Mayor's prayer breakfast attracts faithful crowd

Shared Hope International spotlighted at yearly event

By Paul Suarez, Columbian web producer

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Greg Romine was given a choice. Fight the 14 other men in his jail cell or be raped. He opted to fight.

Romine said he was tossed around “like a ping pong ball” and had two ribs broken in the confrontation.

“It was like an evangelistic meeting,” he said, earning laughs from a crowd of almost 900 who were packed inside the Hilton Vancouver Washington on Friday morning for the 11th annual Clark County Mayors’ and Civic Leaders’ Prayer Breakfast.

Romine, the testimonial speaker at the event, said that moment would ultimately change the direction of his life. He was transformed from a teenager in jail accused of selling drugs to a man who would be going to college to learn more about Jesus Christ.

But back to that jail cell.

Romine lay unconscious on the floor after he was beaten. That, he said, was when he saw Jesus Christ, complete with a crown of thorns and blood dripping down his forehead. Jesus said, “I was wounded for you, I was crushed for you,” Romine said. Although his knowledge of Christianity at the time was limited to things he picked up at Easter and Christmas, he would ultimately find out that what he heard was a Bible verse: Isaiah 53:5.

“I woke up the next morning and I was happy even though I was facing 20 years in prison and had just been beaten within inches of life,” he told the crowd.

Romine made bail and ended up going to a Christian college in Oregon while waiting for his trial. A year later, the judge reduced the charges to disorderly conduct and sentenced Romine to finish college.

Since then, Romine has traveled the world training leaders with Biblical principles and has started nonprofit Called to Rescue, which helps rescue children from sex trafficking. The organization has dozens of safe houses overseas and is in the process of setting up its first in the Hazel Dell area, he said.

He said he chooses to work with people in impossible situations “because that’s the kind of person I was.”

It fits into the theme of this year’s breakfast: “All things are possible.”

Linda Smith, a former congresswoman who founded Shared Hope International, a Vancouver organization that combats global sexual slavery, was the keynote speaker. She briefly spoke about her background before highlighting what Shared Hope does. She said that sex trafficking isn’t just a problem in foreign countries; it happens in the United States and in Southwest Washington.

Pastors, police, sheriff’s deputies, veterans, firefighters and residents prayed for civic leaders and the community.

Host mayor Scott Higgins of Camas started the breakfast by saying it is important for people to pray for leaders, even the ones they didn’t vote for or agree with.

“I think that it’s a good thing we stop and pray for the people who lead us,” he said.

The breakfast is sponsored by the local chapters of the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship-America and several local businesses and nonprofit groups.