Frankly, we went to the Dominican Republic unprepared for how deeply we would be impressed. Our initial trip highlight was being hosted by a LDP student from Compassion. He acted as a guide for our first day trip to visit our oldest Compassion-sponsored child. LDP stands for Leadership Development Program, which is a thorough leadership program for former sponsored children. It is specifically designed for these kids who grew up in great poverty, but who had the privilege of being sponsored, allowing them to be educated and developed.
Not only does the LDP provide its participants university scholarships, the program equips them through comprehensive training. The vision of the Leadership Development Program is to build Christ-centered leaders and professionals of character, who can transform the nation in every area. Thus, the students major in a variety of disciplines, from engineering to medicine, from law to linguistics. It is incredibly competitive to be accepted as an LDP student. While there are roughly 48,500 sponsored children in the DR, each year only 40 sponsored children/high school graduates are chosen for the LDP program.
The LDP student who hosted us was a 22 year old college junior named Jonathon. Our family fell in love with him. Rarely, or never, have we met a young man with such devotion to Jesus, passion, vision, initiative, and leadership abilities. At his young age, he already has started a number of outreaches in the DR.
First, Jonathon recognized the overwhelming need of the barrio of Santo Domingo where he grew up, one of the roughest and most crime-ridden impoverished neighborhoods. Yes, there are Compassion centers there, but they can’t service the countless number of kids who are being targeted by gangs, tempted by drugs and crime as a hope to end their poverty. Jonathon and friends started a non-profit ministry in which kids of all ages are being given professional music lessons. As a result, they have formed bands that perform in both English and Spanish, even having the chance to come to the U.S.
Back in Jonathon’s barrio, kids now have a safe place to go and purpose for their lives. The ministry, Casa Juvenil Tercer Cielo, provides the instruction and mentoring free of cost and all they ask is for the parents to come to a Bible study. Why? They know that the only way for their country to be healed and transformed is through Jesus. How can they settle for less? Many parents and children have come to Christ and are now in the community’s church.
Just this past week, I contacted Jonathon about our upcoming trip to the DR in May, 2014. While we’re eager to see him personally, we also wondered if he wanted to get acquainted with another ministry we support, International Justice Ministry. IJM is in the process of opening an office in the capital of Santo Domingo, which we’d like to visit. Jonathon already has met the Directors of IJM. Why should I be surprised? Not only that, they asked for his help in the initial feasibility studies of a Santo Domingo IJM office to stop sex trafficking of minors. Yes, Compassion and LDP can help change a country.