“What you name?” asked a little boy with piercing eyes.
“My name is Jay,” the visitor replied with a grin.
“Nope, nobody named a letter. I call you Fat Joe.” The boy clapped his hands and walked away chanting the new name.
Jay had been excited about a mission’s trip to Trinidad, but he was not prepared for what he found. A house, barely more than 2,000 square feet was home to more than 50 orphans.
Jay worked lots of weekends to make sure he could be gone for this trip. Jay was a large man; tall and well fed. He wasn’t sure that he liked being called “Fat Joe”.
“Hey, Fat Joe, what you do here?” another boy asked.
He realized he needed to get used to the fact that his new nickname was going to stick, “I’m not sure, whatever they need me to do I guess.”
“We got bugs,” one boy said as he held out a large cockroach for Jay to see up close.
“Yes, I noticed,” Jay replied.
“Da girls, dey is cleaning dem up, yes?”
“That’s right,” Jay said with a smile.
“Das good but dey come back.”
“I suppose so,” Jay leaned his arm against one of the bunk beds and heard a crack. He investigated and discovered that the bunks were wooden and severely rotten.
After a brief conference with the other members of his mission team they decided they really needed to purchase metal bunk beds for the boys and remove the rotting frames. There were only two problems, there were no tools and the beds wouldn’t fit through the door.
Jay walked into the room and said, “You boys might want to leave, I’m gonna tear your beds apart. You’re getting new ones.”
The boys howled at the idea, “You gonna tear these beds apart, Fat Joe?”
Jay wasn’t sure he liked the disbelieving looks on the boy’s faces as they left the room. He sized up the situation and raised his foot and smashed it down on the nearest frame and a satisfying crack followed by splintering wood caused little boys to peak around the door in wide-eyed wonder.
Jay continued to smash the frames into smaller pieces. Sweat began to saturate his shirt and dirt clung to him like paste. He was breaking the last bed apart when a voice piped up from the doorway.
“Fat Joe, how you tear those beds apart so easy?”
“The Lord is my strength,” Jay said as he roared like a wrestler and demolished the last bed.
The boys cheered him on, “Fat Joe! Fat Joe! Fat Joe!” In the end the boys dog-piled on Jay. He knew something was happening and he was excited and scared as a seed of an idea lodged in his heart.
* * * * *
Jay sat in his living room recalling a recent PowerPoint presentation of his trip. In his mind’s eye he could see every moment when those boys held onto him and he walked around like a bear. He remembered the hugs and the giggles. He missed ‘his boys’.
He recalled the intense cleaning his mission team did in Trinidad, the dozens of laundry loads taken care of by members of the team. He hadn’t realized until that moment that “Fat Joe” left a part of his heart in the Caribbean.
While another team member was home praying about whether they should return to Trinidad and work at the mission for a year, Jay was praying about another decision.
* * * * *
Jay looked out the window of the plane as it landed. He made his way through the traffic and found the cinderblock orphanage looking the same as he remembered so many months before.
Before he could even reach the door he heard someone shout, “Fat Joe is back.” He was swarmed by more than two dozen children all wanting a touch from Jay.
That night three boys, Steve, Jerry and Thomas, were led into a room with Jay.
The director of the orphanage looked at the boys, “Do you know why Fat Joe come back?”
The boys shook their head no.
Steve finally smiled and said, “He wanna break more stuff.”
The other boys raised their hands to their mouth and giggled.
Jay had tears in his eyes as he said, “I’ve come to take you home.”
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