By Caleb Mynatt
As a child, Lawrence “Larry” Foy lived right across from a church. He wanted absolutely nothing to do with it.
At his childhood home in Winnsboro, Louisiana, when folks were at the church, Foy would go out the backdoor of his house to avoid even speaking to the churchgoers right across the street. Despite growing up living with believers, like his grandfather Richard, he almost never attended church. For him, church was just an “annoying presence.” Foy had only one goal in his early years: to get out of Louisiana for good.
“I avoided church, and I was pretty much done with school too,” said Foy. “I graduated high school and had no real interest in going to college. All I really wanted to do was leave Louisiana. I didn’t care about anything else.”
It took him over 40 years, but Foy, now age 65, who joined Together for Hope Louisiana as executive director in February, has finally returned to his home state to give back to his community. In the years since he left, he obtained degrees in theology, ethics and law, as well as a degree from Northern Baptist Theological Seminary and a PhD from the University of Southern California in Religion and Social Ethics. He has also done extensive work in pursuing social justice through public policy in Los Angeles and Southern California.
“Once I became interested in higher education and took it seriously, I found I had an insatiable thrust for knowledge,” said Foy. “I’m still pursing degrees to this day and don’t plan to stop anytime soon.”
Foy’s unexpected pursuit of Christ and his seeking of knowledge both began right around the time of his 18th birthday. Before his grandfather died, he encouraged Foy to begin to attend church and pursue Christ. Those words followed Foy to his new home in Wheaton, Illinois, where he says he had his conversion experience. He began attending a church and teaching Sunday school, and enrolled at Elmhurst College, to pursue a degree in religion and theology. It was there that Foy found his passion for the deep study of theology and discovered, learning alongside his teacher Ronald Goetz, that he had a gift for understanding theological concepts. He later graduated from North Central College.
“I was pulled away from the pastoral calling to more of the thinking and analysis side of religion,” said Foy. “For a majority of Christians at the time, all you had to do was be familiar with the Bible and that was enough. You weren’t supposed to ask questions, but asking questions was all I wanted to do.”
When he was accepted to the doctoral program at USC in 1989, Foy found his home in Southern California. It was there that Foy seriously began his career in missions, becoming the director of the Union Rescue Mission while obtaining his PhD. Union Rescue Mission, a homeless shelter was, at the time, according to Foy, the largest homeless shelter in the world.
Although he returned to Illinois for five years to teach at Elmhurst College, he eventually found his way back to Los Angeles. It was then that he became involved in social justice work through the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in Los Angeles.
“I had participated in marches and protests in high school that were organized by SCLC; so when I was offered a job from there, I was excited to take it,” said Foy. “I became the religious coordinator for voting campaigns, gang prevention programs and hate crime programs.”
Once his career in L.A. started, Foy began pursuing change through something that had interested him since he was a child: politics. Although that never went as far as running for public office, Foy has had extensive experience in campaigning for and sponsoring legislation that was successfully passed in the state of California. This work in politics has always been to benefit the people who have trouble fighting for themselves, a group that Foy says he’s been fighting for his whole life.
“I’ve always has a passion for the underdog,” said Foy. “I grew up wanting to fight the bullies. I’ve always gravitated toward marginalized people. Although I was poor growing up, my friends were the poorest of the poor. I’m passionate about the misfits. I’ve always wanted to help them, because I’m kind of one myself.”
Although all of Foy’s education and experience make him qualified for the position at , Together for Hope, there is one factor that perhaps makes him more qualified than all of those things combined: his childhood in Louisiana. Foy understands that escaping the cycle of poverty in Louisiana is hard; he understands that because he’s done it himself.
Now working in Lake Providence, LA, only about an hour from his childhood home in Winnsboro, he hopes that he can use his lifetime of experience to make a difference in an area of America that desperately needs it. He plans to address the overarching issue of poverty through policy formation and activism, but also through a grassroots campaign that results in the changing of mindsets around northeast Louisiana.
“I want to help create an army of leaders who are committed to nurturing faith and serving their community,” said Foy. “I want to build relationships with community leaders, politicians and pastors. If we can get everyone on board, we can help people overcome their skepticism that nothing can ever change. We can break the norm of the cycle of poverty here, but we can’t do it unless we believe that we can.”
Although he had no real relationship with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship before accepting the position with Together for Hope, Foy’s experience, expertise and personality make him a welcomed newcomer to the CBF family. Foy is passionate about the mission of Together for Hope and CBF. There is hope that, as Together for Hope moves into the future, Foy will play an integral part in expanding the scope of what it can accomplish.
“I think Larry is a very good fit for the job,” said L Nicole Stringfellow, Regional Vice President of Together for Hope – Delta Region. “He’s a leader who is coming in at the perfect time. His background in advocacy and policy are a huge asset as that is the arena in which many of the issues which we must confront need to be addressed.