By JOHN FORTMEYER
PORTLAND — Much the same very personal message of hope delivered at a big annual Vancouver, Wash., breakfast event last fall was heard at a similar event in the Rose City last month.
Motivational speaker and author Eldridge Broussard III, who addressed about 700 people at the Clark County Prayer Breakfast Oct. 30, was also featured at the Portland Good Friday Breakfast March 25 at the Oregon Convention Center. More than 1,000 attended the event, sponsored by locally based ministry Open Arms International as a gift to the community.
Broussard is an in-demand speaker because of his compelling story of a life turnaround guided by faith in Jesus.
Broussard was one of 53 children in a commune removed from their parent’s custody after the beating death of his younger sister; he was 9 at the time. The tragedy, which drew national headlines, occurred in a setting some likened to a cult and which was headed by his now-deceased father, Eldridge Broussard Jr.
Broussard’s passion to help people be their best springs from his own personal story, going from a ward of Oregon’s foster care system, through its juvenile justice system, and ultimately, the state prison system to becoming a respected community and business leader and youth mentor through his Broussard Foundation.
The circumstances of his youth had built up huge anger in Broussard. Placed in 22 different foster homes, he dropped out of high school ,joined a gang, sold drugs and carried a gun. He also developed a deep bitterness toward his father, who died when he was 12.
“I was taught to despise the man that I was named after,” he said.
He also hated God for allowing his sister to be killed and hated his mother for forgiving her killer.
But it was while in his teens that a caring youth pastor in the Gresham area took an interest in him, and Broussard wound up living in two different worlds — one with church friends and the other with the gangs.
Things came to a head one night, however, when a threat from rival gang members prompted Broussard to shoot 14 rounds into a car, striking three out of the five occupants of the vehicle. He could have faced 80 years in prison for attempted murder, but instead received a four-year prison sentence — later reduced to two and a half years — for unlawful use of a weapon. After only a year, he was sent to a correctional “boot camp” near Coos Bay to serve the rest of his time. There, volunteers from a local church visited him, extending God’s love.
Broussard wound up experiencing success as a loss prevention worker at Home Depot and later Costco. He also met and married his wife, and his deep anger and hatred was gradually replaced by a strong desire to serve and trust God. He has concluded that it was the very hard times in his life that readied him for service to Christ.
“It’s because of all I’ve done, and all I’ve been through, that God can use me,” he said. “Even my screw-ups, God can use later on.”
For more information, go to eldridge broussard.com
By JOHN FORTMEYER