Leadership prayer breakfast draws record crowd

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 6, 2005

Maurice &uot;Termite&uot; Watkins had already known success as a boxer and a car salesman before he found his purpose in life.

The featured speaker at Suffolk Fellowship’s annual Leadership Prayer Breakfast Thursday said it came to him in January 2003 when he received a phone call asking him if he still had his pest control license. His family in Texas had a pest control business, which is how he acquired his nickname as a teenager.

He was told the military needed skilled and licensed pest control people to deal with the problems U.S. soldiers were facing in the dessert.

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And these weren’t your routine ants and cockroaches, but deadly snakes and scorpions.

He did still hold his license, and after much soul searching, he decided over the objections of his wife and children that God wanted him to go to Iraq.

&uot;When I got the call, I decided it was his time to serve my country,&uot; he said. &uot;I told my wife I thought I was being called by God to serve in Iraq. That was my purpose.&uot;

&uot;Purpose will make you do crazy things, he said. I said ‘Charlotte, I think I’m the one who can change Iraq.’&uot;

He went to Iraq and was eventually asked by the leader of the Coalition Authority to train Iraqi boxers in the hope of producing an Olympian. He wound up training Najaf Ali, who boxed for Iraq in the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Tonight, Watkins is scheduled to receive the 15th Arete Award in Las Vegas, which honors courage in sports.

Watkins was introduced to the armory crowd of more than 500 Thursday morning following a video which told of his exploits and the Arete Award. A standing ovation followed his introduction.

All the praise and honor I get I want to send it back to our military,&uot; he said. &uot;They’re the ones who deserve it.&uot;

Watkins implored those in attendance to, as Christians, become servants of the Lord and find their purpose.

&uot;We need to get off our tails and all of us need to do our parts,&uot; he said. &uot;I challenge you – become a servant and watch great things happen in your life.&uot;

Purpose in life was the theme of the Suffolk event and every attendee was given a pamphlet that included the first seven chapters of Rick Warren’s &uot;The Purpose-Driven Life,&uot; which received nationwide publicity for the role it played in helping end a killing spree in Georgia in mid-March.

Following an Atlanta courthouse shooting that led to four deaths, suspected killer Brian Nichols held Ashley Smith hostage in her apartment after he fled. Smith said discussing the book with Nichols helped him turn his mind to God and surrender.

Thursday’s attendance at the event was considered a record turnout. Other speakers at the breakfast included Daniel Bernard, Sammie Morrison, Scott Dimock and Frank Batten Jr. and Bob Jackson.

Bernard, author of &uot;City Impact&uot; and founder of &uot;Somebody Cares Tampa Bay,&uot; is an organization of Tampa Bay area churches and businesses that last year handed out 1.3 million pounds of food and 23,000 backpacks filled with school supplies to the area’s poor.

Bernard’s book includes dozens of suggestions for bringing churches together to help the community.

&uot;Most of our communities in the U.S. are sick,&uot; he said. &uot;They need healing. I believe it is the church that is the one that can bring that healing.&uot;

Former Deputy Washington, D.C. Police Chief Sammie Morrison and retired forest service firefighter Scott Dimock told of their experiences running the Southeast White House, a ministry for the poor in southeastern, Washington, D.C.

Batten, president and CEO of Landmark Communications, publisher of the Virginian-Pilot, spoke on the importance of small groups. Batten said he and his wife meet every Sunday evening with three other couples to study the Bible, discuss their week and pray for the week ahead.

&uot;What it means to be a Christian is a personal relationship with Jesus and a personal relationship with other Christians,&uot; Batten said. &uot;What is important is to develop deep friendships with other Christians.&uot;

Jackson, with the Colorado Springs, Colo.-based Intern-ational Bible Society, told of his organizations effort in Colorado Springs to distribute 83,000 copies of a customized New Testament through the local newspaper. He said the effort touched many lives and he was meeting with local leaders to discuss a similar effort in Suffolk.

Those present also heard Mayor Bobby L. Ralph talk about the power of prayer and how he felt it when friends and neighbors prayed for him and his family. Ralph’s wife, Joyce Overman Ralph, died in February after battling cancer.

&uot;Our daily lives may be different from past times, but our daily struggles remain the same,&uot; Ralph said.

Master of ceremonies Billy Chorey gave background on the National Day of Prayer and noted that several Suffolk churches were opening their doors to the community Thursday, along with holding special services, so that people could come in and pray.

He made special mention of his mother, Frances Chorey, and Keith and Calhoun Webb, the parents of Suffolk Fellowship’s Kit Webb, for their more than two decades of involvement with the Day of Prayer.

The event attracted many officials, including school board and city council members, constitutional officers, former mayors of Suffolk and former Virginia Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, the likely Republican nominee for governor.