Israel grew up in a neighborhood called “No Way Out.” But because of his sponsor’s love, he found a path out of his neighborhood that is filled with gangs and drug dealers.
Israel was born in the community of South Cienfuegos in the Dominican Republic. “It is a dangerous place,” he says. “It’s really hard to survive there.”
Life was even more difficult because his mom was an alcoholic. One memory about his mom remains with Israel to this day. “When I was 11 years old, she was drunk and started breaking everything in the house,” he tearfully recalls. “My mom could have killed my little sister and I that day.”
Because Israel had been enrolled in OneChild’s sponsorship program since he was 8 years old, he knew that God was watching over him. “I fell on my knees and cried, ‘God, help me!’ That moment changed my life because I said, ‘I don’t want to be like this.’”
Israel is thankful that he was part of OneChild’s program so he could learn about God’s love. “I felt like my world was coming down,” he says. “But when I went to the Hope Center, I realized that God had a purpose for me. I said, ‘Yes … that’s the path I want to follow!’ I was a little kid, but I felt something change in my life when I let God enter my heart.”
After Israel gave his life to Jesus, he invited his mom to church. It took four years, but she finally accepted his invitation. “Thank God, my mother became a Christian!” he says.
At his Hope Center, Israel also had Child Champions encouraging him and helping him along the way. “Without the help of the Hope Center, I would be a delinquent youth or in prison. When I went to the program, I realized that I wanted to be different. I didn’t want to go to prison. I didn’t want to sell drugs. Many of my friends from that neighborhood are now in prison or have been killed.”
Not only did he have Child Champions protecting him and encouraging him at his Hope Center, but Israel had a sponsor who loved him and gave him hope for his future.
“My relationship with my sponsor was special,” says Israel. “There isn’t anything in this world that can define how grateful I am. I’m working hard to make him proud. I want him to see that all the praying that he did for me — God listened! Many sponsors don’t know the kids in the Dominican Republic. Even though they don’t know us, they help us. There is only one word that can define that — and that word is love. They are sponsoring because they love and because God is asking them to help accomplish His purposes for these children.”
“Many sponsors don’t know the kids in the Dominican Republic. Even though they don’t know us, they help us. There is only one word that can define that — and that word is love.”
Israel still treasures the letters he received from his sponsor. He recalls his excitement when he first received them as a child: “When I saw the letters, I wanted to jump and celebrate!” he exclaims. “You feel like someone cares about you — that someone is always there for you. The letters made me feel important. That was motivation for me to keep achieving good things because I wanted my sponsor to feel proud of me.”
Israel encourages sponsors to faithfully pray for their children. “My sponsor never stopped praying for me,” he says. “Now I’m doing things correctly. It’s not because I did this, but because my sponsor prayed for me. Never stop praying for your sponsored child, and you will see how many special things God can do!”
Today, Israel is 20 years old and is studying languages in college. He will graduate next year and then plans to study law to honor his mom. “She always wanted to be a lawyer but never had help to go to college,” he explains. “Now, thanks to the Hope Center, I have that opportunity.”
Israel also thinks it’s important to show children in his community that if he can succeed in life, they can too. “When I go back to my old neighborhood, I feel truly proud. Not because of me, but because of what God has done in my life. I want to be an example for these children. If you give God the opportunity to change your life and heart, you can achieve things that you cannot even imagine.
“Even though I grew up in a neighborhood called ‘No Way Out’ — I made it out. The place where you’re coming from will never define you. I am a living example that if you let God take control, your dreams can come true!”