Religion

A MEAL ON GOD

MANATEE — Elder Sheldon L. Times wanted to set up Praise and Deliverance Ministries International Inc. on 14th Street West in Bradenton to minister to those most down on their luck.

Times said 200 to 300 people from the street may partake of a free Thanksgiving meal noon-4 p.m. today under a tent by the side- walk in front of the church at 2309 14th St. W.

“Many of the people from this street have given up on hope,” the pastor said. “The thing is, someone has to rekindle that. I don’t know if this will work, but I got the idea if I would set up a tent and tables and cater a fantastic meal for these homeless people with the theme, ‘Have a meal on God,’ maybe, just maybe, they would think, ‘Hey, there are people out there who care about me. Maybe God cares about me. Maybe I should care about me.’”

Times didn’t go half-hearted into this assignment.

He contacted management at Lee Roy Selmon’s at 6510 Cortez Road.

The restaurant’s management bought into his idea of a special meal for the homeless and gave Times a reduced rate on catered meals for 300 homeless, the pastor said.

The church, which keeps a small pantry on site all year long to offer to the homeless who drift by, also will offer donated clothing for those in need during the Thanksgiving meal.

The menu for this pre-actual holiday feast, which anyone may attend for free, includes pulled pork, smoked grilled chicken, green beans, mashed potatoes and gravy and dinner rolls, Times said.

“We scheduled it a week before Thanksgiving because this way the homeless would have a chance at another free meal somewhere else on Thanksgiving and it also gives our church members who will be volunteering a chance to be home with their families on the holiday,” Times said.

Love is what this ministry and this pastor are all about, members said.

“Pastor lets you know when you have done wrong, but when he does it, you know he still loves you,” said Javisha Strong, 19, a member of the eight-woman PDMI Dance Team who entertain and inspire during 10 p.m. Friday night youth events at the church.

“He’s real,” said Alandra Clarke, 15, also a dancer. “You understand things clearly after he is done preaching.”

During Sunday church services in the strip plaza — which generally run 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. unless the spirit is really moving — Times explains the Bible in terms everyone can understand, his members said.

“He chops it up so laymen get it,” said youth minister Akilla Miller, 25, who has been with the church since it began in 2004.

Times said he likes to explain the Bible in clear ways because sometimes growing up he would visit churches where he heard the pastor say something he didn’t understand.

He explains the Bible from a context of love.

“I keep it simple, which is the best way,” he said.

Times grew up in Palmetto. He was a lifelong member of Temple of Faith in Bradenton, graduated from Manatee High School in 1991 and was brought up with God under loving grandmother, Edie Mae Wilson. It was his grandmother who shaped him to what he is today, a husband to Jasmine and father to Alexis, 13,

“I remember I would get mad at people and say to her, ‘Grandma, how can you let them treat you that way? I want to kill them,’” Times said. “She would say, ‘You got to kill them with kindness. I love them no matter what they do. That’s the secret to life.”

Perhaps not ready for all that love at that time, Times decided he would go to Atlanta and pursue a music career as a singer and keyboard player in a gospel venue. He never made it.

God, he said, had other plans.

He still plays the keyboard in church, but instead of Atlanta, his main environment is Johnson Middle School, where he is a sixth grade parent liaison.

The church grew out of prayer meetings in people’s homes. It grew until it filled a room at a local motel and finally, burst into what it is now, with roughly 150 members.

“All I wanted was to doing something to make God proud,” Times said.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 748-0411, ext. 6686.

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