(Greg Wahl-Stephens/for The Columbian)
An estimated 800 people including civic leaders, first responders, police, ministers and members of the military packed into the Hilton Vancouver Washington early Thursday for the 10th Annual Clark County Mayors’ and Civic Leaders’ Prayer Breakfast.
The group came together to share fellowship, food and stories of faith. Attendees prayed for leaders, both local and national, and police, firefighters, troops and teachers. They also heard testimonies of faith from people who travel the world.
Registered nurse Jackie Gust shared three stories from work overseas.
In two of the stories, people she prayed for were miraculously healed, she said. In the third, she ran into a woman in Iraq who she had read about in a magazine while in the United States. She believes God directed her to the woman just so she could pray for her and tell her that God cared for her.
“My experience has been God knows every one of us,” she said. “Whether you believe in the Lord or not, you’re here for a purpose today.”
Joseph Anfuso followed Gust’s testimonies with the story of how he came to faith as a young man.
Anfuso was born into a political family in New York. He said he was raised as a Roman Catholic but never had a relationship with God.
When he was in his 20s, he decided to travel the world in what he now says was a trip of self discovery.
“I needed spiritual answers for my life,” Anfuso said. He thought that “all roads lead to the same place,” he just didn’t want to be a Christian.
He traveled the world searching for “wisdom” in eastern religions, he said. Eventually he found himself in a small hotel room in India that he said wasn’t much more than a box with a cot and light bulb. While using breathing exercises he learned on the trip as street noise and Indian music bled through the walls of his room, he noticed a cross made of light on his door and thought it was Jesus speaking to him, he said.
He returned to the states and eventually decided to become a follower of Jesus, Anfuso said.
He believes God directed him to be a servant, and since then started Forward Edge International, a local faith-based relief organization that operates in the U.S. and other parts of the world.
Pastors from local churches led prayer before and after the speakers. Singing performances by Vancouver police Officer Rey Reynolds bookended the event. He opened with the national anthem and closed with a rendition of “Amazing Grace.”
The breakfast committee will meet in November to go over how things went and will start planning the next event early next year, said Stewart Kent, co-chairman of the breakfast.
The first thing they’ll do is try to line up new speakers, he said.
“We try to find people who have an interesting story that people would want to hear,” Kent said.
He’s not too worried about lining up people for next year’s event, he said.
“I’ve been lining up speakers for years,” Kent said. “The Lord gives them to me. I couldn’t find them personally.”