Enrollment at the Center Peace Ministries Bible College in Baton Rouge has been an “enlightening experience” for Sheldon Martin.

“It has helped me to teach the word,” said Martin, a minister and fourth-year student at the school. “It has really motivated me to delve into the word more and break down scripture and relate it to people.”

Martin is helping the college celebrate “delivering excellence in ministry education to Baton Rouge and the surrounding parish areas.” He is a co-chairman for the fifth annual Spirit of Excellence Scholarship Education Gala set for 7 p.m. Friday, July 31, at the West Baton Rouge Civic Center, 749 N. Jefferson Ave. in Port Allen.

The keynote speaker for the fundraiser will be acclaimed actor Louis Gossett Jr. He is also an author, activist, missionary and founder of Eracism Foundation, an organization dedicated to fighting racism.

The Rev. Angela Gooden, pastor of Center Peace Ministries, chancellor and an instructor at the college, credits divine help for getting Gossett.

“It’s been awesome. It was nothing but God,” she said. “In this season in his life, it’s all about doing missionary work, doing the work of the ministry … He has dedicated his life to ministry but also to eradicating a disease called racism.”

The gala will also feature a live auction and will honor scholarship recipients, servant leaders and others. Forty percent of the students receive tuition assistance in the form of scholarships.

“We really want to celebrate our students for their tutelage. It’s a lot of hard work, and we want to celebrate those who have pressed forward, who are passionate about ministry and education, and passionate about outreach but still need that added support financially,” Gooden said.

Spirit of excellence honorees are Port Allen Mayor Richard Lee; professor Winston Riddick, Southern University Law Center; Pastor Albert White, Abounding Love Ministries in Baton Rouge and founder of STARS Organization; Pastor Shedrick Winfield, Fishers of Men Tabernacle, Port Allen; Pastor Elvin Augusta, Ministry of New Life, Baton Rouge; Pastor Ezra Shannon, Cedar Grove Temple, Baywood; and Pastor Mary Alice Monroe, Redeeming Love Ministries, Baton Rouge.

A Lifetime Achievement Award will go to Pastor Nathaniel Thomas, of Greater New Hope Baptist Church in Zachary.

“We are celebrating servant leaders, people in the community who are rarely in college but doing great things in the community,” Gooden said.

Center Peace Ministries Bible College opened its doors in fall 2009 at 1206 Florida Blvd. The intense program started with 10 students but has since enrolled hundreds of students who have obtained associate to doctorate degrees in Bible and theology, pastoral ministry, divinity, Christian counseling and Christian education. It offers morning and evening classes. Students are required to do internships and outreach, Gooden said.

Martin, 47, enrolled at the school to continue to work and walk in the calling that God had on his life.

“I always thought I was going to preach since I was a boy growing up,” he said.

There were some challenges along the way, including the death of his mother when he was 7 and not knowing his father until he was 18.

But Martin finally answered his call to the ministry in 2011.

“Ever since then, I’ve been reaching toward the things of God,” said Martin, a minister at Cedar Grove Temple Church of God in Christ.

After establishing a relationship with his father about 25 years ago, Martin found out his calling was also in his blood.

“He was a preacher,” Martin said. “My grandfather was a preacher. I’ve got a brother on my dad’s side who’s a preacher. My cousin on my dad’s side is a preacher … When I realized that, I said, ‘All right Lord, that’s why I was called to this work.’ It’s in the family.”

Martin, who attends school while running his own pest control business, said one of his favorite classes dealt with spiritual warfare.

“In the times that we’re living and given my background and all the humbuggish that I have been dealing with from other people in my walk, the devil has fought me tooth and nail,” he said. “It really helped me recognize what the enemy was trying to do … Through it all, if I had to do it all over again, I’m going to still choose God.”

For more information on Center Peace Ministries College, call the school at (225) 383-3170, Sheldon Martin at (225) 337-4220, Rosalie Willis at (225) 405-1589; email cpm1br@gmail.com; or go to centerpeaceministries.com.

‘Spirit of Pentecost,’ prayer

Dynamic speakers from around the country and other local ministers and officials will participate in two major events sponsored by the World Link of Churches and Ministries led by International Prelate and Apostle Lloyd Benson Sr.

The much-anticipated Spirit of Pentecost Conference 2015 is set for noon and 7 p.m. July 19-24 at the Life Cathedral Worship Center, 2103 S. Philippe Ave. in Gonzales. The theme for the conference is “Apprehended.”

“We give God the glory for what he will do at this upcoming grand event,” Benson said. “Many will have a Holy Ghost encounter, because of their determination to stay with God, in an era where many are falling away from the gospel.”

The conference will include Youth Day on Tuesday, July 20; praise and worship; dance ministry; and vendors.

Among the speakers for the conference will be Benson, president, founder and chief consecrator of World Link of Churches and Ministries; Pastor Frank Manguno, of Beam of Life Tabernacle, Plaquemine; Bishop Donald L. Robinson Jr., of Marine and Mount Moriah Ministries, Jefferson; Apostle Odell Bunton, of Purpose and Destiny Center, Arlington, Texas; Prophet Richard Horace, of Lily Fields Prophetic Pentagon, Beaumont, Texas; Bishop Joseph Ricard Sr., of Greater Refuge Temple Ministries, Amite; Apostle Adelia Seymour, of Restoration Nu-Life, Atlanta; Apostle Dwan Jackson, of Fresh Manna Inc., Moultrie, Georgia; Apostle Larry Aikens, of Memorial Church International, Kansas City, Missouri; Apostle Sandra V. Nelson, of Sandra V. Nelson Ministries, Pomona, California; and Apostle Michael Coleman, of Restoration Christian Center, Oklahoma City.

The conference culminates July 25 with the annual Save Our Cities Now Prayer Initiative Day in Baton Rouge. A march will begin at 8 a.m. at the Governor’s Mansion with prayer at 9 a.m. at the State Capitol.

“America desperately needs a moral rebirth,” Benson said. “Nearly every problem and social ills facing our nation today spring from a moral base. We need to implore God’s divine intervention on our nation. God rules the world by the prayers of his saints. Prayer is the power by which evil and corruption is conquered.”

Among those expected to participate in the prayer event are the Rev. Al Sharpton; the Rev. Jesse Jackson; and Charles Steele Jr., president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

“I am asking all concerned citizens of all races to join us on that day to pray. The United States has clearly demonstrated that social, economic and political solutions are not effective in solving what is essentially a spiritual problem,” Benson said.

For more information, contact WLCM offices at (225) 644-5445, (225) 291-2400, or go to wlcm.org/ linked@wlcm.org.

Faith Matters runs every other Saturday in The Advocate. Terry Robinson can be reached at (225) 388-0238 or by email to trobinson @the advocate.com.