Bernito is the first student to complete his time in the University and Career Readiness Program at Makarios. Through this program, students receive scholarships to further their education post-high school. Students can choose various paths to prepare for their future careers such as enrolling in college or a technical training program as well as participating in Ministry Training. Bernito was the first Makarios student to attend a Biblical Institute and pursue a route of full-time ministry. We hope you'll take a moment to read Bernito's testimony and learn about the hopes he has for his community and his future. Join us in celebrating how God transforms lives and opens new doors in His perfect timing.
Tell us a little bit about your family and the community where you grew up.
I grew up in a community called Chichigua. It is a batey with very few resources. My parents came to the Dominican Republic from Haiti when they were young. I have three younger and three older siblings. My parents have always worked very hard to take care of us to advance forward.
Who has influenced you to help you become the person you are today?
Growing up, My dad always talked to me about the importance of respecting other people. This principle has helped me a lot over the years. In Makarios, there have been lots of people who have influenced me. Many of my teachers, discipleship leaders, and mentors have impacted me greatly. They taught me, corrected me, and guided me so I could be a Godly person and prepare me to contribute to society.
What was it like being a part of Makarios throughout your childhood and adolescence?
I started attending Makarios when I was 3 years old. It has been a big blessing. They were always teaching in a way to help you learn the word of God- through games, activities, and lessons. They always talked to us about the love of Christ. I also learned how to speak Spanish at school since we spoke Haitian Creole at home.
Can you share your story about how you came to be a follower of Jesus?
Growing up in Makarios, I heard about the word of God all the time. Like any rebellious youth, I would say that it didn't matter to me at the time. Even though I knew about God, I hadn't decided to give my life to Him yet. I would give excuses like now is not the time, or I'm not ready. My mentors and teachers continued to encourage me and have hope for me. Even when they asked me "What are you waiting for?" I didn't quite know the answer myself.
While I was in high school, I witnessed a friend's life change drastically over a short period of time. I started to ask him about what happened. He shared that he had accepted Christ as his savior and everything changed for him. He shared that God can change lives. At that time, I was struggling with what I was going to do about my future and identified with the sentiment that I needed God to change my life. I was focused on the desire for God to fix my problems. Not long after that, my friend who also lived in Chichigua, Estiven, shared with me that he had a dream that Jesus was asking him to follow him. Since witnessing the change in my other friend, I had been thinking about taking the leap of faith a lot and so together, Estiven and I decided that we would accept Christ together the next Sunday at Church.
At that point, I didn't really fully understand my own sin or the love of God. I also soon realized that my problems didn't just disappear. That year, I graduated from high school and got accepted into the University and Career Readiness Program. I started the process of gathering my official documents in order to enroll in University but even with the assistance of many, the path forward was slow and unclear. The staff continued to encourage me through the process even when it seemed impossible. I remember a card they wrote that said "God closes doors to open other doors." Having a relationship with God helped give me peace even as my other peers began to move forward with University classes and I was stuck in a time of waiting.
During that time I went to a young life camp and they talked about the love of God and how he sent Christ to pay for our sins. In that moment, I realized that I hadn't really understood the depth of my own sin nor had I truly asked God for forgiveness. It had a profound effect on me. I started to participate more in local young life meetings and help out with the camps. I realized that what God did in my life, He could do in the life of other young people. I wanted to be a part of that.
I can have peace and know that the love of God is incomparable. It doesn't matter the circumstances, God's love still reaches us. I knew that despite not knowing what was ahead, God had a plan for me. I started to pray and ask God "What do you want for my life?"
Libny, (the UCRP Coordinator), had given me a brochure about a program called Palabra de Vida (Word of Life). I learned more about the program and was immediately interested. It is a 1-2 year program of studying the bible, growing in relationship with God, and being equipped for ministry. Fortunately, I had all that was required in order to enter this program. While the door to the University was still shut, this other door became open for me. I was excited and hopeful. I applied, was accepted, and began the program last fall. Not everyone saw this opportunity as a positive thing. Some people, including family members, might see this program as a loss of time because I could be out working a job and earning money instead. For me, I don't see it like that at all. It is an opportunity to grow spiritually and learn how to work with others and that is worth so much.
What has been the most impactful thing you have learned in the program?
My relationship with God is the most important thing. They taught us about having spiritual disciplines and habits to spend time with God each day. This has changed my life a lot. Sometimes there are other activities and there isn't a lot of time, but it is important to make time to be with the Lord. Our relationship with God is the most important. If that relationship is good, everything else will be okay.
What do you dream about doing in the future?
I am praying about this. I am going to start my second year in the program and I'm praying for God to open doors. I believe I am being called to be a missionary. There are so many times that I have the opportunity to translate and I am reminded that I can use my languages to be a blessing to others.
What is your hope for your family and your community?
What I desire is for everyone in my family to know Jesus and follow Him. I want my whole community to know Christ. I want people to realize that material things are not the most important thing. First, seek the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God gives you peace and certainty that everything will be alright. It doesn't mean we won't face frustrations and hardship. I definitely have been frustrated throughout this journey but God has sustained me and given me what I needed to face each day. Problems will still exist but God is trustworthy and is with us in the struggle.
What else would you like to share?
Sincerely, nothing compares with the love of God. Young people think there is always more time but we see young people lose their lives in the news all the time. There isn't time. In James 4:14, it says "Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes." Today is the day for salvation. God has given us this gift. He has given us a second chance. If you don't accept this gift, you are rejecting salvation. There is no day like today. Let today be the day for salvation.
We praise God for how He is working in and through Bernito and are so thankful for the village of people who have been investing in him over the years. A few staff members had the privilege of attending his graduation which also marked his completion of his time in UCRP. While his time in Makarios has come to an end, God continues to provide for Bernito. Bernito decided to continue in the same ministry equipping program (Vida de Palabra) for an additional year and received scholarships to be able to continue on. We are excited to see where God leads Bernito!
Here are some of our other stories of change.
We long to see spiritual restoration take place in vulnerable communities.