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A prayer for unity: Annual Mayors Prayer Breakfast meets with message of hope

A message of inclusiveness was sent at Temple Beth Ami

Posted: May 7, 2009 8:42 p.m.
Updated: May 8, 2009 4:55 a.m.

John Koczman of Bethlehem Lutheran at the podium joins a group of local pastors as they lead the group in community prayer at the Mayors Prayer Breakfast held at the Hyatt on Thursday.

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A message of inclusiveness was sent Thursday morning as Rabbi Mark Blazer of Temple Beth Ami addressed about 400 people gathered for this year’s Mayors Prayer Breakfast.

Rabbi Blazer was invited to speak to the group at a meeting sponsored by a Christian businessman’s group because, Mayor Frank Ferry said, he was determined to demonstrate that Santa Clarita is an inclusive community.

After making brief comments at the fifth annual Mayors Prayer Breakfast, Ferry invited Rabbi Blazer to address the crowd.

“I wanted to make a clear statement that this is an interfaith community,” Ferry said.

The breakfast is hosted by the Dunamis Group and has drawn criticism in past years from those who say it is exclusionary, and that the mayor should not lend his title to the event.

During his few moments at the podium, Blazer told the crowd about the importance of making the Santa Clarita Valley a more inclusionary place.

“A Jew, a Catholic and a Protestant walk into a prayer breakfast,” he said to laughter. “God bless America.”

The keynote speaker for the breakfast was former professional baseball pitcher Frank Pastore, who hosts the Frank Pastore Show on radio station 99.5 KKLA.

Pastore talked about how he went from being an atheist for the first 27 years of his life to reading the works of C.S. Lewis and becoming a Christian.

His talk ran the gamut from personal testimony to political exhortation.

A country’s rights, he said, either come from God or government.

“If a government can create rights for you, they can remove those rights,” he said. “The fabric of society ... is now unraveling.

“Make a difference here and now, where you can, in your sphere of influence.”

After Pastore’s address, a group of local pastors prayed for the valley and its leaders.

John Shaver of Valencia Methodist Church; John Koczman of Bethlehem Lutheran Church; Dave White of NorthPark Community Church; Scott Ardavanis of Placerita Baptist Church; and Gene Stabe of Agua Dulce Foursquare Church led the group in prayer.

Shaver prayed for the valley’s youth and seniors, Koczman prayed for those in protective services; White and Ardavanis prayed for elected officials and city leaders; and Stabe prayed for the general wellness of the valley.

The breakfast was capped off by a short address from retired U.S. Army Special Forces Staff Sgt. Aaron Anderson.

The 1999 Valencia High School graduate told the audience, “prayer is the most powerful weapon I’ve ever used.”

Anderson was inspired to join the military after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and eventually found himself deployed in south central Afghanistan.

On Feb. 27, 2006, he was headed to a small town to talk with villagers being threatened by the Taliban when the Humvee in which he was riding was blown off the road by a roadside bomb.

Anderson was thrown from the machine-gun turret of the truck and landed 20 feet away, as insurgents’ bullets whizzed past.

“The first words out of my mouth were, ‘Thank you, Jesus, I’m alive.’” he said.

Anderson said that about 20 minutes before the blast, he had switched seats with a fellow soldier who was driving the Humvee and was killed when the bomb exploded.

Anderson broke seven bones, underwent 24 surgeries and spent seven months recovering at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.

He was awarded the Purple Heart and the Afghanistan Medal of Bravery.

After retiring in early 2006, he started a security company and has worked as a mentor with other wounded soldiers.

His faith has sustained him through everything, he said.

“Prayer to me ... is an open honest dialogue with God,” Anderson said before receiving a standing ovation. “It is the most important part of anything I do.”



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