Sunday, March 18 , 2018, 2:33 am | Fair 47º


Sgt. Mike McGrew Inspires Reverent Crowd of 500 at Santa Barbara Community Prayer Breakfast

About 500 people attended this year’s Santa Barbara Community Prayer Breakfast including Brad Armstrong, left, who read from the Old Testament, and Father Larry Gosselin.
About 500 people attended this year’s Santa Barbara Community Prayer Breakfast including Brad Armstrong, left, who read from the Old Testament, and Father Larry Gosselin. (Rochelle Rose / Noozhawk photo)

The Santa Barbara Community Prayer Breakfast held its 57th annual event at Fess Parker’s Doubletree Hotel with 500 attendees filling the Fess Parker Room at the early hour of 7:30 a.m.

Modeled after the first National Prayer Breakfast held in Washington, D.C. in 1953, this event is designed to be a forum for political, social and business leaders to assemble and build relationships. 

The keynote speaker was 29-year veteran of the Santa Barbara Police Department Sgt. Mike McGrew.

From struggles and challenges with the death of his 18-year old son Michael, another son who was an addict and his own story of failed marriages, depression and alcoholism, Sgt. ​McGrew inspired the room. 

There wasn’t a dry eye when McGrew spoke about his son losing his six-year battle from cancer and the father’s ensuing grief.

However, his hard work and coming to accept Jesus as Savior allowed him to move on. He described how he became another kind of servant during his police work — a testament to how a person’s life experiences and faith can reach out and touch many others in our community.

The morning started with the hymn Great is thy Faithfulness performed by pianist Debbie Denke. The assembled crowd then stood and sang “God Bless America” followed by a standing ovation for the law enforcement and fire department personnel in the audience.

U.S. Marine Justin Simandle led the pledge of allegiance while his wife Traci and six-week-old daughter Sadie proudly watched from the audience. 

Executive Director of Unity Shoppe Tom Reed handled the well thought-out program, which included the invocation by Michael Holliday and Old Testament reading by Brad Armstrong. 

Holliday read from John 3-17, “To whom much is given much is required.” Armstrong chose to read from Deuteronomy 17, which was written by Moses. Betsy Gray led the New Testament reading.

The late Dr. David Winters, president of Westmont College, was also remembered; he passed away Aug. 15, 2015. 

During the keynote address, McGrew related the hardships of losing his young son.

“Eleven years ago my life changed dramatically when my son Michael was diagnosed with bone cancer. Michael had his leg amputated and nearly died from chemotherapy. He spent 200 days in the hospital,” McGrew said during his keynote speech. 

“I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but I was supported by people who were praying for me.”

McGrew also described a benefit barbecue held at Earl Warren Showgrounds, to which 10,000 people showed up.

“I was totally amazed. The funds raised allowed us to take the trips to UCLA to be with Michael during his treatment,” McGrew said. 

Ultimately, Michael died at age 18 after fighting the disease for six years, but the experience gave Sgt. McGrew a new perspective on his police work.

“Now when I need to do death notification calls, I can tell the person that I know what they are going through. God is using my journey and my son’s journey,” he said. 

“I have been so honored to tell about the journey.”

After Sgt. McGrew’s thoughtful and inspiring talk, speaker Jay Carty gave the closing prayer before guests left for jobs and activities, much moved and inspired.

Gold Sponsors included Armand Hammer Foundation's Michael A. Hammer, Christian Business Men’s Connection (CBMC), El Montecito School, and Founder and Senior Partner of Top Tier Consulting's Brad Armstrong.

Silver Sponsors included Keith Berry; Bob Bryant of Bryant & Sons, Ltd.; Caliber Home Loans, Cicileo Landscapes; Frtiz & Lauretta Harnsberger; David & Linda Hughes; MacFarlane, Faletti & Co. LLP' Printing Impressions; Santa Barbara Dermatology; Santa Barbara Police Officers Association; Westmont College and others.

For more information about the prayer breakfast, contact Rachel Barajas at 805.687.3111 or [email protected].

Noozhawk contributing writer Rochelle Rose can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

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