by TANIAH TUDOR
Press Argus-Courier Staff
A local church pastor attended the recent National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., at the request of a state congressman.
Wes Hilliard, lead pastor at Heritage United Methodist Church in Van Buren, was a guest of Rep. Steve Womack at the 64th National Prayer Breakfast.
Hilliard was thrilled to be chosen by Womack to attend the national event, he said.
“I felt like all the congressmen must invite a pastor to come to this breakfast, but that’s apparently not so,” Hilliard said.
Most legislators attend the event with a spouse, but since Womack’s wife is unable to go he chooses a pastor from his district to attend each year.
This year Womack was looking to take someone from the southern part of his district, and Hilliard’s name came up, Hilliard said. Hilliard also served in the Army National Guard with Womack, he said.
Hilliard attended four meals during the week-long event, from dinner Wednesday, Feb. 3 to dinner Feb. 4.
“What I found to be interesting, the prayer breakfast itself is just the centerpiece of over 200 meetings that take place during this week that are sponsored by The Fellowship Foundation,” Hilliard said.
The goal of the foundation, Hilliard said, is to bring people from diverse backgrounds together around the “precepts, principles and person of Jesus.”
Originally called the Presidential Prayer Breakfast when it was officially founded in 1953, the series of meetings, luncheons and dinners are held on the first Thursday of every February.
Attending the 2016 bipartisan event were representatives from more than 130 countries, of all religious and political backgrounds, Hilliard said. About 3,500 people attended the actual breakfast, he said.
For instance, sitting at Hilliard’s breakfast table with Womack were a variety of people, including a nun from Uganda who Hilliard described as kind and interesting.
At lunch, she was introduced as the speaker. Hilliard had enjoyed breakfast with Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe, named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people for her work with women and girls who have been sexually exploited.
Event attendees enjoyed speakers and entertainment from around the world.
Hilliard listened to Italian classical singer Andrea Bocelli during breakfast, and Mark Burnett, president MGM Television and Digital Group, and his wife Roma Downey from the TV series Touched by an Angel, were the keynote speakers.
Hosts for the event alternate between the House and Senate; this year’s hosts were Rep. Juan Vargas (D) from California and Rep. Robert Aderholt (R) of Alabama.
Arkansas’ own Sen. John Boozman is set to be one of the hosts for the 2017 National Prayer Breakfast, Hilliard said.