The New Mission of A Former Gang Leader in Florida

René “Level” Martínez, a former gang leader, grew up fighting on the streets of Leisure City, Florida. Life was not easy for him.

FLORIDA — René “Level” Martínez, a former gang leader, grew up fighting on the streets of Leisure City, Florida. His mother was also on the streets, as a follower of “Santería,” which is Cuban-African spiritism.

Life in Leisure City, Florida, was not easy for René “Level” Martínez.

René “Level” MartínezFormer Gangster:

“I grew up without a father. My mother was on the streets. She was involved in Santería, which is a form of witchcraft, and she used to sacrifice animals over me since I was a child, and I started seeing demons. They chased me all the time.”

At 12 years old, that darkness led him to crime. Level broke into homes, stole weapons, and participated in shootings. In 1990, he formed a gang called the Latin Syndicates.


“We had almost 300 members, and the feds were investigating us. Half of my friends are in jail, and the others are dead.”

Level recalls that many times he faced death.


“I remember when a gun was pointed at my face and jammed. I remember when a bullet grazed my head. Another time a bullet whistled past my ear. The times I ran through the courtyard while being shot at. They always shot at me. I was half dead, but I survived.”

His life changed a bit when Level became a father. To better care for his family, he learned mixed martial arts.


“I became a professional fighter throughout my life. I’ve always been good at fighting. I started boxing without gloves with Kimbo Slice. I beat everyone, bare-knuckled; we bet money in the yards, and I won. I gained so much fame that Telemundo came looking for me and offered me a professional contract. I went to Nicaragua and defeated three-time champion Ricardo Mayorga.”

But those achievements in the ring did not fill the void he felt inside…


“I had the money. I had the fame. I played gangster music. But there was a void inside.”

At that time, his mother was already a Christian and began to pray for him. In 2016, her prayers were answered when Level had a supernatural experience with God.


“It was as if he showed me my whole life in five seconds, and I fell to my knees. I started calling out to God. And when he spoke to me, I knew that if I didn’t give up, I was going to die.”

Charlene Aaron, CBN News: I’m here in a community that was once terrorized by René Level Martínez as the leader of the Latin Syndicates gang. Now Level is here again, but with a very different message.


“Two and a half years have passed since that day. And since then, I have gone to prisons, slums, juvenile detention centers, schools, for another reason. I have returned to the streets that I once terrorized, but now I am giving them life. Now I am giving them Jesus.”

Now Level ministers to other gangsters and often finds himself baptizing young people in some of the most dangerous neighborhoods…


“I tell them to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:38. That’s what I preach.”

Recently, a documentary has been made about his life, called “The Warrior Level.”
Churches are using it as an evangelistic tool, and according to this former gang leader, many lives have been transformed.


“Many people come to Christ through my testimony, and I feel honored that God uses me. It’s a privilege and an honor to be used by Him. He could have chosen anyone else. I could have been one of the young people who died. But I’m still here, and I’m grateful.”

Read more news on Christian Ministry on Missions Box.

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