“A day my mother didn’t find a laundry job was a day when we didn’t eat. There were nights when we just got a glass of water. My father could not stand the situation, and so he used to abandon the house and seek refuge in alcohol,” said Abraham.
Abraham is the seventh of nine siblings who used to live with their mother and a cousin as well. Life was not easy for Abraham’s mother, who worked very hard as a laundress to sustain her family. The family’s precarious situation was so difficult that Abraham’s father couldn’t stand seeing that the only food the whole family had to eat was four green bananas and two or three eggs, or one plate of food that the neighbors compassionately gave them. The house where Abraham and his family lived was made of wood with a zink roof and dust floor in the Los Mina community of Santo Domingo. As the wood was rotten, the house was falling apart. Next to the house was a wooden light pole that was rotten as well; it represented a threat to the family. “We used to sleep two or three in one bed,” said Abraham. “My sister who was the oldest used to sew clothes with the remnants that were left of the repairs she made to the neighbors’ clothes. That is why we had clothes.” Abraham and his brothers used to work selling arepas (a cross between a tortilla and a pancake), candies, and peanuts. They also cleaned shoes to help their family.
However, financial insecurity was not the family’s most dangerous challenge. In the Los Mina community, it was the gangs. “Everyone’s entertainment in the community was watching the gangs fight,” commented Abraham. “As children, our greatest aspiration was to be a gang leader. Mom’s prayers took us away from these gangs, but despite not being part of them, they still affected us because sometimes we were injured by stones when they fought.” The precariousness was real for the family, and as they grew it brought frustration and bitterness to their lives and brought tears to their eyes.
“My brothers and I sat and talked and wondered why we had to live like this. We wondered why each day we could eat had to be a miracle,” said Abraham.
Abraham and Pedro started to attend Salomon School. Abraham was around 13 years old, and Pedro was around 9 years old. For both of them, it was the first time they attended a school. The principle of the school knew Abraham’s family’s condition and opened two spots: one for Abraham and one for Pedro. They were each assigned a half scholarship. In the middle of the school year, the church that was part of the Salomon school started a program that would impact and change the life of Abraham and his family forever: Trina Moya De Vazquez Biblical Temple. It started a partnership with Compassion. “When the partnership with the church began, the teacher asked us who would like to be part of that program. My brother and I raised our hands, but only Pedro was chosen because I was too old already,” said Abraham.
“When they told me I could not enter the program, I remembered that I told the school principal, ‘Do not worry. One day I will be part of Compassion!’ I was so longing for this opportunity that I felt I had to do everything I could to be part of it. Maybe the director did not listen to me that day, but God did listen to me and took it very seriously.”
Abraham went on to say, “[I] felt two kinds of emotions when I heard the news: I was happy that my brother got registered, because he immediately got a full scholarship that meant fewer worries for my mother. At the same time I felt sad, because I really wanted to be part of that program, because they told us all the benefits and that we would receive letters.” After Abraham finished the school year, his mother registered him in a public school. Abraham had to walk for 45 minutes to get there, but to Abraham, it was worth walking 45 minutes. The Ramos Disla siblings focused their hope on Pedro, that he could live and grow differently from the rest of them. They knew that Pedro had opportunities that none of them had. Everyone dreamed of what Pedro could achieve with the support of the DR0349 center. Far from causing feelings of envy and resentment, it united the family much more around Pedro’s cause. “When Pedro entered the center,” Abraham said, “we set a common goal: Pedro is not going to be like us. He brought hope, new teachings and helped us in the spiritual area. We saw him as a professional. Our grandparents’ delight was to hear Pedro recite the Bible books in order, which he learned at the center.”
With tears in his eyes, Pedro said about the help he received at the project, “In December they took us to buy clothes and shoes with some bonuses that they gave us. They also took us to the dentist and gave us food. There I learned calligraphy, painting and also artistic drawing. However, I will never forget the letters sent to me by my sponsors; they always told me they were praying for me. They do not know, they could not imagine how God used them to bless me, and through me, many more lives.”
Abraham and his brothers started to work even harder to help the family. They didn’t allow Pedro to work so that he could keep his focus on his studies and the center. The center was a relief for the family, because Pedro received medical help, participated in walks and attended camps. The family also received food, which lessened the pressure on Abraham and his brothers to find resources to support the family – especially as the years passed, when the parents of the brothers were presented with health difficulties.
Abraham said, “The death of my father was very difficult. Pedro was about to graduate from the center, and we did not have the resources to buy the coffin and pay for the funeral. The church where Pedro was sponsored took care of all the details. That was a big relief for us, because if a poor person does not have money to live well, they don’t have the money to die well either. It was a very difficult time, but the support of the church was very important for our family.” Pedro completed the program successfully and never lost his focus. He studied two careers at college: Electronic Engineering and Education in Mathematical Sciences. He later married Griselda, with whom he had two children: Milka and Pedro David. Nowadays Pedro is pastoring and serving at a church were Abraham is a member.
Pedro said, “At Compassion, I learned to sponsor. As a church, we used to send contributions to another church in Haiti, in honor of what I learned there. I learned to give.” Abraham got married to Niove Serrano and had three children: Abraham Isaac, Ana Maria, and David Rafael. He used to work as a public transportation driver, but it wasn’t secure for him. After his last son was born, he started to pray for a different job to give him a better life and allow him to dedicate more time to his family. Abraham explained, “In the midst of the lack of resources and desperation, one day, while I was buying diapers and milk for my youngest child, I saw a friend of mine, David, who is a former Sponsorship and Donor Services Manager. He pointed at me and told me, ‘I need you in Compassion.’” Abraham continued, “At that moment I recalled what I told to the project director when I was a child, and my answer was, ‘When do you want me there?’” Abraham has been serving at the National Office of Compassion in the Dominican Republic for 12 years. He is now a Partnership Manager. The impact of Compassion’s partnership with Trina Moya De Vazquez Biblical Temple cannot only be seen in Pedro, but also in Abraham, despite the fact that he was not sponsored. The support of the program and the church made a difference in a family of twelve members, most of who are now pastors.
Abraham concluded, “Seeing our beneficiaries, who like my brother, begin to be different when they start the center; seeing the children being released from poverty and being part of what God is doing through Compassion; and seeing that there are more children who have the opportunity to not live as my brother Pedro and I lived – that is my greatest satisfaction and motivation to continue giving the best of me in this ministry.”