Punching & Preaching

by Dan Z.

I was looking forward to getting away from my younger brother. Little did I know he’d be waiting for me in Trinidad.

Our relationship had hit a new low. During a fight over a stupid computer, I punched him in the stomach. When I left for the airport he didn’t even come out to wave goodbye.

Two thousand miles away, the guilt and shame is still a knot in my stomach as I stare down my brother’s defiant-eyed doppelganger, a Trinidadian boy named Darren. Great, I thought…maybe I’ll manage to beat up an orphan on a church mission trip.

My brother and I used to be inseparable. I changed his diaper, rocked him, and let him sleep in my bed. I held his hand whenever we crossed the street, even when he was too old for that sort of thing. It wasn’t until high school that I started worrying that being so close was a negative influence. Whenever he’d cry or act like a brat, I blamed myself.

“Say hello,” I’d remind him constantly. “Make eye contact. Be relaxed!” The more I pushed the more defiant he got. I’d look at him, and see the kid I had messed up.

Now Darren… During activities he wanders in and out. At craft time he flicks beads across the room, or pokes the chubby boy’s belly and calls him names.

Our last day at the orphanage, I’m to read the Bible story. It’s supposed to teach the kids that they don’t always have to solve problems using their own methods, they can put their trust in God. Darren—surprise—isn’t around. I tell the kids how Saint Peter tried to walk on water like Jesus, but the storm made him panic. In a loud booming “Jesus” voice, I read, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” I hear Darren snickering, and finish up: “Jesus stretched out his hand to Peter, and the wind ceased.” When I look up, Darren’s disappeared again.

With that, our last lesson is over and so is our trip. The kids swarm us with hugs and give us the cards they’ve made. Everyone except Darren. There would be no big breakthrough. Not even a goodbye.

We start the 40-minute drive back to our dorm, down the dusty road that runs below the orphanage. As we’re about to turn off, someone looks up and notices the shadowy silhouettes of kids running through the forest. Four boys break through the trees and appear on the ledge above us, grinning and waving with all their hearts. The boy leading them is Darren.

I wave back, and the knot in my stomach relaxes.

I didn’t know it then, but over the next year my brother would make me proud. He’d find his own group of friends, and I’d finally start to let him do his own thing. There on the bus in Trinidad, I couldn’t see the future, but I saw Darren’s arm stretched out toward us, and I trusted that everything would be okay.