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Florida Evangelist Begins Church Plant on the Streets of the City

By: David Williams

Church in the Wild is a ministry started by twenty-five year old Douglas Petrozelli that is located under the wooden coverings near Lake Pavilion on Clematis Street.

On the first Friday of each month, Petrozelli and his associate, Giovanni Gomez, bring a message to the corner of Clematis Street.

“The words on the back of the Bible said ‘God has a promise’ and His promise is that anyone who seeks Him will find Him. At that moment, I knew in my heart that this was true; that if I seek Him I will know all the answers as to why I’m looking get money or to get high or get drugs, the next woman or whatever it was. I realized that the whole time I was just looking for a way to get back to God.”

Prior to the commencement of service, Petrozelli and Gomez walk the streets of Clematis inviting individuals to attend the service.

Along the way, regular attendance of these services range from 30 to 50 reached people, many of which are homeless and are fed upon arrival.

Petrozelli grew up in the Royal Palm area of West Palm Beach, for most of his life, in a loving family that was secure and stable.  While raised in a Christian home, Petrozelli was taught to trust in God and live a faithful, Christ-centered life. Then came a point in his life where everything began to fall apart.

As the relationship between Petrozelli’s parents grew tumultuous, he began to lose himself and his focus on what he was raised to remember – “God’s promise.”

Petrozelli explained how through living his life, he realized that when one follows God, trouble follows closely behind. He continued to emphasize that Christians should be prepared to face the tribulations that make their way into a Christian’s life.

“I cried out to God and asked ‘how could this happen?’” Petrozelli said. “At that point I found myself deliberately walking away from God.”

Petrozelli began to turn to a life of drugs and alcohol as he continued to observe the struggles that took precedence over everything in the life of his family.  The troubling circumstances in his family forced him to continually move from place to place.

Upon his fourth move within seven months, Petrozelli found a Bible that he had stored away for a long period of time, not remembering how it had gotten there.

“In that Bible…I remember picking it up, and I looked at the back of it. The words written on the back of it changed my life, and that’s how I knew how powerful God’s word is,” Petrozelli said. “The words on the back of the Bible said ‘God has a promise’ and His promise is that anyone who seeks Him will find Him. At that moment, I knew in my heart that this was true; that if I seek Him I will know all the answers as to why I’m looking get money or to get high or get drugs, the next woman or whatever it was. I realized that the whole time I was just looking for a way to get back to God.”

Petrozelli said that it didn’t take much for God to put something in place that would change his life for the better.

In response to this turning point in his life, Petrozelli attended Alcoholics Anonymous as a stepping stone to rid himself of his addictions, but knew that it was staying in line with God that would deliver him from addictions.

Petrozelli is a member of a local church and served as a young adult ministry leader.  After a few young adult pastors moved on to different areas of ministry, Petrozelli believed that it was his time to take over that pastoral position.  He applied on two different occasions and to his great disappointment, was not selected for the position.

To his surprise, he felt God’s call pulling him more towards the area of Clematis and the individuals who inhabit that area on a daily basis.

Petrozelli explained how discouraging it was not to be chosen for a position – within the church building – in which he believed God called him to be in.

To his surprise, he felt God’s call pulling him more towards the area of Clematis and the individuals who inhabit that area on a daily basis.

“Every time I walk over here [Clematis Street] it truly hurts me because when I go up and down these streets, I see so much wealth and so much poverty in one place,” Petrozelli said. “I believe that I was called here to be of service to God and make a difference starting here on this Street. I’ve had a lot of backlash with people saying you’re not qualified and you shouldn’t be doing this.” Petrozelli responds, “Qualification has nothing to do with God’s call on your life….but has everything to do with what God has written on your heart.”

“He’s always inspiring me to be way more than I could be. At the end of the day though, it’s not about me; it’s about what God can do through me to reach others.”

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