“I met Dionisio at the Portland Spanish Seventh-day Adventist Church,” says Rita Barrett, Spanish teacher at Portland Adventist Academy. “I was looking for volunteers to help with classroom conversation groups and he was the first to volunteer. He has been my faithful helper ever since.”
That was ten years ago.
Throughout those years, Barrett occasionally heard pieces of his story as he talked with students in small groups. She grew more and more amazed by the adventures that finally led him to the United States and to his embrace of the Seventh-day Adventist faith.
“I began to think I should write it down,” said Barrett. With the encouragement from students who were also excited about Dionisio’s story, she began writing.
Every week she wrote a chapter and brought it to her students until finally, the story was a complete book. She named it Libertad which means “freedom” when translated to English.
Barrett offered the manuscript to Fluency Matters, a major publishing company of books for classroom use by language teachers around the world. Carol Gaab, an editor, author, and professional growth teacher at Fluency Matters, found Dionisio’s story very inspiring!
Fluency Matters accepted the book and several months later it was published, just in time for teachers to order copies for the 2018-2019 school year.
Later, Gaab followed up with Barrett, Dionisio, and PAA students in a video thanking them for the book. “Dinsosio’s story leaves me speechless,” said Gaab. “Dionisio, thank you so much for allowing us to share your story. Thank you for helping us to inspire others to acquire language and to stay the course on their journey through life.” (See the video HERE)
During an all school chapel at PAA, Barrett surprised her students by showing them that the book was finished! She invited Dionisio on stage and presented him with his own copy.
While publication alone is something to celebrate, Barrett’s joy came from knowing that Libertad is shining a light on Dionisio’s incredible journey to Jesus to people who may not fully understand the Christian faith.
In a presentation she made at PAA’s 2019 Alumni Weekend, Barrett called every part of this journey a miracle. She shared the story of Dionisio’s adventures and his eventual acceptance of Jesus. She also talked about the long and laborious process that led to the publishing of Libertad.
“Publishing the book through a well-known publishing house has opened the door to sharing Dionisio’s story with students in both public and private schools,” says Barrett. “It’s even being read in schools where teachers may not have the liberty to share their own religious beliefs!”
But that’s not where the story ends.
Nearly a year after the book Libertad was published, the miracles continue to compound.
During their trip, they visited a church that, in Barrett’s words, ‘stole our hearts’. She felt moved to help the church to rebuild after a hurricane left their building in shambles many years ago. They still need $20,000 to reach the $30,000 required to rebuild.
Connecting her experience with Dionisio’s inspiring escape from Castro’s Cuba, Barrett decided to commit the book’s first-year royalties to the church building fund.
As of July 2019, the book has earned more than $2,000 and counting.
When Dionisio was being imprisoned and abused, he would never have imagined his experiences could have such a positive impact.
Twenty-five years later, his story is being read by hundreds (and counting) of young people around the world, while supporting a little church in Cuba, his home country and where his adventures first began.