The men who meet for breakfast every week in Island City decided that traveling more than 600 miles to a Promise Keepers Christian men's conference in California was out of the question.
So Union County Promise Keepers are bringing the conference to La Grande next weekend Â— on a 12-by-12-foot video screen.
In past years, Promise Keepers conferences have been held in Boise, Portland, Tacoma and other Northwest cities. But not in 2002. The closest conferences are in Stockton, Calif., Denver or Phoenix.
"There are many men in Eastern Oregon who have gone to Promise Keepers," said Gene Sutton, coordinator of the breakfast that is held at 6 a.m. Fridays at Island City's City Hall.
"We wanted to be part of it. So we decided to have a men's conference using the tapes."
The event, begins at 7 p.m. Friday at Valley Fellowship, 507 Palmer Ave.
The videos were recorded at the May 31-June 1 Promise Keepers conference in Tampa, Fla.
The tapes include the nationally known speakers who addressed thousands of men at the "Storm the Gates" conference in Florida, said Steve Kirkeby, an organizer for the La Grande event and co-pastor of Valley Fellowship.
The speakers include Bill McCartney, president of Promise Keepers and former Colorado football coach; Joe White; Bruce Wilkinson, author of the best-selling book, "The Prayer of Jabez"; and Stu Weber, an author and pastor from the Gresham area.
An optional free breakfast will be offered at the church starting at 6:30 a.m. Saturday.
The conference, featuring songs led by the Valley Fellowship Worship Band and short testimonies by local men as to what God has done for them, will resume Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Those attending will break for lunch over the noon hour, but Eastern Oregon Youth for Christ will be selling hamburgers, hot dogs, box lunches, soda and water as a fund-raiser.
Kirkeby said word has been spread in Eastern Oregon, Eastern Washington and Southwest Idaho about the La Grande conference, and as many as 600 men might attend.
There will be no registration fee, but a free-will offering will be taken on Friday evening and Saturday afternoon to cover expenses.
Any money that is collected beyond the conference expenses will go for Project Angel Tree, a Prison Fellowship ministry that provides Christmas gifts for the children of inmates in area prisons, Kirkeby said.
Sutton said the La Grande conference is an extension of the free breakfasts that are being held on Friday mornings and are open to all men. Anywhere between 10 and 40 men attend the breakfasts. One will not be held Friday, however, because of the video conference.
"I think God is going to do a wonderful work with a lot of men next weekend," Sutton said.
Sutton added that Promise Keepers has made a difference in his life.
"It brought me closer to the Lord. It made me a better husband, father and grandparent, and made me a better brother to all the men and women that I've been associated with in this community."
Kirkeby said he's been attending Promise Keepers stadium events every year since 1994, bringing men from his church with him.
"I've seen the impact that it's had on the men we've taken," providing them spiritual renewal, he said.
One man who benefited from attending a conference with Kirkeby in 1999 at the Tacoma Dome is Chuck Sarrett, a forester from La Grande.
Sarrett, 49, said he attended church as a child and knew about God and Jesus Christ, but he was not living the Christian life as an adult.
"I felt pretty self-reliant Â— that I could handle just about anything that came along in my life," Sarrett said.
A number of things, including family and work issues, prompted Sarrett to start attending church at Valley Fellowship.
"A group of guys Â— about 40 of us Â— went together to Tacoma," Sarrett recalled.
"The first speaker was an evangelist. I knew that he would be inviting people to come to faith in Christ and accept Jesus as their savior. When the time came, I saw thousands of men standing up for Christ. I stood up and moved down to the main floor.
"I prayed for Christ to come into my life. From that point on, I was running straight on adrenaline for days. The Spirit came into me and I was excited. I was on fire. Once I made a commitment, I decided there was no going back."
Sarrett said his family has benefited from his spiritual commitment.
"It helped me accept things as they were in terms of my work. It greatly improved my relationship with my wife and my kids," he said.
Sarrett said his walk with God helped him defeat the anger that had been eating away at him.
"I was very critical of my family; I expected a lot of them. I would become sullen, angry and critical. But that's completely gone now."
Kirkeby said that he is looking forward to what will happen next weekend.
"I think it's important for us to create events that will help people connect more with God," the minister said. "It's something that I need, too.
"I've made commitments (at Promise Keepers events) and made adjustments to my life because of what I experienced there. I know first-hand how it can impact people."
Â— Dave Stave