A former gang leader-turned-pastor who was once possessed by demons has shared how God spared his life multiple times and why his mission today is to save others from the life that nearly destroyed him.
“It’s just demonic,” he said, “I started seeing demons when I was a kid. They haunted me my whole life.”
Rene Martinez, also known as “Level,” was exposed to Satanism at a young age. Raised in a single-parent home in Leisure City, Florida, Martinez remembers his mother sacrificing animals over him as part of her religion.
“I remember the time the gun jammed in my face,” he told CBN. “I remember the time the bullet grazed my head. The other time the bullet whistled by my ear. The times I was running through the backyard and they were shooting at me. All the times I got shot at. All the times I was half-dead, but I was still alive.”
At the age of 12, Martinez turned to a life of crime, which included drug abuse, stealing guns, breaking into homes, and getting involved in drive-by shootings. He later started the Latin Syndicate, which would later be recognized as one of Miami’s most dangerous and powerful gangs. By the time he turned 14 years, he’d been imprisoned for attempted murder and had endured several near-death experiences.
After becoming a father, Martinez decided to transition from the streets to professional bare-knuckle fighting, eventually signing a pro MMA contract. He soon gained international recognition, defeating three-time world champion, Ricardo Mayorga, in Nicaragua.
Still, he felt something was missing: “I had the money. I had the fame. I was doing the gangster music. But I was empty inside,” he said.
One day, Martinez had a supernatural experience with God that completely changed his life. He shared how, when he was recording gangster music in his garage, he heard Jesus speak to him, saying: “I spared you for such a time as this.”
“I saw my whole life flash before my eyes – when a gun was jammed in my face, when a bullet whistled by my ear – I almost died five or six times – and all my friends that died. God set me free for a reason. I repented right there.”
After Martinez was baptized in 2016, he heard God tell him to “gather up the fragments.”
“I then realized my purpose and why God spared me so many times,” he said. “So, I came back and started preaching to my homies that were still alive. My whole life changed. God really took over.”
Today, Martinez visits prisons, juvenile facilities, housing projects, and the streets he once terrorized to share the love of Christ and encourage others that redemption is possible for anyone. He has also baptized former gang members — including those who formerly belonged to the Latin Syndicate.
“God really pulled me out of the pit,” he said. “If God did this for me, He can do this for anybody.”
The newly released documentary “The Warrior Level” is Martinez’s first-hand account of how he went from leading a life of crime to sharing the Gospel. The film includes real-life footage of the Latin Syndicate, interviews with ex-gang members, and an in-depth look at Martinez’s powerful story.
“I’m so thankful that you chose me when I was nothing but a gangster and a thug, Lord,” Martinez prays in the documentary, adding he hopes his story reminds others “going through the fire” that with God, all things are possible.
“Repent and be baptized, and I will guarantee that the Lord will pull you out of that dark place,” he says. “Don’t wait till it’s too late.”