For my little brother/Salvation

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Previous chapter
A Rough Encounter
For my little brother by Enoch Leung
Salvation
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Together as One

Salvation[edit]

My arm was still around Ricky's shoulder as night fell. His face was still buried in his hands, but it appeared that he had stopped crying. I had remained silent the entire time, picturing my mother and my younger brother in my head, trying to insert myself into the photograph. To be there with them... to be there for them.

Finally, he moved. "I-I'm... I'm sorry..." he began.

"There is nothing to be sorry about."

"I wasted your time and ignored your advice," he said. "I-I know you were just trying to be a good friend and all, but in the end it really is my fault." He sniffled. "Shouldn't have fought when I couldn't win, shouldn't have shouted back when I was insulted. I really should have just let it go and backed off... But I don't like being considered weak. I'm not weak, because I'm strong."

"You are strong," I responded. "I mean, what you did was a bit foolish, I'll admit... But it was daring of you to do so."

"But I've been far too weak recently," he said in a muffled voice. "I've cried too much... can't stop crying. My father said crying was for the weak, and even my mother told me that boys shouldn't cry. But..."

I tapped him on the shoulder. "Too weak?" I almost scoffed, but got serious again when I let my own words sink in. "You've... you've been through a lot already. Nobody should have to endure your pain, especially not someone your age."

"Neither should my siblings. Or my mother."

"They have reason to cry. You're no exception; you're human just like them. I think you're qualified to cry."

There was a long pause. "I just want to be able to see them again," he said softly.

"I feel you. I feel your pain."

He brushed his hand roughly across his eyes. "It's unmanly to cry."

"I know what you mean."

"I know what I've been through and all, but it still seems so... feminine to cry. The strong shed no tears."

"You think they don't... but didn't Jesus cry?"

"Who?"

"Jesus."

He looked at me. "He did?"

"Yeah."

"Why would he?"

Good question. "I... I think He cried because He got rejected by His own people, the people He was trying to save. He came to earth to save the people He created, and yet some people didn't believe Him. He knew it was going to happen; He knew He was going to die. But He still couldn't help but cry."

He was silent for a bit. "What does that have to do with me?"

"I... well, I thought that, if the Creator of the universe permits Himself to cry, then surely you can too."

"That doesn't mean I should, though. It could've just made him look weak too."

"Hey." I straightened up. "He cried because He had emotions. He cried because He loved the people, not because He was a baby. He could be happy or sad, nervous or angry. He had feelings too. If you love your sister and your brother, wouldn't you cry for them too?" I stopped to deal with my own tears, which were coming back. "If you're strong in love, you're strong in tears."

We were quiet for several minutes. When I became uncomfortable with the silence, I asked, "You love your sister and your brother, don't you?"

"Of... Of course," he responded. "I'm sure I told you that, didn't I?"

"If you loved them, you wouldn't be afraid of crying whenever you thought about them."

He dried his tears with the fabric of his shirt. "H-H-Have you ever cried in front of your brother?"

I nodded. "More than once. But I always tried not to. I wanted him to view me as a strong big brother, not a weak one."

"So you admit it."

"Yes. Yes I do. I know how you feel when you said you didn't want to cry. I'm guilty of that too."

"I... I've always tried not to let my own brother see me cry. I know my sister has seen me cry, and she knows why. But whenever I hold them close, it's almost a war I'm fighting within myself to stop those tears from coming out..."

Again, my mind went back to that night. That night... the last night I spent with Evan. My brother had his arms around me, bawling. He knew I was going to leave him, and he knew mother would be anything but pleased. He was afraid that I might not make it. He was afraid that, even if I did survive, mother wouldn't look me in the eye ever again. At least, that's what happened to Julio; he didn't seem affected by his decision to leave home at all. And yet, on the night before I left, it seemed harder to fight back the tears than it was to actually do the deed. I needed my brother to have confidence in me, and to shed unmanly waterworks in front of him was enough to demoralize me as well.

"You wanted to show your brother and your sister that everything was okay, I'm guessing," I said.

He nodded. "It felt awful, just lying to them about that. I really believed that we were stuck on the streets forever. My sister can handle it, but can you really tell a four-year-old that his home was now the dangerous, unpredictable streets? It hurt even more knowing that we were on our own, with no mother and no father to go to." He was on the verge of tears again. "I knew I had to stay positive somehow, but that seemed less feasible with every passing day."

I closed my eyes, thinking of my brother once more. His smile, his laugh, his very presence. I remember having ruffled and played with his hair in an attempt to build up some of that positivity on the day I left him. "Was there anything about your brother or sister that made you smile just by thinking about it?" I asked.

