Nearly 100 community members from Woodburn, Hubbard and the surrounding region attended the Woodburn United Methodist Church on Thursday, April 25, for the 39th annual Mayor's Prayer Breakfast.
A joint venture between the Woodburn and French Prairie Kiwanis clubs, this year's Mayor's Prayer Breakfast took place the same time as French Prairie's regular Thursday meeting, and began as such with the reciting of the pledge of allegiance and 'America,' followed by a prayer led by United Methodist Pastor Kalina Malua Katoa.
Following breakfast, pastor Steve Kufeldt of Woodburn Hoodview Church of God led off with a prayer calling for unity amidst an increasingly divided country. That ideal that was echoed by Woodburn Foursquare Pastor Luis Molina, who spoke of his experiences in Woodburn that exemplified what it means to live peacefully in a multi-cultural community that champions character and culture, regardless of what people look like on the outside or what language they speak.
"Living in Woodburn gives you the possibility to experience a piece of heaven," Molina said.
Mayors Charles Rostocil of Hubbard and Eric Swenson of Woodburn followed, each speaking of the positive ideals that the Kiwanians uphold and how the community members work together to create a better place to live.
Rostocil recounted the audience with a story from his youth, where he visited his grandparents in Kansas for Christmas when he was 11-years old. Originally from California, Rostocil and his brother were both excited for the rare opportunity to celebrate the holiday with actual snow, but their plans were put on hold when their grandfather asked them to first shovel the driveway of his elderly neighbor.
The two brothers grudgingly agreed, but Rostocil couldn't help harboring thoughts of the neighbor, cozy in her home, relaxing comfortably in a chair, while the boys did the work for her. After they completed the work, Rostocil and his brother met the neighbor, who walked with a cane and was physically unable to do the work.
"Deep inside I felt awful about my interpretation of this," Rostocil said. "She needed our help. It's a lesson I've taken with me my entire life — selflessness."
Rostocil lamented that today, less than 30 percent of people volunteer in their communities, and school districts require less community service than they used to. But he lauded the Kiwanians, who complete more than 150,000 community service projects across the country each year and follow the ideals of selflessness to make their communities better every day.
"Today I stand in a room full of people who know the meaning of selflessness," Rostocil said. "You are leading by example."
The event concluded with a presentation from featured guest speaker Andrew Palau, a seventh-generation Oregonian and international evangelist who emphasized it is never too late to forge a relationship with God, give back to your community and become a better person through peace and prosperity.
Born in Columbia to international Christian evangelist Luis Palau, Andrew spoke of his father's diagnosis of stage four lung cancer two years ago, and how that has not diminished his will to serve God, but rather strengthened his resolve to finish his life strong.
Andrew told the crowd how he took the long path toward God, raised with privilege by his father and mother, Patricia, but did not find the righteous path until late in life.
"I had every privilege, every blessing in life," Andrew said. "But I'm ashamed to say I turned my back on the word of God."
Outside the constraints of home, he turned to a life of drugs and alcohol that lasted 27 years, drinking every night so he could go to sleep and avoid the thoughts of shame, fear and despair that would flood his consciousness when he was sober.
"The things I started in fun began to enslave me," he said. "I would get up in the morning, put on my mask and went out into the world."
When he eventually came back, he found God waiting and ready to embrace him.
"It's never too late. He stands ready. " Andrew said. "If you feel like you're in the shadows or way off in the dark like I was, He stands ready."
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