"I was raised in a very religious home," Harrison recalls, "and my mom was severely disabled due to an autoimmune disorder. She had to wear a face mask, stay in rooms where the windows were shielded with tin foil, and couldn't even take a ride in a car. Everything from air conditioning to the electromagnetic field created by a TV set might make her sick. My dad and I spent years caring for her. Because of her illness, her life was incredibly restricted— and so was mine."
When Harrison turned eighteen, he decided to change his lifestyle— not a little, but by 180 degrees. He moved from the New Jersey suburbs to New York City, enrolled in film classes at NYU, began spending his evenings checking out the downtown music scene, and wound up creating a career as a nightclub promoter and party planner. Harrison remembers: I was throwing events for some of the hottest magazines, hosting parties in the trendy clubs in the city, and traveling around the world for fashion week celebrations. I was selling drinks for sixteen dollars and bottles of Absolut for three hundred and fifty dollars, and watching bankers dancing on tables with pretty girls and spraying champagne around the room. It was fun, going to work at ten o'clock and coming home at five in the morning. But it was also a radically unhealthy lifestyle, not just physically but psychologically and spiritually.
For ten years, Harrison worked his way up the social food chain, rising in jet- set circles, dating a string of models, and amassing a personal Rolodex with the private phone numbers and e-mail addresses of fifteen thousand of the most beautiful and pampered young people in the country. He stayed in touch with his parents mainly through brief messages bragging about his glitzy new lifestyle: "Hey, I'm in Paris for the weekend, flying down to Rio next week . . ."
But all the while, an inner voice from his boyhood was whispering a message that he couldn't completely ignore— a message that this life of luxurious selfishness wouldn't satisfy him forever.
That simmering inner conflict bubbled to the surface during a three- week getaway in South America. One morning, hungover after a night of partying with fireworks and champagne, Harrison pulled out the book he'd brought along for the trip— an inspirational tome titled The Pursuit of God by pastor and self- taught theologian A. W. Tozer. Harrison started to read, and got hooked. The next thing he knew, he'd decided to start rereading the Bible he'd abandoned ten years earlier. For the first time in his life, he began thinking about issues like faith, community, and ser vice from the perspective, not of a child, but of an adult. Harrison became convinced that it was time to change his life again. And once again, he decided to take a 180- degree turn. Eager to shift from a life of self- indulgence to one of ser vice, and remembering stories from his boyhood about the good works of religious missionaries in places like Africa, he began researching charitable organizations that sought to help the poor in the developing world.