Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Conference Calls a Generation

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Conference Calls a Generation

Article excerpt

A gaggle of youngsters gathered around the table at a local restaurant; enthusiastic, infectious giggles abounded. Within a few minutes, several members of the Panera lunch crowd asked the kids about their poster and why they were so excited.

"It's a free concert," responded James Griffin, "and you're invited."

Griffin -- Jamie to his friends -- hails from Boston. Like most teenagers and young adults at Restoration Fellowship Church, 5614 Richardson Road, he will attend the regional conference.

The "Consecrate: Created, Called, Commissioned -- Calling a Generation to Be Set Apart" conference will be held June 13 to 15 at Church on the Rock, 8200 Bee Ridge Road, Sarasota.

According to Roger Lee, organizer of the prayer rally and concert conference, more than 1,200 teenagers and young adults will gather. "Our goal is to help the young people encounter Jesus and then let God take care of the rest," Lee said. "We are just creating the environment."

Edgar Pineda is 21 years old; prayer may be his current passion but in a previous life he was the toughest of gang-bangers. "I started at 15," he said. "Kids start in elementary school now."

Older gang members showed him how easy it was "to get money without working, by robbing and selling drugs -- eventually they just became my family," the soft-spoken young man said, gently.

Pineda's sister, Angeles, 19, said that their entire family was going through a rough time "when Edgar got involved with gangs.

"I didn't know if he was going to come home at night," she said. "I was very worried about him, but there was nothing I could do -- except to keep praying."

Prayer, Pineda said, "was like science fiction to me; it didn't seem real or even relevant to my life.

"We thought God was boring -- for old people," he added, chuckling.

Edgar Pineda is the pinnacle of success stories; after more than a year of monitoring, Pineda's name has been erased from authorities' gang-books. …

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