César Antonio Beltran is the first graduate of the Dominican Republic’s leadership development program, graduating summa cum laude with a degree in computer engineering in February 2008.
He has now traveled to the United States to pursue a master’s degree in Arts in Spiritual Formation and Discipleship at the Moody Bible Institute (MBI). Out of 47 students participating worldwide, César and two other LDP graduates received the Wess Stafford-Moody Scholarship last June.
While in Compassion’s child sponsorship program, César searched for his spiritual gifts by participating in almost all church ministries, and he realized that his field is working with the youth and adolescents. “With this in mind, MBI is going to prepare me specifically for this type of church work,” César says.
César’s parents see this learning opportunity as a result of his love for the Scriptures. “Since Tony (nickname for César) was small, he wrote Bible verses on a piece of cardboard and put it up on the wall,” recalls his father. “And many times, he met with his brother and his sister in his bedroom and they made contests of quick Bible search, text memorization, text analysis and things like that.”
Also, his mother, Ana Mercedes, explains:
“Tony took some very good Bible courses with a missionary who taught himwhat a Christian youth should be like and encouraged him and other youth by having them transcribe Bible books with their own handwriting. He gave them new Bibles for a prize.”
Small Tony helps with the family income
When Tony was eight, his family went through a difficult financial time. To help alleviate the situation, his mother started to work as a part-time school teacher, and she made iced drinks and arepa (a typical Dominican corn pie), which she sold at school.
When Tony was not in class, he helped his mother with the sales. He stacked the arepa pieces on a tray and filled the frozen drinks in a thermos and waited for the school break to sell the snacks to the students. “We lived in a very precarious condition,” remembers Tony, as he explains the context of his entrance to Compassion. “My father was the pastor of a small church, and because of the financial situation of the members they couldn’t offer us enough support.”
It was a sad thing for Tony to sell snacks to other students and not be able to have the snacks of his preference. In the face of this scenario, he asked his father to make him a wooden shoe-shine box so he could make extra income for his needs.
Ana Mercedes narrates:
“His father made him his shoe-shine box, and he began to get up quite early to shine shoes at the homes of the school teachers and other homes so he could buy what he wanted with his earnings.”
Tony and his interest in computers
Tony remembers that it was Compassion that set up the first computer lab in his community of Luperón. “To the surprise of all, it was the poor population that was developing in the area of technology,” he says.
It was at the age of ten when he began to discover his passion for computers. Ana Mercedes remembers how the engineer in charge of the lab chose him to be his assistant.
“Because the engineer lived in the town of Santiago, he couldn’t travel to Luperón every time there was a problem with one of the computers. Tony called him on the phone, and the engineer gave him directions to do the repair; this helped Tony a lot.”
Tony’s father laughs and says, “You know that passions bring their consequences. Several hard discs were damaged and the ink packages filled into the wrong cartridges. But we realized that it was a good hobby.”
As a result of his dedication to technology, Tony neglected some of his key school subjects, for which his mother admonished him. Getting an 88 mark where he expected to have a 93 caused a lot of tears, and he was determined to make changes to come to be in good shape again.
Moving to the East
In 1997, Tony’s family went through some hardship and moved from the northern coast in Puerto Plata to the eastern city of La Romana. Within a short time, Tony’s father began to work as an assistant pastor at the Bíblica Cristiana Church, for which he received ministry support. Ana Mercedes started the business of selling clothes in different communities on weekends.
At the age of 13, Tony started high school. He was transferred to a different child development center, where the director got Tony’s cooperation as a computer tutor for the youth and adolescents in the program. The english courses that Tony had taken at his first Compassion center in Luperón were an asset to him in this.
Grown-up Tony helping with the family income
Upon nearing the end of high school, Tony saw how tough his family’s situation was with his father without a job. Tony’s extracurricular technical degree in refrigeration allowed him to get a job as a refrigeration department assistant at the Central Romana Sugar Cane Industry, where he gained his supervisor’s confidence and friendship. But one year later, Tony quit this job so he could have enough time to study.
Tony’s involvement in his local church
Tony’s sustained leadership training in LDP helped him be better prepared for ministering to the youth of Compassion’s church partner at La Romana. The church pastor gave him room to lead small Bible study youth groups in which he preached the Word. “He bought books to do research in order to fight against sexual immorality among the youth,” Ana Mercedes says.
Moreover, the pastor brought computer equipment into the church, and Tony was appointed manager. Tony trained several young people from the church in the use of these computer devices, and after his recent trip to Chicago, these youth have remained in charge.
Tony in the Leadership Development Program
Entering Compassion’s leadership development program (LDP) wasn’t in Tony’s plans because the program had not been launched yet. So, after he finished high school in 2003, Tony began to study computer engineering at Central Eastern University through the support of a North American missionary family that came to the country to build churches. They offered to help him with the costs of his university education.
Just when he was starting his second semester, he heard about the opening of LDP and the chances he had of being chosen. However, he didn’t want to apply because he feared he could be taking the opportunity away from somebody else who had no support at all. Finally, after the urging from his center director, he filled out the applicationand was admitted to LDP in November 2004.
“I felt a bit guilty for two months, but later I learned that it was a plan from God because right after I entered LDP, I lost contact with those people who were helping me.”
Even today, Tony keeps a grateful heart to the Lord because God saw beyond his understanding.
One of the most amazing blessings to Tony was to learn that his Compassion sponsors decided to continue to sponsor him through LDP.
“All my family was filled with joy. I can’t forget my mother’s countenance — full of gratitude. My sponsors made me part of their family. I know that they were selected by the Lord to sponsor me, and listen, God does know how to do things right!
In his letters, Tony kept his sponsors updated on what was happening in his life and around him, and they shared with him their family news.
“My sponsors have been an inspiration to me. They encouraged me when I needed it most, and they served as mentors. I told them about the small things that I was doing, the girls that caught my attention, the ministries I was involved in, how I was doing in my preaching, the impact the LDP activities made in me, and so on.”
Today, Tony can reflect and understand that it is God who has led him through.
To paraphrase the mindset of the prophet Daniel in the Old Testament, Tony describes how he managed to graduate with honors:
“But Tony laid on his heart that he would not defile himself with the king’s food . . . I decided to be faithful to God in my career by not cheating on my exams or submitting someone else’s research as if it was mine. It was difficult to swim against the current and not do what most students do, but the satisfaction of having done good is greater than the sacrifices made.”