Tampa's Very own Leonardo Villanueva
Leonardo Villanueva has delivered his message of hope through sermon and song at churches and Concert Halls around the US, Latin American and Puerto Rico, touring to reach as many people as possible. His audience has grown exponentially in the last ten years. The 39-year-old from Tampa broke into Christian music's most elite circle with a GMA Dove Award win for Spanish Language Album of the Year for his first CD, self-titled "Leonardo." The honor is bestowed by the Gospel Music Association.
Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Villanueva grew up the son of an evangelical Christian pastor. He was 8 when he accepted Jesus as his savior after a Sunday school class.Six years later, he discovered contemporary Christian music following a popular festival his father helped organize."I remember feeling a chill when I saw it all come together," Villanueva recalls."That's when I saw myself, for the first time, doing the same thing."Not long after, his father signed him up for piano lessons in hopes his son could fill the empty bench in his church.Villanueva skipped lessons and refused to practice, but he eventually learned to love the instrument.
Additionally, he went on a mission - became homeless. Based on his personal video, : "I will become a homeless man...for 3 days and 3 nights in July, I will walk the blazing hot summer streets of downtown Tampa, Fl. living as a homeless man...no money, no food or water of my own...just the clothes on my back and a Bible. Although a personal journey for me, I am also doing this to raise awareness about homelessness in my city, what it really is, and how we can all help. I've been developing a heart and passion for the poor, the needy, the underdog since my college days and this is just something I believe I have to experience first hand so that I understand how to better serve, help, and minister to them. In the past, I have partnered with our Tampa chapters of Salvation Army and Metropolitan Ministries and in the last year have participated in mission trips to New Orleans, Nashville, and Dominican Republic in which we helped feed and ministered to hundreds of poor and homeless."