By ANN STAATZ
VANCOUVER, Wash. — Greg Romine moved out of his alcoholic father’s home when Romine was 15. He rented a migrant worker cottage by the railroad tracks for $35 a month and put himself through high school by selling alcohol to his classmates.
When drugs became popular, he said, his marketing strategy was ahead of everyone else’s. He soon had a thriving drug-dealing business, an apartment, and a motorcycle. But one night after a drug deal, the police descended on his pad, armed with guns, handcuffs and a warrant for his arrest.
He landed in jail. The 14 prisoners with whom he was housed that first night gave him a choice: fight them or be raped. They were big; he was small. But he chose to fight. The men threw him back and forth and eventually knocked him out, stomping on him for good measure and breaking many of his ribs. As Romine lay unconscious, he saw a vision of Jesus, the crown of thorns on his bloody head, the spikes in his feet. And he heard Jesus say, “With my stripes, you are healed.” Romine, who was unchurched, had no idea that the words were from the Bible — Isaiah 53:5.
When he came to, he crawled to his bed and prayed, giving his life to God. He said he felt peace as he fell asleep. The next morning when he awoke, he felt happy even though he’d been beaten “within an inch of my life,” he said, and faced a 20-year prison term.
A few days later, Romine got out on bail. His lawyer promised to get Romine’s trial delayed as long as possible and urged him to make something of his life — perhaps go to community college.
“All I want to study is Jesus Christ,” Romine said.
“Well, there are schools like that,” the lawyer said.
Romine enrolled in the Bible college his sister had attended. After the first year of study, his trial date arrived. He pleaded guilty to all the charges. After a short recess, the judge said new charges had come up. Romine pleaded guilty to the new charge of disorderly conduct. The judge sentenced Romine to finish Bible college.
Romine not only graduated, but he also married, started a family, and began a career as youth pastor at Portland Foursquare Church. Today, he said, he is doing the most satisfying work of his life, helping rescue youth worldwide from sex trafficking as part of the ministry, Called to Rescue. He is opening a rescue safe house in Hazel Dell, Wash. “Some may wonder why would you bother to do a thing like that,” he said. “But with God, all things are possible,” he said.
Romine was the testimonial speaker at the 11th annual Clark County Mayors’ and Civic Leaders’ Prayer Breakfast Oct. 26. The theme, “all things are possible,” permeated every talk and prayer. Nearly 900 people attended the breakfast at the downtown Vancouver Hilton banquet hall. The Cedar Tree Classical Christian School choir sang four-part harmony as guests arrived. Students from King’s Way Christian School, wearing red baseball caps, greeted guests and helped them find their seats.
Keynote speaker Linda Smith, a former U.S. congresswoman, told her story of meeting girls her granddaughter’s age at a brothel in India. That encounter led her to start a ministry, Shared Hope International, which helps girls escape from prostitution and provides safe houses for them.
Smith now is turning her sights to sex trafficking in the United States. She said 100,000 American children a year are trafficked, including from Clark County towns such as Camas and Ridgefield. Shared Hope International soon will release a training video titled Chosen that will help family and concerned citizens recognize young girls being lured into prostitution.
“Realize that one person can make a difference. Not me — but many of you,” Smith said.
Camas Mayor Scott Higgins gave the opening welcome. He noted that all eight Clark County mayors were present. Higgins shared his newfound conviction to pray for all leaders, not just the ones he voted for or whose policies he supports. Then the Clark County sheriff’s office honor guard presented the colors. Following the Pledge of Allegiance, police officer Rey Reynolds sang the national anthem. He closed the breakfast by singing Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless The USA.” As Reynolds’ rich, resonant voice belted out the words “and I won’t forget the ones who died, who gave that right to me, and I gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today,” the audience rose to its feet and sang along.
“My brothers and sisters,” Reynolds said, “one of the wonderful things about today is that there are still heroes in the world. I’m honored to be among such here…”