When it comes to overcoming adversities, Jon Sheptock offers a lifetime of examples.
Born with no arms and a right leg that ended up 6 inches shorter than his left, Sheptock told his story Friday morning at the 12th annual Clark County Mayors' and Civic Leaders' Prayer Breakfast.
A group of more than 700 attendees listened to Sheptock's journey to God, which began when he was rejected by his birth parents in New Jersey. Shortly after, he was adopted into a family of 34 children, with Sheptock being one of the couple's 27 adopted children.
Despite having grown up in the large and loving family, Sheptock endured years of bullying and depression, which led him to nearly end his life.
"I finally realized that all I had to do was ask my Creator and he would help me through," he said. "Nobody has offered me the hope that Jesus Christ has offered me."
He has made it his career to travel around the country, sharing his story as a way to inspire and spread God's word. Sheptock pointed out God worked through many "idiots" in the Bible, including murderers, adulterers and people considered crazy.
"I will stand in front of anybody and be a fool for Jesus," he said.
Sheptock sang songs throughout his speech, closing with the song "Blessed Assurance" that had everyone on their feet, holding up their arms and swaying to the music.
"It's a powerful gathering," said Judy Tenkley. "It's a mixture of people, faith and non-faith, leaders and citizens … God's word is timeless and it's impacting. It's life changing and it's relevant."
Prayers were led by representatives and leaders of different Christian denominations. Yacolt Mayor Jeff Carothers, selected as the host mayor for the event, recognized other mayors in attendance. Commissioners, councilors, public safety officers and teachers were among those also recognized for their work.
The event, held at the Hilton Vancouver Washington, was sponsored by the Clark County Chapters of the Full Gospel Business Men's Fellowship in America. A variety of businesses were co-sponsors.
"I think it's very important to pray for our leadership, no matter what political side or positions we hold," said attendee Todd Zalk.
Neal Curtiss, pastor at Living Hope Church, said the portion of the event that stuck with him was the topic of bullying. He said it was especially relevant with recent news of Quincy J. Tuttle, 11, who was arrested Wednesday for allegedly bringing a gun, 400 rounds of ammunition and several knives to Frontier Middle School.
The boy said he wanted to shoot another student who had bullied his friend, according to the arresting officer's declaration of probable cause.
"We can do it differently; we don't need to bring guns to school," Curtiss said. "The message of Christ is a life-changing solution, and we need to not just talk about it but live it out on a day-to-day basis."
For Diane Stevens, the event was a reminder that "we are all here to serve each other. We have to put other people's needs above our own and watch out for each other. That's what a community is."