National Prayer Breakfast Highlights Message of God’s Miracles
By P. A. Tezuka, SMC Public Affairs
/ Published February 19, 2009
LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE -- Los Angeles Air Force Base Chaplain's Office hosted the 68th National Prayer Breakfast at the Gordon Conference Center, Feb. 11. Col. Anita Latin, 61st Air Base Wing commander, officiated the event. Special guests included Chief Master Sgt. Stephen Ludwig, Space and Missile Systems Center command chief; Tom Fitzgerald, Corporate Management and Integration director; John Wagner, Launch and Range Systems Wing chief technical director; Honorable Kelly McDowell, Mayor of El Segundo; Honorable Larry Guidi, Mayor of Hawthorne; and Honorable J. R. Reviczky, Councilman of Hermosa Beach.
Chaplain (Capt.) Matthew Boarts gave the invocation based on a speech given by former President Ronald Reagan in 1986. Representatives from various faiths read prayers from speeches by other former presidents. The El Segundo High School Chamber Choir sang the National Anthem during the presentation of colors by the Los Angeles AFB Honor Guard. The choir also performed other spiritual songs.
The keynote speaker, Ms. Renée Bondi, inspired the crowd of more than 230 with her life's story and how God provided her with opportunities of hope after her 1988 freak accident which left her a quadriplegic. Her voice was reduced to a whisper; and at the age of 29, she was told she would never sing again.
Prior to her accident, Ms. Bondi was a music director at San Clemente High School, Calif., and was only two-months away from getting married. Through the course of trying years that followed and her unconditional faith in God, her voice miraculously returned and she is currently a professional recording artist. She married her fiancée who stayed by her side throughout the ordeal and they now have a teenage son.
"After a bizarre accident, it never crippled her spirit," said Reverend Martin Benzoni, Los Angeles AFB Auxiliary Catholic Priest, as he introduced Ms Bondi. He has known Ms. Bondi since 1989 when he met her at San Juan Capistrano, Calif. where they were both involved in a program for teenage children.
As she rolled out on her wheelchair to the front of the audience, Ms. Bondi sang, "... be not afraid, I go before you always, come follow me and I will give you rest ...." She talked about the series of coincidences in her life that helped her cope with the pain and gave her resources for the daily survival.
"The real reason I've come to you this morning is to tell you that there is no such thing as coincidence," she said. "There is no such thing as coincidence in God's world.
"Coincidences? ... God-incidences," she said. "Our God, yours and mine, is a practical God. ... I know that many times we wonder if he exists ... I'm here to remind you all that he's right here in our everyday life. We just keep blowing him off. So today ... I invite each one of you to blow the lid off the box that you have had God stuffed into and allow him to start working in your life ... to know that our only hope is in our Heavenly Father. Amen.
"This is the time for Him ... God is in control," she sang. Ms Bondi's upbeat and motivational speech was intertwined with her religious songs to illustrate the miracles of God. The audience acknowledged her with cheers and a standing ovation.
"We have 230 happy people here today," said Colonel Latin. "She [Ms Bondi] said one of her hobbies is laughing. She certainly made it true today. She is a fantastic storyteller and those [the talent of telling a story and catching the audience's attention] are the things that help us remember what was said.
"That is an amazing gift you have and we really, really appreciate it," said Colonel Latin addressing Ms Bondi. "You can come back anytime ... you have been an inspiration to us."
Colonel Latin presented her with flowers, an Air Base Wing coin and a special gift from the Chaplain's Office. She also thanked the El Segundo High School choir, which had been at the base since 6 a.m. to participate in the event. Colonel Latin presented the choir director with flowers and a check to support their program.
"This is a great way to start the morning," said Colonel Latin. "I hope you can take this back and share it with your families."