He didn't respond right away, instead closing his own eyes and thinking intently. When he again spoke, it was a barely audible whisper. "Their smiles... Their smiles even after we had left home. I remember a time where we bumped into a group of children playing football. They didn't mind the intrusion and even invited us to play with them. My brother had never played ball before, but they never went rough on or bullied him, and me and my sister were always by his side." He took a long, deep breath. "It was the happiest all three of us had been in a long while. My brother was laughing, exhausted, but happy. His smile was a rare occurence, but it was so beautiful it warmed me down to the core. It... it reminded me that there's still hope out there in the cold, cruel world."

We sat quietly for several minutes. Around us, most of the other boys were starting to go to sleep. Soon we'd have to join the crowd on the shelves in order for there to be room for everybody; neither of us wanted to have to deal with the older boys again. I was tired, physically and emotionally drained after the events today. I was about to nod off right where I was when Ricky, out of nowhere, said, "Why does God let us suffer?"

I woke up. "Hmm?"

"God," he repeated. "Why does he let people suffer?"

I thought I had answered this question before. "He... He does it to make us stronger. He does it to teach us, to complete His picture."

"Yeah, yeah," he said. "But out of all things, why suffering? Why pain? Why misery? How exactly is parenting my younger brother supposed to make me and my sister stronger? How is casting us onto the streets of Manila without any loving or caring parents supposed to help us? Why did I have to be beaten, assaulted, abused by my own father? Isn't there a better way?"

"Well... if God is eternal, and if He created us, then doesn't He already know what's best for us? He can see the big picture that we can't see. He understands things that we don't understand."

"That's the thing," he interrupted. "I don't get it. Why shouldn't I get it? Why doesn't he just explain things to me? If he wants people to follow him, why doesn't he explain what he's doing instead of leaving us all in the dark?"

"I..." Oh great, he has me now. I genuinely had no answer to that question — at least, none that would satisfy him. I felt a bit trapped and lost, and doubtful in my own beliefs and my own faith.

He put an arm around me. "It's okay. I didn't mean to make you doubt yourself."

I swallowed, still having no answer for him.

"It's just... those questions have been bugging me, and I imagine you'd ask those questions too."

He had a point. Those questions, which had never really crossed my mind until now, were some very good ones, now that I thought about it. If I had thought about those questions sooner, I might have been too frightened at myself to recite them out loud. Now, though, he had said them, and all of a sudden it didn't seem nearly as sacrilegious or blasphemous as it once did.

"Does the question make you uncomfortable?" he asked me. I could tell that he was curious, but at the same time didn't want to tarnish the one and only friendship he's made so far in this prison.

"No," I lied. "No, not at all."

He didn't believe me. "You don't need to be afraid of admitting it... I learned that from you. Now that I've told someone my painful story, it's like removing an elephant from my chest. I may still be a prisoner, but at least I can breathe again."

"G-G-Glad to be of help."

"And that's what I want to do," he said, straightening up. "I want to help, help my brother and my sister. It's hard to offer help when you need help yourself. But even in the most helpless of situations, there's always some hope. You just have to believe."

"I-I believe," I remarked. "I believe that I'll get out of here someday. No, I will get out of here someday. I will come home to my brother."

"And I believe too. I'll see what's left of my family again."

His arm was still around me. I shuffled closer to him and tightened my own grip. It felt nice, feeling the warmth of another human being next to me; it felt warmer knowing that he was my friend. A fairly new friend, but a close friend nonetheless. A true friend, unlike Dodger or Marcos.

"Belief is what I need. It's what I need more of." He turned his head to look at me. "I don't know what the future holds for me or my siblings, but I only want it to be bright. Especially for them. It breaks my heart to see them suffering on the streets, every day being a fight for survival. In this prison, I've been removed from the streets, and I'm being fed without having to steal for it... and I met you. I met a loving, caring friend that opened up to me. Something inside me says that I should be grateful for what I have, and I am. But I can't help but think about the boy and the girl I left behind. I would rather give up these so-called 'luxuries' to live on the streets with them, because they're my family. They're all I have left. I want to be able to help them. I want to give them hope, a hope for a bright future. I'm determined to get them — and myself — a safe home where we can be looked after, a place where we can be children again."

I sat very still, slowly absorbing what he had said to me. It sounded similar to what I had hoped for when I left my home and my brother.

"You said... something about, if we believe in Jesus, we can go to heaven, right?"

I nodded very slowly. "If we believe He's our One and Only Savior... and if we repent — if we admit that we've sinned — and if we ask Him to forgive us, He will. He will save us."

