September 5, 2017 at 3:32 p.m.
The popularity of the Ag Prayer Breakfast has grown steadily since its inception a few years ago. Attendees gather to enjoy hot food and hot coffee, along with heaping helpings of warm fellowship.
Jim Woster, a well-known wit and ag journalist, emceed the program. Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Huether welcomed Prayer Breakfast attendees, noting that the city of Sioux Falls is dependent on agriculture and appreciates farmers.
"Faith has carried me through the challenges of life, and being mayor has given me many opportunities to use prayer," said Huether.
Sanborn, Iowa dairy farmer Harvey Van Ess gave the invocation. Alan Feuerhelm, a dairyman from Le Mars, Iowa, led the Pledge of Allegiance.
King Hickman, a Sheldon, Iowa dairy consultant, then introduced the featured dairy family, David and Jerilyn Hansen of Irene, South Dakota.
After the Hansen family had read the Scriptures, David spoke to the audience about Helping Hands for Haiti, the charity he and his family created in 1989.
"As a boy, I saw a missionary from Sierra Leone and thought 'That's what I want to do.'," said Hansen. "But I became a dairy farmer, so it took me 30 years before I went on my first mission."
The Hansens were taken aback by the level of poverty they witnessed in Haiti.
"It made us appreciate what we have," said Hansen. "By the end of the mission, we decided that we had to go back."
Hansen spoke of the struggles he has recently endured.
"Six months ago, the director of Helping Hands for Haiti quit," he said. "I suddenly had too much on my plate. I said to God, 'You created this situation in Haiti and now you pull the rug out from under us.' I thought that God had abandoned me, but the truth was that He had prepared me."
Hansen said that he is driven by a simple goal.
"I want to be remembered as a Christian who gave his utmost for Jesus Christ."
Woster then introduced the keynote speaker, David Thorbahn, President and CEO of Select Sires, Inc.
Thorbahn reminisced about growing up on his parents' 600 acre dairy farm in Vickery, Ohio where they milked 140 head of registered Holsteins.
"I had three dreams as a kid," said Thorbahn. "One was to be a starting player on our school's football team. My second goal was to farm with my dad, even though I have two older brothers ahead of me. The third was to marry the girl of my dreams."
Thorbahn then related that the first of his dreams came true when he got to join the starting lineup of his football team. But this dream was cut short when he became injured five plays into the game.
"When I finished high school, Dad dropped the bombshell that there wasn't room for me on the farm unless I worked at a local cannery and farmed on weekends," said Thorbahn. "So I went to college, where I did well and met the girl of my dreams. But by the time we graduated, she had decided that I wasn't in her dreams."
After college, Thorbahn embarked upon a thriving career in the world of business. But all was not well.
"I had built shields around myself," he said. "Despite my success, I was empty and alone and miserable. I had a lot of friends, but I was still lonely. I attended church, but I was a chicken Christian. I had as much of a chance of becoming a Christian as if I had sat in a chicken coop and hoped that I would become a chicken."
For several years, Thorbahn tried to fill the void he felt inside with alcohol and drugs. One day, he decided that the only way out of this destructive cycle would be to take his own life. That very day one of Thorbahn's basketball buddies happened to invite him to go on a weekend retreat.
"Over the course of that weekend, I met some wonderful people who shared their stories of faith," said Thorbahn. "After the weekend ended, I totally gave my life over to Christ. I have never considered suicide since."
Thorbahn said that the Bible is the world's best business guide.
"If we trust in the Lord, it allows us to take chances. And in times of trouble, we can turn to Him.
"Demand for food is growing. I think God's challenge to us, and our calling, is to serve the world by feeding God's people. Every one of you has amazing talents. God has blessed us all with gifts; and to whom much has been entrusted, much is expected. We must use our gifts to honor God."
Every dairy farmer is a leader, said Thorbahn.
"We are all leading and have the ability to affect others' lives. How are your kids' and employees' lives enriched by working for you? Have you taught them how to enjoy their work? Or do you mock them with a sharp tongue?"
Thorbahn is grateful for his second chance at life. About a year after that fateful weekend retreat, he met his wife, Nancy. The Thorbahns now have two daughters, Jenna and Kelsey.
"God has continued to pursue me after the happily ever after," he said. "If I fall away, He comes after me. God has blessed me through the people I have met. We should all look at life as a blessing and use our leadership to glorify Christ."[[In-content Ad]]
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