HE WAS BORN September 9, 1997, to a single mom, Francia, in the Dominican Republic. Alexis Enmanuel Buret Marte could have been just one of those countless children, lost within the generational poverty surrounding his birth. Except for God. Although not a believer herself, at the grandmother’s urging, Francia took her infant to church and dedicated him to God. Much later, Francia began to attend the Iglesia Bautista Quisqueyana (IBQ) church where she accepted Christ when Alexis was five years old. Alexis and Francia continued faithfully attending church. Although Alexis believed the truths taught, he was as a young teen before he made his personal decision to accept Christ and follow Him.
Every day throughout the world many thousands of children are born to single moms, usually destined for poverty and hopelessness. What makes the difference between their fate and a child who conquers impossible odds to become a college graduate, employed, and a fine example of a Christian young man? Undoubtedly there are many factors. Nevertheless, there are two significant determinants—the sovereignty of God and personal choice. Together they compose a mystery that our human mind can never completely understand. Yet at times we can see both of these factors juxtaposed in the life of a specific person.
Long before Alexis’ decision to follow Christ, God orchestrated events that would greatly impact Alexis’ life. In 2007, STCH Ministries was led to begin international ministry. God brought them to the Dominican Republic. As they began to focus on the needs of children and families, they were made aware of the limited opportunities for children born into poverty. Tuition in a public school was free, but every child had to have a uniform which included black shoes and white socks. In addition, they had to provide their own transportation, schools supplies and books. For many families whose most desperate need was food, education was not a priority. Sadly, without an education, there could be no hope.
These factors combined with the mission of STCH Ministries to honor God, help hurting children and families led to the creation of the Samuel’s Fund Sponsorship program. The goal was to provide resources for children from the age of 4 through high school to receive an education and to develop spiritually, mentally and socially. Sponsors contribute a monthly donation of $35.00, which goes directly to the child’s benefit, primarily education but also medical care. STCH Ministries does not deduct any percentage for administrative or operational costs of Dominican or American staff.
Robin Greene had come on several mission trips. In 2012, God moved her heart to sponsor a child through the Samuel’s Fund sponsorship ministry.
“We were matched with Alexis…didn’t choose him, but boy were we blessed!” she wrote recently. “I had met him before and was really impressed by his sincerity, hard work attitude, and willingness to do whatever was asked of him, and his joy in life.”
Sponsored by the Greenes, Alexis began to receive funding for his high school education. He grew a desire to learn English and work with the “Americanos” that he saw occasionally in the IBQ church. Gathering his courage, he approached Russell Jerez, Construction Projects Director in the Dominican Republic and asked, “Could I help you with the construction?”
“Do you know how to use tools? Have you ever held a drill?”, Russell responded.
“No, but I am willing to learn,” Alexis assured him. He began helping, and Russell saw that he was a quick learner, got along well with others, and never complained about hard work and days which stretched long.
Since Alexis came from a single parent home, he assumed the role of man of the house, while still growing up himself. He found a father figure in Russell. Russell shared his own faith while he also demanded hard work, staying busy, communicating appropriately in English with the mission team members. Under his influence, Alexis continued to develop a heart for God and learned great work habits. Russell reported, “Gradually our relationship changed from father-figure to a genuine friendship.”
Robin had several opportunities to spend time with Alexis and his mother on subsequent mission trips, “In conversations with Francia, we had multiple discussions on her hopes and dreams as well as her concerns for Alexis’ future. Her thoughts helped me to keep Alexis and his needs directing my prayer life without inserting my own thoughts and cultural biases.” God continued to order Alexis’ steps.
Samuel’s Fund sponsorship ends with high school graduation. Francia recalls Alexis sharing that he wanted to pursue a university education. She was willing to help him, but told him sadly, “We don’t have the resources for you to go. But we can pray and ask God for that.” It was just then that God led STCH Ministries to develop the Christian Leadership Educational Program (CLEP), to help young people continue their education. The life of the Old Testament prophet, Samuel, originally inspired our sponsorship ministry to children. Samuel was dedicated first to God, then trained and educated, and he eventually became a leader for God. Samuel’s life would continue to be the model for the new CLEP program.
