Getting what we think we want in life can leave us empty. However, surrendering to God’s plan for our lives opens up opportunities we never imagined. For Maikel Dominguez, God used the lowest point in his life to create one of his most fulfilling moments.
And the Winner is…
Maikel was born in Russia in 1980. At age four, his family moved to Cuba, where he spent most of his childhood. His father, mother, and younger brother did not pursue any religious beliefs due to the communism that surrounded them for most of their life. Maikel, however, did develop a zeal for training and competing in Judo, a form of martial arts. In 2009, he moved to Chile to compete for a national championship. “I wanted the fame and the glory,” he remembers. Just three years later, this is precisely what he achieved.
As a national champion, he thought everything was good in his life. Everyone in the country was proud of him, and people knew his name. Yet, deep inside, he wasn’t fulfilled—he just didn’t know why. At the advice of a friend, he decided to become a businessman and start his own company. With his new fame and glory, he now had the opportunity to travel and meet new people. What he thought would bring him happiness was not producing the contentment he desired. “Nothing was working, and I was empty on the inside,” recalls Maikel.
“Nothing was working, and I was empty on the inside.”
During the same time, his parents moved to the United States. Lost with no direction, Maikel moved to Mississippi to be near his family at their invitation. “There was a church at every corner—I had never seen this before,” recalls Maikel. Still pursuing the pleasures of the world, he got involved in the wrong crowd.
These pursuits landed him in jail in September 2014, where he spent the next 18 months. Over time, Maikel wrestled with the constant question in his mind: What am I doing here? He was one of the only guys who spoke Spanish. A gentleman who knew a little Spanish asked Maikel, “What happened to you?” Maikel replied, “I know why I’m here, but I don’t know the purpose in being here.” The man answered, “Why don’t you ask God that question. Try and see, and you will find God is good.”
Maikel cried out to the Lord, “If you are real, God, show me.” The following Sunday, an older man named Homer, who regularly visited the jail, met Maikel. The two formed a life-changing friendship. “Sometimes, he came just for me and would spend an hour with me,” Maikel fondly remembers. Homer shared the Gospel with Maikel and led him to receive Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior. Maikel asked if Homer could bring him a Bible in Spanish. Homer, a Gideon, knew exactly where he could find one and brought him a bilingual Testament from The Gideons. Maikel fell in love with the Scriptures. He read a verse in Spanish and then the same verse in English. Before he knew it, he had learned the English language.
Soon after, Maikel was released from prison. When he got out, he couldn’t find Homer as he did not have his contact information. Maikel did connect with two other Gideons—Jhon and Erskine. These two men would serve as a mentor for Maikel in the coming days. Jhon learned of Maikel’s testimony and invited him to a monthly meeting with The Gideons. He encouraged Maikel by asking, “Did you know your testimony can help others come to Christ?”
A New Kind of Winning
This conversation and the moving of the Holy Spirit led Maikel to become a Gideon in 2017. The following year, the chaplain at the jail where Maikel served time called him and said, “Maikel, you need to come back to the jail and share your testimony.” The prison was the last place Maikel desired to go. He thought: Anywhere but here, Lord. However, this time the Gospel accompanied Maikel instead of shackles and chains. “I shared the Gospel with the inmates and explained how they could be spiritually free. ‘Read this book (the Bible)’ I told them ‘and accept Jesus Christ as your Savior.’” One evening, after sharing his testimony, 18 inmates surrendered their life to Jesus and were baptized. Maikel now knew why he had gone to prison years prior; He met Jesus there.
“I shared with the inmates the Gospel and how they could be spiritually free. ‘Read this book (the Bible)’ I told them ‘and accept Jesus Christ as your Savior.’”
Homer had faithfully stewarded his time and energy ministering to Maikel. This forever changed the course of Maikel’s life, and he still had a strong desire to see Homer again. In God’s providence, Maikel located Homer at a nursing home, where he was still telling people about the hope of Jesus. Maikel shared all that God was doing in his life and about the 18 inmates coming to know Christ. Homer was thrilled to learn how God was using him.
Homer passed away in 2018, but his faithfulness still inspires Maikel’s journey with Christ today. When asked why Maikel is a Gideon, he replies, “To see the faces of people when they get a Testament and receive Jesus. I was once that face.” He loves participating in Scripture distributions in places like New York City, where he also gets opportunities to share how the Lord changed his life.
Life is much different now than when he became a national champion. He pursues the things of Christ and lives for His glory. The apostle Paul’s words from Philippines 3:12-13 (ESV) ring ever true in his life: “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
It’s only natural for us to desire purpose and meaning in our lives. When we find out the why, that makes all the difference.