There is no question that the early years of our lives shape us. But they do not define us. Oscar’s life is a testimony to that. Born in the Dominican Republic to an alcoholic mother, Oscar was taken in by his grandparents when he was just a year old. His grandparents worked long hours to support their children and grandchildren, and Oscar was left alone most days with his uncles. 

“Under my uncles’ care, serious things happened to me,” Oscar says. “I fell out of the bed many times, suffering head injuries. I was regularly bitten by ants all over, and as my uncles did not feed me, I spent long hours of intense hunger.” 

When Oscar was six, he started working after school, helping his grandmother do the laundry at a local motel. As a little boy, he lugged heavy buckets of water and large baskets of wet bed sheets through the streets. He heard the whispers of the neighbours mocking him for being abandoned by his parents. 

These events shaped Oscar’s early life. “The insecurity, hunger and the absence of my parents, started making a huge noise in my head,” he says. “The journey to the wrong path started, and I had no idea how bad it was going to get.” 

 

body2.jpgOscar with friends in Dominican Republic.


At school, Oscar insulted and hit teachers, and was always in fights with the school principal and security guard. He also bullied the other children at the Compassion centre. “I hated to see them happy and talking about their parents,” says Oscar. 

Despite Oscar’s destructive behaviour, the Compassion centre staff persisted in showing him kindness and love. Whenever a tutor sent Oscar to see Peniel, the centre director, after his angry outbursts, the director always patiently talked with him, encouraging him to adopt Godly behaviour. 

In his classes, tutors modelled positive values and, most importantly, showed him the love of God. Although Oscar felt empowered by their encouragement that he was a child of God and a natural leader, when he went home, he was intensely lonely. 

“Neighbours used to tell me that I was going to end up as a drug addict and a thief. They threw stones and yelled at me,” says Oscar. 

It wasn’t long until Oscar believed those lies. He and a group of friends formed a gang and began stealing. Oscar says it was all a joke until the day a farm owner caught him stealing and shot at him. 

“While I was running away, I saw my entire life flash across my mind. I was so scared. I was only 16 years old,” says Oscar. 

Shortly after the frightening incident, Oscar's mentors at the Compassion centre invited him to a church youth service. He decided to go, bringing along the members of his gang. That night, Oscar says he decided to become a new person. 

 

body1.jpgOscar's life changed after attending a youth service at the Compassion centre. 


“Compassion was the mediator between an evil world and having Jesus in my life,” says Oscar. “Compassion guided me and took me from the bad things I was doing to the man I have become. All the good things I now know, the passion to serve the Lord and the love I have for people, I learned here at the centre. If I had not been part of Compassion, my life would still be surrounded by chaos, and I might even be dead by now.” 
 
Oscar went on to finish high school and is studying for a degree in language and literature at the local university. He tutors three classes at the Compassion centre he grew up in. At his church, Oscar is vice president of the theatre ministry and president of the youth ministry. He is also the coordinator of the regional youth ministry of his church council and is  frequently invited to preach in churches across the region. 

“I see myself as a great teacher in the future,” says Oscar with new-found confidence. “I will be a great leader. I see myself preaching to the nations.” 

What he missed at home, Oscar found at his Compassion centre, and now God is using him to reach others. Oscar especially credits Peniel, his centre director, for his transformation. 

“Peniel hugged me, advised me, told me he loved me and even gave me shoes when I didn’t have any. He never rejected me. He is my role model,” says Oscar. “Now, instead of going out to steal with them, I influence other youths to go to church with me. In the bad things, I was their leader, and now that I am a changed man, I am still their leader, but for good, for guiding them to Jesus.” 

 


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