An ex-gangster at the pulpit is bringing change to Holland

Posted at 11:28 PM, Dec 28, 2014
and last updated 2014-12-28 23:33:55-05

Holland, MI - A local church is turning a new leaf as one congregation closes its doors, taking its place with a pastor who's a felon with ties to the Latin Kings.

Praise and worship can be heard ringing through the church of La Casa De Mi Padre, a bilingual church that's catering real transformation, with an ex-gangster at the pulpit.

Gang members of the Latin Kings and M13 can be found singing praise and worship, seeking community, and finding grace and forgiveness.

Sunday's pastor, Gonzalo Venegas, a felon with ties to the Latin Kings gang on the Lakeshore, and the Sureno 13 gang, went to prison in 2009 for shooting at occupied homes in Allegan and Ottawa Counties. Since his release from federal prison, he's done a complete 180 with his life.

"It's the most beautiful thing when you can help somebody else out, instead of hurting people or robbing people," said Venegas.

Married with two children, Venegas is using his history of violence to change the lives of those living in the community.

"A Lot of people don't know, but I've been through a lot of pain," said Venegas.,"the moment that you forgive, you set yourself free."

He works with Barnabas Ministry, mentoring at risk children, and he's training to become a full-time pastor. Venegas hopes to one day bring more gang members to the faith, something Head Pastor, Jose Duran has been doing since the church opened its doors.

"Gangs, leaders gangs, people involved and doing bad things are here being mentored and they are here being mentored through Jesus Christ," said Duran. "That is happening, now they are becoming passionate for Jesus Christ and that's transformation."

Transformation strong enough to heal the hearts of gang members, and change that's bringing a community to its knees.