Mayors Prayer Breakfast: Faith, forgiveness and fellowship

NISSWA--Faith, forgiveness and fellowship combined as themes as 400 people gathered just after sunrise Wednesday for the third annual Lakes Area Mayors Prayer Breakfast.

NISSWA-Faith, forgiveness and fellowship combined as themes as 400 people gathered just after sunrise Wednesday for the third annual Lakes Area Mayors Prayer Breakfast.

The event at Grand View Lodge's Gull Lake Center in Nisswa brought together not only mayors from the region, but other elected officials, civic leaders, business representatives and community members. The breakfast was sponsored by the Brainerd Lakes Christian Business Men's Connection.

"The purpose of this event is to unite our region by recognizing and supporting civic and community leaders with positive encouragement and prayer," organizers reported.

Neal and Kathy Gaalswyk were among the hundreds willing to get up before dawn to take part.

"I love the way the community comes together around this, you know there aren't that many opportunities for people to come together around their faith across so many sectors," said Kathy Gaalswyk, former president of the Little Falls-based Initiative Foundation. "It's important to be grounded in your faith and it's important for people to know that that's a part of our identity."


Neal Gaalswyk, Cass County commissioner, said it's encouraging to look around the room and see people they know in one context and then see they are also believers who follow the same compass.

Steve Mau, owner of General Rental and event committee chairman, provided the opening remarks, noting his own introspection included daily devotionals this year looking at humility and forgiveness. Mau said he asked himself who he has asked forgiveness from and who he has forgiven. The introspection and look at behavior, Mau said, was a tie-in to the event's keynote speaker Dwight L. Johnson, author of "The Transparent Leader," who has written a series of books looking at the spiritual secrets of successful men and chronicling those who lived lives of character, morals and ethics.

Johnson's background in business included working as a CEO of a Denver-based electrical contracting firm Sturgeon Electric Co., and working with Christian Catalysts Inc. His biography lists his work as a consultant in strategic planning, as well as a speaker and author, and stated while working in Denver, Johnson "discovered the need for business leaders to become transparent first to the gospel, then to their coworkers" and has spent more than 20 years encouraging men to "seek lives of significance through being transparent in their work, families and faith."

Johnson, through personal relationships, was able to chronicle personal stories and leadership lessons of such notables as President George W. Bush, football great Rosey Grier and legendary Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry.

"He was such a man of strong character and such a man who provided tremendous leadership for that team of his," Johnson said.

Johnson said he grew to have such a relationship with Landry that the coach stayed as a guest in his home in Colorado on multiple occasions. Johnson said one of the things people don't know about Landry is he was given 10 percent of the stock of the team when he was hired. Twenty-nine years later, Johnson said, the owners were struggling financially in the oil industry and they had to sell the team. Johnson said Landry gave them the stock back, representing $14 million, because he wanted to help them when they needed help.

"I never had a better mentor," Johnson said of Landry. "I never had anybody that I so looked up to and I respected so much who was such a common, decent, humble servant."

Others noted in the book included Bill McCarney of Promise Keepers and Ken Blanchard, author of "The One Minute Manager," as well as William Armstrong, a news media executive who represented Colorado in the U.S. Senate and later became president of Colorado Christian University. And the book included Chuck Colson, former special counsel to President Richard Nixon, who founded Prison Fellowship International.


"Some learned their lessons the hard way as they faced business crises, family stress and moral failure," an event pamphlet noted. "By embracing faith, humility and transparency, all emerged from their struggles as stronger, more resilient leaders."

Johnson recounted moments in the lives-highs and lows-of the men included in his books describing them as real, impactful and honest.

"The one theme through all 41 stories is Jesus Christ-the thread of bonding, the thread of character, the thread of morals and ethics."

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