Against All Odds

Against All Odds

A Leadership Development Program student learns to trust God as he faces life-threatening obstacles to completing medical school.

By: Cherie Rayburn, Photos by Chuck Bigger and Adones Martinez   |   Posted: January 30, 2012

“You’re crazy!”

That was the response Juan David Dominguez received whenever he told someone his dream of becoming a doctor. Although he excelled academically throughout elementary and secondary school, the odds attending college were monumental.

The youngest of four children, Juan David grew up in San Cristóbal, Dominican Republic. When Juan David was 5, his father, a construction worker, died in a work-related accident. Juan David’s mother, Zunilda, worked sporadically as a housekeeper, often unable to provide regular meals or other basic necessities for her children. 

Zunilda finally found help at the Compassion center run by a local church. She was relieved when they enrolled her youngest son in the program. She had the assurance that even on days when she couldn’t buy groceries, Juan David would still have nutritious food.

At the Compassion center, Juan David also received medical and educational assistance. Through Juan’s education, he began to dream about what he could be. “Since I was a small child, I always had the aspiration to be a doctor,” he says, “but as time passed, I saw the limited resources in my family and I thought that I would never be able to study what I really liked.”

Juan David also had another dangerous obstacle in the way of his dream.

Juan David’s brother, Luís*, was a drug addict. 

Luís stole everything the family owned – including the windows and metal roof of their home – to sell for drugs. Anything he didn’t steal, he destroyed. Juan David couldn’t even keep his clothes or school books at the house. 

And, in drug-induced rages, Luís tried to kill Juan David on several occasions. After one almost-successful attempt on his life, Juan David and his mother moved in with relatives. Even there, they lived in constant anxiety, hardly able to sleep for fear that Luís would show up to harm them.

Juan David’s dream seemed more impossible than ever. Perhaps those people who said “you’re crazy!” were right …

During his final year in high school year, Juan David saw an advertisement at his Compassion center. It said, “Dream Big.” The advertisement, for Compassion’s Leadership Development Program (LDP), announced that applications were being accepted for the program’s next class of students.

Realizing that the Leadership Development Program could help him achieve his dream, Juan David dared to hope that even in the midst of his family’s turmoil, His heavenly Father would bring him a miracle. Juan David wasted no time completing the forms and pulling together the records and letters of recommendation needed to apply.

After a grueling screening process, Juan David was at the Compassion center one afternoon when he learned that he had been accepted into the Leadership Development Program.

“I was so happy,” he says, “I was laughing and crying at the same time.”  The other youth at the center that afternoon were equally excited, cheering, picking him up, and carrying him on their shoulders.

* Name has been changed to protect subjects in the story.

The Measure of Success

Today, Juan David is hard at work at Universidad Autónoma de Santo Domingo. He is specializing in pediatric medicine and looks forward to using his education to help children in his community. Although the situation with his brother has not changed, Juan David is learning how to trust God with his life — and is focused on his success. “Anybody who is willing to seek God first is successful, regardless of anything else,” he says.

As it turns out, those who told Juan David he is crazy were right. He’s crazy about becoming a doctor — and crazy about believing that with his heavenly Father, nothing is impossible.

Read more about Juan David's story >