BRADENTON -- Delegations from Zimbabwe, Kenya, India, South America and the United States are expected in Manatee County Feb. 11-14 for the 47th annual international convention at Bradenton Gospel Tabernacle, 1218 Seventh Ave. E.
Renowned preachers from the United States and abroad are expected.
Bishop Rateve from the largest assembly in Kenya and Bishop Simba from Zimbabwe will be keynote speakers.
"This is one the few international conventions held in Central Florida, and we are extending an invitation to all residents in Manatee and Sarasota Counties to be part of this wonderful event. This is a family church. Everybody is welcome," said Pastor John Paul Marlow of Bradenton Gospel Tabernacle.
The church will receive around 300 visitors from out of state.
"We have delegations coming from South Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Texas, Tennessee and California," Marlow said. "We are opening our homes and hearts to be the best host we can be."
Church members will welcome some visitors in their homes. The rest will stay in hotels throughout Bradenton.
"We are providing three meals a day, housing and travel expenses to our visitors," Marlow said. "The logistic involved, preparation, it's huge, it's a big financial commitment but the Lord has always provided."
Marlow, an 82-year-old Florida native, is going into his 64th year as a pastor.
He continues opening churches in America. The minister just concluded a seven-day revival tour covering four states and more than 5,000 miles.
People have transformed their lives in these events, Marlow said. He cited resident Doug Williams, who was struggling with addictions and a life of crime. He once spent 49 days in a coma after being assaulted with a baseball bat.
He attended a BGT convention last year and now is in a local recovery program, works at the church food bank, and talks about Jesus at different recovery programs in Bradenton.
"God and his love gave me a new life. They transformed my life," Williams said. "Jesus took the anger and bitterness away from my heart. Jesus taught me to forgive people that hurt me. People can be free when they open the eyes of their heart to the love of Jesus Christ."
This convention will cover diverse Christian topics, including the urgent need of Christ in America.
"We are living in challenging times and America needs Jesus, his love, his peace and a change of heart," said Marlow. "America needs healing, and Jesus is the healer. You come to this convention and you will receive healing."
The free event, open to everyone, runs from 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. all four days. Free valet parking is available.