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From Extreme Poverty to Compassion National Director

No running water at home. Days without food to eat. This was Tony Beltran’s reality when he was growing up.

Tony Beltran, DR National Director

No running water at home. Days without food to eat. This was Tony Beltran’s reality when he was growing up.

As Tony walks the dusty streets, he recalls his childhood. Tony explains he was an ordinary child who loved basketball. He didn't think twice that his basketball was imaginary because his family could not afford to buy him one.

“I would be walking around and doing things with a basketball that was not there. We didn’t have enough money to buy toys,” Tony explains.

"The first time I realised I was living in poverty was when I walked into my house, and my mother was praying. She was telling the Lord, "We have nothing to eat. We have nothing but you." That was the day I realised that I was poor.”

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The impact of poverty

Tony’s first reaction as a young boy was guilt. He blamed himself, thinking they were living in poverty because of him. Maybe it was his fault they never had enough food to eat, Tony thought. Perhaps he was asking too much from his parents.

Tony Beltran, walking

"I felt hopeless," Tony confesses. "That day, I asked my dad if I could help. So, we built a shoe-shining box together. I used to go walking around the streets, asking people if I could shine their shoes for money. I also started selling cornbread while all the kids were playing games at school."

Tony was seven years old. He did whatever he could to earn money and help his family. He didn't want to be a burden.

As he was growing up Tony remembers thinking whether God really did love him.

“On several occasions I asked myself … Does God care about me? Because poverty was teaching me that God didn't care, that I wasn't important, that I was not valuable. And it was in the middle of that, that God used Compassion to show me his love and his care for me,” Tony recalls.

God brings Compassion and opportunity

Things began to change when God brought Compassion and his local church into Tony's life. He was found a sponsor and began to attend the project in his community.

"At the project things were different. We would play games, and there would be time for curriculum activities and lessons. People cared about me and showed me God's love," Tony recalls.

“I was loved because I felt that love. Every time I went to the centre, they were happy to see me. They were happy to spend time with me and to encourage me… sometimes people don't want to be around the poor because we ask for things.

“At the project, that was not the case… They wanted to spend time with me… I felt that I was welcome at the centre. I felt that every time I visited there, they wanted me to be there.”

Photographs of Tony as a child

Through Compassion God brought an opportunity Tony was not going to let pass. The project provided him with an education. Sponsorship funds paid for his schooling, and there were activities and books at the project to help Tony with his homework.

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Encouragement from sponsors

The encouragement he received from his sponsor spurred him on.

"My sponsors wrote to me and told me, "Tony, we are so proud of you. It's amazing that you are young and you're already teaching others how to use a computer." Those words of motivation meant so much," Tony explains.

"I was encouraged that I could use the opportunities the Lord was bringing to me!”

Tony's treasured letters

Tony has overcome many challenges and achieved much since those early days at school. But he places his faith in Christ at the centre of his identity.

“Today, I have a degree in systems engineering. I develop software, mainly windows applications. I have a master's in arts of spiritual formation and discipleship. I serve as a national director for Compassion International in the Dominican Republic and above all I'm a Christian.”

For such a time as this

“I think my story tells people that God is using Compassion to make a difference in the world,” Tony says.

“I think my story speaks about God's goodness through Compassion and about how God is still connecting people who are in one place with people who are in other places in order to bring glory to his name.”

Tony Beltran, DR National Director with young people

As COVID-19 spreads through Latin America, Tony is working harder than ever to ensure Compassion sponsored children are safe and well in the Dominican Republic.

“Sadly, the number of confirmed cases continues to increase,” Tony explains.

“Our national office is closed. So, all of us, including me, are working from home. The country continues to be in a partial lockdown, which make things especially difficult for those living in poverty.”

The strict restrictions have created a massive burden for the families of children Compassion supports as most parents get their income through informal interactions of people in their community.

“This week, the government is allowing some companies to restart their operations for a certain number of hours during the day. We need you to pray that the reopening of our economy does not result in an unmanageable number of positive COVID-19 cases,” says Tony.

“We know about the risk of getting affected by this disease. However, we also understand that Dominicans are struggling to purchase their basic needs.”

God’s name is lifted up

For Tony, this uncertain and difficult time presents an opportunity to show God’s love and care for the children and their families the projects support.

“Last week, we hosted online meetings with the leadership of all of the projects of our nation. We took some time to pray together, and I was amazed by the hope of these people,” recalls Tony.

They spent quite a few hours praising God for those who have supported their work. Through their faithful giving, they were enabling the church to provide vital support to children and their families in their care.

“I remember that there was a family of four led by a single mother. They had finished their last portion of rice and there was no food for her or her children. The mother was desperate, hopeless, and crying because of the uncertainty. But it was right there that the project staff came with some food for the week. The mother continued to cry, but that was a cry of gratitude because of God heeding her needs in showing his love for her and her family.”

Tony Beltran, walking with youth

You can bring hope into the life of a child.

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Tony’s plea

Tony is thankful for the generous and faithful giving of sponsors around the world.
“When the sponsors invest through a child sponsorship, they invest in the life of other people,” he says.

“They are changing one life, one family, one community. They are actually changing the world through commitment and investment on creating opportunities for people.”

Sponsors may feel powerless during this time of global uncertainty, but to Tony they are providing a lifeline for the poorest of the poor.

Tony Beltran, DR National Director with photo of himself as a child

“God is moving powerfully,” says Tony. “As a sponsor, you are being the hands and feet of our Lord Jesus Christ in different communities and I thank you for your partnership in this ministry.

“Thank you for empowering the churches to do what they always wanted to do, but could not do because of the lack of resources.”

WORDS : Agnes Wilson, Tony Beltran

PHOTOS : Compassion International



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