"I have never met Him," he said, "until I met you. And I can see that He's in you, that He works with you. The way that you first approached me, and how you put up even with my violent attitudes... the way you loved me even after seeing my dark side and my soft side..." He paused to dab at a few tears with his shirt. "...If Jesus wasn't real, then we wouldn't be here, sitting and talking with each other. You wouldn't be here wallowing in your determination to go home. I wouldn't be here revealing my benevolent personality. For all I know, you could be on the other side of the room, cowering and crying yourself to sleep, and I could be here struggling to deal with my injuries after being assaulted by those boys. Even though I never really believed in Him... I have this feeling that He exists anyhow, and He wants me. I think He wants to see my brother and my sister come to Him as well."

Slowly, I turned my head to look. His face was a mix of emotions: part sad, part happy. Part devastated, part motivated. Part discouraged, part determined. Well, from what I saw, he was mostly determined. Determined for...

"...Christ," he said aloud, as if he had been reading my mind. "Bring me to Him... I'm ready for it. I want to be saved, and I want my brother and my sister to be saved as well. C-C-Can you do it?" He swallowed. "W-Will you do it?"

Several moments passed. It felt awkward; he had made a request, and I wasn't responding to it. I wanted to move, but found myself too stunned to get my nerves working. I wanted to speak, but I had apparently lost my voice. When I found it again, I said simply, "I-I'm glad you asked."

He got up. "W-What do I need to do?" he asked. "What do my siblings have to do?"

"Come with me," I said quietly, standing up and making my way over to the corner of the cell, the same corner where we first conversed with each other. Despite the heat and humidity, I felt goosebumps erected all over my body. My hands were shaking, but I did not know why.

"I'm ready whenever you're ready," he said.

I swallowed and nodded. I had never done anything like this before. My mother was a devout Roman Catholic; my father was the spiritual leader of the family right up until he left. Julio used to attend church, but after my father disappeared he treated it more like a drop-in club that he didn't feel like he belonged in. Evan was a bit quiet on the subject, but he was willing enough to pray with me and my mother, and was definitely more committed than Julio was.

So where do I stand?

I knelt down on the ground, feeling the coolness of the concrete in my legs, which further amplified the tingling and the butterflies in my stomach. From the corner of my eye, I could see Ricky doing the same.

"It doesn't matter what you say, but more so of what you believe in. I can give you a template of what you should say, and I can say it with you... but I can't say it for you. I can help you, but I can't cross the line for you. You have to make that jump yourself."

He nodded. I could tell he was just as nervous as I was.

"R-repeat after me."

There were millions of ways to say this prayer, but I could only pick one. I was afraid of stuttering or stammering, and I was afraid that I would lose my voice halfway through, unable to continue. Relax, a voice inside my head said. There is no need to rush. Go at your own pace, and he will follow. You are not carrying him on your shoulders; you are helping him to cross a bridge.

Relax... go at my own pace... he'll follow...

"Dear God... I know that I have sinned against you, and that I do not deserve your love and forgiveness."

From beside me, I could hear my friend repeating what I had said. His voice felt so distant and so small. "I know that I have sinned against you, and that I do not deserve your love and forgiveness."

"But today, I believe that I have been saved from sin, because of my Lord Jesus Christ, who took the punishment away from me."

"But today, I believe that I have been saved from sin, because of my Lord Jesus Christ, who took the punishment away from me."

"It is through faith, and by faith alone, in Him that I place my trust in You for salvation."

"It is through faith, and by faith alone, in Him that I place my trust in You for salvation."

"I pray that You will forgive all my sins, past, present, and future..."

"I pray that You will forgive all my sins, past, present, and future..." His voice cracked over the last few words.

"...and I thank You for your grace and your forgiveness — the gift of eternal life."

"...and I thank You for your grace and your forgiveness — the gift of eternal life."

"Amen."

"Amen."

There was a brief pause. I felt my stomach beginning to settle, the hair that had stood on end beginning to relax. I reached out and tapped Ricky on the shoulder. When he turned around, I threw my arms around him in a hug. "Congratulations."

He seemed a bit confused and unsure at first. "T-T-That's it...?" he asked. "A-Am I saved?"

"If you really believed it — every word of the prayer — and if you really mean it... you'll be saved. It's the only way to be saved."

With that, his face, his eyes, and his prior emotions disappeared. He wrapped his own arms around me and, for what seemed to be the hundredth time, began to sob. "T-T-Thank you..." he managed to say before the tears sealed his mouth and throat, and all I could hear was a muffled noise. His body felt warm against mine, and on the inside, I felt quite surprisingly good.

Am I saved? Yes, you are. Yes, you've been saved you've been saved you've been saved been saved been saved been saved.

"I wish you the best of luck in your journey," I whispered into his ear.

He had no verbal response. I could sense him wishing to say Thank you, but the words seemed to mix and merge with one another, repeating themselves over and over. Thank you thank you thank you thankyou thankyou thankyou thankyouthankyouthankyou...

Previous chapter
A Rough Encounter
For my little brother by Enoch Leung
Salvation
Next chapter
Together as One