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Religious leaders take to the stage during Willmar, Minn., mayor's annual Prayer Breakfast

WILLMAR -- Four local religious leaders spoke to the theme of "We Are Better Together'' during the annual Mayor's Prayer Breakfast on Thursday morning at the Church of St. Mary in Willmar.

The event coincided with the annual National Day of Prayer, said Mayor Frank Yanish. He recalled for the 255 people attending how politicians and others came together following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

"This is how we can accomplish what we need to accomplish, doing things together, being together and I pray that that happens,'' Yanish said.

Each religious leader addressed a question: What would Willmar look like if we helped others meet their basic needs; if we improved our gratitude; addressed the issue of fatherlessness; and came together in unity?

Father Brian Mandel of the Church of St. Mary said people are better together when they help each other meet their basic needs of food, shelter and clothing. He said Willmar churches and other organizations and agencies collaborate to make a difference and help meet basic needs.

But he said other ways of helping to meet basic needs begin with showing respect.

"We show our care by seeing every person we meet as a human being, as someone created by God,'' he said.

"We treat people as persons who have a dignity and honor because all are human beings. Our attitude can be that of those who live in love of God and neighbor in their own lives,'' Mandel said.

"For us in the Willmar community, it means looking for the goodness in each and every one we meet, knowing that we all are in this world together, we all are created by God, and all of us are deserving of the respect and care of all human beings,'' he said.

Pastor Annette Rice of Word of Faith Family Church said a grateful person sees the glass half full instead of half empty.

"You can be an optimist who looks at the brighter side of life, finding solutions rather than problems, and opportunities instead of hurdles. Being an optimist is a choice and not necessarily something that comes natural to everyone, but it is a trait that can be learned,'' Rice said.

"When you start embracing and maintaining a good attitude of gratitude, you will not only notice a change in yourself for the better but other people will notice, too. People are drawn to positive individuals,'' Rice said.

"You may even inspire others to start demonstrating a more positive attitude, which can lead to a happier city of Willmar full of grateful people,'' she said.

Doug Reese of Faith@Work said the life example that adults set for children is even more critical today as more and more children are growing up without a father in the home.

He said 85 percent of all kids in jail come from fatherless families.

He said fatherless kids are twice as likely to drop out of high school, are 3 to 4 times more likely to have emotional or behavioral problems, and 2 to 3 times as likely to give rise to teenage pregnancy.

Reese urged his listeners to be willing to be intentional and step into the space of children. Whether it's time spent fishing, golfing, going for a walk or building something together "invite them to come with you,'' he said.

Reese said Christians are perfect for the job of being a friend and mentor to the fatherless "because we are called by the Spirit of God to the things that are close to the heart of God,"

Pastor Keith Kerstetter of Assembly of God Church said it's not too late for community members to join hands and address the issues that have been placed before them.

Using an analogy that increasing the number of horses in a team increases the weight they can pull, Kerstetter said the power of unity "is more people pulling together to get more done. We are better together, physically and spiritually.''

Also during the event, Yanish presented a citizenship award to Pastor Beverly Crute for her years of service to the Mayor's Prayer Breakfast.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150