More than 1,000 people woke up early Thursday morning to attend the 38th Annual Bakersfield Prayer Breakfast at the Rabobank Convention Center.
Community members, including Bakersfield City Council member Andre Gonzalez, Cynthia Zimmer of the District Attorney's Office and Stockdale High senior Michael Del Mundo, were just a few who led prayers for leaders in government, public safety, health and human services, private enterprise, charities, religion and youth and education. Keynote speaker Michael Yankoski, a writer and theologian, spoke on what it looks like to live a life of faith.
Although many prayed for different sectors of the community, Doug Carter, a member of the Bakersfield Prayer Breakfast Committee, hoped an overall message was conveyed to the audience: “We can come together in prayer in spite of our differences and really love one another.”
“That’s the key to life,” Carter said. “If we stare at what divides us, we’re not going to get anywhere, but (if) we can agree on what unifies us, we can do anything.”
Captain Mike Hale, a Bakersfield Police officer attending the event, agreed.
"I think the take away is that we are all people and all live on this world together and we should all get along," Hale said.
Del Mundo, a member of the Ford Dimension student leadership program, talked about faith, hope and love, “with love being the greatest of all.”
“Let this hope for a better world reach across political, cultural or religious barriers,” Del Mundo said. “Allow our love to positively impact every person we meet, regardless of beliefs or values.”
Del Mundo continued: “Let us be good samaritans who choose to aid the suffering man when everyone chooses to show indifference.”
Yankoski, the keynote speaker, learned about living a life of faith by intentionally living homeless for several months in cities across the country, and he experienced people turning away from him due to differences.
The idea to be homeless came up when he was sitting in a class at Westmont College and his professor discussed the parable of the Good Samaritan, a story of a man who was robbed. In the story, a priest and a Levite stumbled upon the man, didn’t offer help and kept walking. The injured man didn’t receive help until he was found by a Samaritan, who cared for him until he was in good health.
Yankoski’s instructor asked the class, “Which one of the characters are you?”
The day before this class, Yankoski stumbled upon two homeless men and didn’t acknowledge them, perhaps because they were different.
“It’s so easy to be hypocritical,” the author said.
That’s when Yankoski and his friend decided to be homeless.
Throughout those months, people ignored him. One time, he was sitting in a sandwich shop in Washington D.C. surrounded by Christians holding Bible study. Not a single one of them looked at him or offered him food.
They left and he went through the trash for their leftover sandwiches.
“I felt what it’s like to praise God for garbage,” he said about that day.
One of the few times he received compassion was when young boys involved in the Boys and Girls Club noticed he and his friend were homeless and one of the boys offered them all he had: $1.25.
“Those little boys are the only people who saw us,” he said. "Our humanity had been acknowledged.”
The prayer leaders all touched on the idea of loving one another despite the differences, whether you are a doctor, or a politician, or a law enforcement officer, or teacher, or student, or a business person, or a religious leader. It doesn’t matter.
Del Mundo said in his prayer, "Let love overcome all evil and sorrow and let it start with the youth."