The staff began to identify young people who had matured in their faith, applied themselves in their studies, and shown commitment and leadership in their church, or other Christian ministries. Recently graduated from high school, Alexis became one of the first students to qualify for this sponsorship. Robin and Eddie Greene continued their investment in Alexis’ life through the CLEP program. This was a considerable commitment, as university costs are significantly higher than a Samuels Fund sponsorship, involving tuition, books, transportation and more.
Although the Dominican Republic offers more affordable education through the state-run university, obstacles like overcrowding and limited choice of classes, plus the necessity of working to pay expenses, can require up to ten years to graduate. Because of his sponsorship, Alexis was able to attend one of the excellent private universities in the Dominican Republic. With hard work, he could graduate in four years. Alexis chose a business major with an emphasis in tourism and hotel management. He diligently applied himself to his studies while continuing his involvement with mission teams in the summer. Alexis excelled in school and in three and a half years finished his course work. He then began a semester of internship at a hotel in Punta Cana.
Alexis was given a low-level responsibility—inputting data into a computer, and occasionally answering the phone when the front desk was too busy. It wasn’t long before his co-workers looked at him in amazement. “Where did you learn English? What are you doing in this position with that skill?” In a few weeks Alexis was promoted, and before the internship was completed, he was offered a permanent job as Director of Environmental and Social Services.
The tourism environment is one fraught with temptations for a young man. Alexis has maintained a close relationship with Pastor Rudy, pastor of IBQ, who frequently counsels him with thoughts from Proverbs 3. “Do not forget my teaching…So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, and God will direct your steps.” Russell along with the Greenes continued to encourage Alexis also. Alexis has maintained his Christian walk and testimony, and God has been faithful to bless him. During days off he always found his way back to the IBQ church. His responsibility to care for his mother, as well as the joy he feels to be able to help with her support, remain strong motivators.
Alexis is quick to acknowledge the benefits that STCH Ministries International has provided for his life. The university sponsorship provided by the Greenes through the CLEP program opened the door of possibilities for his future. He reports that many special relationships contributed to his life: the mission teams with whom he frequently served, his church, his mother, Francia, the Greenes, Pastor Rudy and Russell Jerez, and the DR staff all helped him along the way. Through them, he received encouragement to grow in his faith and his Christian walk, along with learning to be an example to others in spite of his youth. His opportunity to learn and practice English became a critical component of his success at his job. Other qualities that propelled his success at work, which he learned from Russell, were excellent work habits, like taking initiative when a job needed to be done, working hard and staying busy, as well as getting along with others.
In a country where many are born into generational poverty and little opportunity, the immediate is so urgent that many never learn to think beyond today. Alexis readily shares that he has a 10-year plan. He wants to marry and have children and raise a Christian family as he has seen Russell and others at IBQ model. Although he recognizes he has much to learn about the hotel management and tourism business, his long term-goal is to own and manage his own business supplying resources to hotels and resorts. For the next few years, however, he will focus on learning every aspect of managing a resort.
God’s sovereignty and the free will of man, seems to be a mystery, even an oxymoron. In Alexis life it is not difficult to see God’s hand. It is also obvious to recognize the part that Alexis’ choices contributed to the success he has experienced. A child dedicated to God by a mother who didn’t yet know Him herself, and the young man who made his own decision to accept and follow Christ. The mission teams God brought to the Dominican Republic and Alexis’ personal desire and courage to seek that opportunity. Samuel’s Fund and the CLEP program established through God’s leading, and at just the right time the Greenes chose to sponsor Alexis. Alexis’ faithfulness in his studies and God’s leading to the right major, the right job, in the right place for him.
On January 25, 2019 Alexis Enmanuel Marte Buret graduated with his university degree. Francia is understandably proud of her son. Robin and Eddie Greene also flew from Houston to celebrate this occasion with Alexis and Francia.