller is editor of the Samaritan Ministries newsletter.