Residents of Turlock arose bright and early Friday morning for the 24th annual Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast, where former San Francisco Giants pitcher Jeremy Affeldt joined Mayor Gary Soiseth in emphasizing the importance of trust and unity within the community.
The breakfast was a “giant” celebration, made clear by the orange and black table decorations and countless attendees wearing their favorite Giants gear at the Assyrian American Civic Club. Another former Giants pitcher and past prayer breakfast speaker, Dave Dravecky, served as the event’s master of ceremonies, welcoming those in attendance to a longstanding tradition that was originally organized so that Turlockers could join under one roof to pray for families, youth and the leaders of the city, country, state and nation.
The audience was treated to musical performances from the Turlock Christian High School Choral, as well as Biblical readings and prayer from local high schoolers and business owners.
During the Mayor’s address, Soiseth commended the city for welcoming refugees from the Middle East, even though they share different religions, languages and cultures.
“As mayor, it’s my goal to make Turlock the most welcoming, inclusive and accepting community for all citizens, including refugees, immigrants and any other person that would want to make Turlock their home,” said Soiseth.
Guest speaker Affeldt also gave Soiseth inspiration for his address. Known for his contributions as a member of the Giants’ “core four” pitching staff, the three-time World Champion is also recognized for his impact on communities outside of the baseball diamond.
“God always has the right speaker come to the prayer breakfast,” Soiseth said of Affeldt.
The former Giant is a strong and vocal advocate against human trafficking and serves as an ambassador for the anti-slavery organization Not For Sale, which mobilizes activists to abolish slavery and fight human trafficking through a variety of grassroots initiatives. Affeldt also helps to mentor and motivate homeless and at-risk youth through Larkin Street Youth Services and runs his own non-profit, Generation Alive, which helps youth learn to live compassionately through acts of service.
Soiseth likened Affeldt’s work to the compassion he sees in Turlock toward refugees.
“Jeremy’s work for men, women and children, many of whom he’s never met, somewhat mirrors what we are seeing today as men women and children flee their homes and come here to America,” said Soiseth. “Just as Jeremy helps save the lives of those victimized by human trafficking, regardless of their faith, so Turlock welcomes these new citizens into our city.”
Affeldt carried on Soiseth’s call for unity within the community during his talk, sharing a personal story to let the crowd know how they could better understand each other. He spoke of the struggles of performing as a professional athlete and how distrust of the people around him ultimately bled into his personal life, resulting in his wife kicking him out of the house during Spring Training in 2013. Learning how to open up to both Christ and his wife once more allowed him to trust again – something that every community needs to do in order to thrive, he said.
“You cannot be a community unless there is trust, and you cannot trust somebody unless you give them permission to allow yourself to be trusted,” said Affeldt.
As he ended his time on stage, Affeldt encouraged the crowd to find their faith in God through opening up to one another.