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Powerful testimony

More than 400 political, civic and community leaders rose early Thursday to acknowledge the importance of prayer and small-group fellowships, intercede for national, state and local leaders and celebrate the joy that comes with God’s grace and mercy.

The annual Suffolk Leadership Prayer Breakfast featured an appearance by Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a powerful personal testimony from Rosemary Trible and inspirational music by recording artist Allison Durham Speer.

The event coincided with the National Day of Prayer, which inspired thousands of events across the country dedicated to prayer.

Suffolk Mayor Linda T. Johnson called prayer important for Suffolk.

“I believe that we are on the right path, and that is because Suffolk is filled with godly people,” Johnson said. “In times of sorrow, [prayer] offers healing, and in times of joy it offers celebration.”

Trible’s testimony was the highlight of the event, as she told the story of how her personal prayer life took her “from fear to forgiveness to freedom.”

Trible, the wife of current Christopher Newport University president and former member of the U.S. House of Representatives Paul Trible, explained how she was staying in a hotel during her days hosting a talk show when she went to the lobby about 11 p.m. for coffee. When she returned, a man who had been hiding in the room put a gun to her head and said, “OK, cute talk show host, what do you do with a gun in your head?”

For Trible, the answer was to pray. She recited the Lord’s Prayer over and over again as the man raped her. Finally, he fled the room, but was never tracked down by authorities.

She tried to continue doing her radio show, but quit after three months. For the next several years, she lived a life of fear — knowing that her rapist could be following her and seeking to victimize her again.

“When somebody rapes you, they don’t just want to destroy you for a day,” Trible said. “They want to destroy you for a lifetime.”

About a year after her rape, Trible became pregnant with her and Paul’s oldest child, Mary Katherine, during Trible’s first House of Representatives campaign. He won the election, and she went into labor on the House floor in the middle of President Gerald Ford’s State of the Union speech.

“My gynecologist, who came to my aid through that night of horror, was the same one who birthed my baby,” Trible said. “Isn’t God good?”

Several years later, Trible once again prayed about her rapist — not as a refuge in a time of trouble, but this time to forgive.

She was at a restaurant when she met a criminal who had accepted Christ during his time in prison and later turned to ministry. Overcome by his story, Trible went into the ladies’ room and prayed, “Lord, I forgive the man who raped me.”

“This blanket of love came over me,” said Trible, who now ministers to women in times of trouble. “My heart was for those in that cycle of fear.”

Throughout the years, Trible continued to pray that her rapist would come to know Christ. Then, she was involved in a devastating car accident that sent her into a coma for three days, during which she says she saw Heaven.

She saw several friends and family members who had already died. Then, behind one of them, she saw a shadow.

“Who are you?” she asked the person in the shadows.

He replied, “I am the man who raped you.”

Trible’s unceasing prayers had been answered, and her rapist had come to know Christ, she believes.

“It was the greatest gift of my life,” she said. Referencing Isaiah 61:3, she added, “God turned my mourning into joy.”

Other speakers at the breakfast emphasized the importance of praying and studying God’s Word in small groups.

“The power of the small groups is what makes a large community small,” said Paul Hardy, founder of Recovery in the City.

McDonnell added his thoughts on how to be blessed, noting that being blessed by giving, as Christians are, is different from being blessed by getting, as much of the world believes.

“That’s what we do in life,” McDonnell said. “It’s counterintuitive to the way the world works.”

For more information on the National Day of Prayer and tips on getting started in prayer, visit www.nationaldayofprayer.org.