Gang Leader Turned Evangelist: ‘I Heard Jesus Speak’

By Nancy Flory Published on December 13, 2018

Rene “Level” Martinez almost died too many times to count. He could’ve died when a high-speed chase ended with him in a 3-week coma. Or when he was stabbed. Maybe when, after a fight, his brain bled. Or when he was shot at multiple times.

But he didn’t die. 

Level is a former gang leader and street fighter from Miami. He eventually turned pro and fought in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). After a radical transformation, Level preaches the Gospel to people in projects nationwide. He tells former gang members that Jesus loves them. He wants people to know that if Jesus could take him out of all of that, He can do the same for them. His trip through hell and back started many years ago. 

Haunted by Demons

When he was five years old, his mother, involved in the occult, sacrificed a goat over Level. “They poured the blood down my head,” he recalls in an interview with The Stream. That day he began seeing demons. “I was haunted by them.” From then on, he was influenced by the demonic. “I knew I was being run by a demon. I mean, all the things I did, it was crazy.”

At 14 years old he was involved in a high-speed chase that put him in the hospital and killed another driver. He was in a coma for three weeks. At 16, he was looking at 20 years for attempted murder. He’d been in a shootout with another gang member. 

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It was about this time that his mom became a Christian and began to pray for her son’s salvation. It didn’t happen right away, though.

He went on to become a tough street fighter, then eventually fought in MMA. His fighting also led to Level getting into the music industry. 

For Such a Time as This

One night, as he was writing rap lyrics in his garage, he felt a demonic presence enter the room. “It overshadowed the whole area,” Level remembers. “It felt like death was in the room. That’s the moment that I actually heard Jesus speak to me. That’s when I surrendered. I knew that my time was running short. It was like, ‘You know I spared you for such a time as this. I’m going to take this hedge of protection off of you.'” Level saw his life flash before his eyes. “I realized that everything that I survived was only ’cause of Him, it wasn’t ’cause I was the hardest dude walking the earth.”

Going Radical for God

It was still a process to “get clean,” Level explains.

“I tell people it’s like when you stick your [dirty] clothes in the laundry and you’re washing your dirty clothes … then there’s a process for it to get washed and then it comes out clean. I felt like that was like that process for me. I came really dirty and like a year later God placed a man of God in my life and he started like opening the real Scriptures up to me.”

That man of God was Allan Sheppard, who baptized Level in the name of Jesus Christ on April 10, 2016. It was then that he felt a real shift in his life. “And I’ve never been the same since. That’s when I started to go like radical for God. Everywhere I go preaching the Word, all the projects, all the ‘hoods, everywhere, even prisons.”

Where the Spirit Leads

He doesn’t just stick around Dade County, either. He’s traveled from south central LA to New York City. He goes “where the Spirit leads.” He just returned from LA. “I was in the gang neighborhoods, I was preaching to all kinds of different gangsters. They all received me with so much love, it was incredible, you know?” Level explains that there’s a saying on the streets: “Real recognize real.” He says they knew he came from where they are now. They were “all ears.” Although they don’t always surrender to Christ on the spot, Level knows the seeds have been planted. “I believe that God will get the increase when the time is right.”

There’s Always Light

Now Level has a ministry called One Accord Miami. Level hopes to eventually found a church and a discipleship program. It could be in Dade County or Polk County. Either way, he will minister to those who are where he’s been. 

My main goal is that I want people to know that no matter how dark, how much darkness you think you’re in, there’s always light and that’s Jesus. And I feel like the darker people are in the world, when those people come to Christ, I believe that they’re going to bring the most light because they know how dark it was and they know that Jesus is real.

Like me, man. I’m radical. I don’t just go to church, sit down and come home — no. We gotta spread this message, I just want people to know that. If God did this for me, he can do this for anybody. I tell everybody that.

Level almost died countless times. Now he gives thanks to God every day. “[T]here’s a lot of people that didn’t wake up today, you know? We still got life so we gotta give God thanks ’cause it says, ‘Today is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.’

Watch his documentary:

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