Faith, Hope, & Love Conference

By Holly Kestenis Staff Writer

ST. PETERSBURG –Men and women from all over St. Petersburg joined together earlier this month for a celebration in praise at the Frank Pierce Center at Bartlett Park. Women participated in a love clinic, while the men were part of a restoration session meant to empower and change lives. So for a $20 donation, participants were treated to lunch, a t-shirt, a healing meeting and a praise service.

Regina Rosier Brown teaches science at John Hopkins Middle School. Her goal is to touch the lives of not only her students, but the men and women of this community so that they can lead better lives. So she reached out to organizations around St. Petersburg to get the word out about the Faith, Hope, and Love Conference she was psyched to put on.

Guided by the Holy Spirit, Brown has many ministries such as the In Pursuit of Destiny Youth and Young Adult Ministry, the People in Fine Arts Ministries and Dancer’s Heart, which is a ministry made up of Christian dancers. She helps to establish and guide them. Out of Ashes Women Ministries supported the love conference.

“I believe that many people in this community have lost hope,” said Brown pointing the finger at an unsupportive government and the last few generations losing financial stability. “They don’t know which way to turn.”

So drugs and alcohol become their shoulder to cry on. Brown suggests that whole families have been ruined by depression and lost hope, losing their faith along the way.

“The lord laid it upon my heart years ago to go back and get the ones left behind,” she said, “especially the children.”

This is the second year of the Faith, Hope, & Love Conference. Last year it was held in a hotel, but this year Brown went to the people, pulling them from places where she knew people were struggling.

Most of the ladies came from Turning Point Rehabilitation Center and some were from New Philadelphia Worship Center, which holds worship services on Sunday at the Frank Pierce Center. Others were from New Dawn Restoration Center in Tampa and Bradenton Light House Center. But no matter where they come from, each person attending the conference walked away with a renewed feeling of worthiness and hopefully seeing the light at the end of the long tunnel.

Dr. Katurah Jenkins- Hall from New Dawn Restoration Center spoke with the women. She serves as executive pastor at her church and is a psychologist teaching at the University of South Florida.

She’s known Brown since they were 12, attending the same middle school. They also both worked on last year’s conference.

“Part of our ministries have an overlapping theme, which is help and restoration to women and their families,” said Jenkins-Hall who views the Love, Hope, and Faith Conference as an opportunity to teach men and women how to love themselves, God and each other.

Women were instructed on how to no longer be basket cases. Oftentimes emotional wounds are introduced by sins of somebody else. Jenkins-Hall explained that those who sexually abused and dumped their problems on women, and raped them of their last shred of self-confidence could not come out on top.

“We’re in a war for our souls, our spirits, our emotions,” she said recognizing that women, especially those in attendance had been wounded greatly. “Deep in your heart and in your soul you know there are some wounded places that are yet to heal.”

She instructed women to ask for help when they need it. To stop using their bodies and sexuality as a tool to get what they want, and to start cherishing what they have to offer again. She asked women to denounce alcohol, drugs, and their addictions to food, to halt using them as a crutch, to stop being emotionally crippled.

Jon Matthews headed up the men’s conference consisting of men mostly from Turning Point. The pastor of New Philadelphia Worship Center in St. Petersburg, he talked on his life experiences and how when he found Christ his whole life changed.

“What was going on in the classroom and what was going on in the street was two different things,” he said. Matthews remembers his youth being fraught with living two lives. At school, he would do what he had to, but life outside school was a different story. Mixing with some of his older cousins proved to be dangerous as his education started taking the backseat to unsavory activities. “They were a little slow turning me onto drugs,” he said, “but they kept me drunk all the time.”

Matthews went on to college despite his recreational drug use but quickly sought out those who could hook him up. He spent most of his time in his dorm room selling and doing drugs. His grades dropped drastically and he soon found himself kicked out and with no options.

“Sometimes you think it will never catch up to you,” said Matthews who admits he made a lot of money in the drug ring, but came out of it with no education and no prospects. “You think you’re so smart you think you can handle it and get by.”

When he realized he no longer had control, that indeed the trick was on him, it was close to being almost too late.

His struggles with drugs and alcohol continued for years until he met a girl who turned him on to God. Although he had a long path ahead of him, Matthews dedicated his life to change not only in himself, but in seeking out those in need and lending a helping hand.

The conference ended with the men and women sharing their own personal stories and a message to all. “People don’t make you act the way you act,” said Jenkins-Hall. “You choose to act the way you act.” With positive choices come positive results.

To reach Holly Kestenis, email hkestenis@theweeklychallenger.com

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