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Lent and Larry


As we are still in the Easter season, we remember the many opportunities to reflect on one’s self and determine how to grow as a person beyond the 40 days of preparation during Lent. The sacrifices Jesus made so many years ago afforded the human race a second chance for redemption and the convenience to redirect our lives down a path that may be less adventitious and more of our own making.

This season, I have a spent quite a bit of time with a man who (hopefully) will embody the idea of resurrection and redemption…Larry.

In my first couple of weeks in Jamaica, Father Max introduced me to Larry and gave me the task of keeping Larry busy and, more importantly, out of jail. My initial thoughts were, “What? Me? How?”

I can count on less than one finger how many times this situation has happened to me before in my life, so I felt a little overwhelmed with the task. As Larry stared at me with a subtle smile and an overtly apprehensive look, we started our friendship.

I’ve learned that Larry has been to jail many times, usually for petty theft. Sometimes he steals out of hunger, which is often caused by a lack of money because he has no job. A strong desire for various illicit medicinal products makes the problem even worse.

The tree Larry is usually caught stealing mangos from

The tree Larry is usually caught stealing mangos from


As for the obvious ailments that have stricken Larry’s life, there are many more variables that can be placed into his life’s equation to come to this current result, but for the sake of brevity, I will only mention the broad strokes.

Father Max had given Larry a cooler to sell bag juice (a cheap sugar drink) to kids around town, however Larry was caught by the local police without a vendor’s license and was fined a J1000 (roughly USD 10), which we paid for him.

He decided to give the small business to his sister. Receiving a vendor’s license takes a valid government ID, a tax number, and about USD 7, all of which Larry does not have. “I’m a fugitive in my own country,” Larry laughed after asking if he had any of these.

I decided not to risk Larry selling on the streets because he seems a perfect candidate for Murphy’s Law. Now, Larry comes by the grounds a few times a week and we have him picking up recyclables for J200 per bag. For now, this is sustaining him.

But after hanging out with him at his sister’s house, I learned Larry has ideas of his own. Larry has marked off a small bit of land that he will use to grow a garden. I have put in an order for farming equipment he can borrow, and hopefully his idea will soon bear fruit. He seems to understand that he has a chance to improve upon himself.

Larry is very well-known by everyone in the nearby community as a “scammer” and has taken advantage of the church’s kindness more times that one would care to count. I believe Larry’s recent change has come from years of kindness and patience shown to him from Father Max and the brothers here in Sav.

And now that Father Max has me giving Larry special one-on-one treatment, he will seize this fortuitous event and make the changes needed to stay out of jail, and finally give back to the numerous individuals and family members that have tolerated his antics over the years.

Larry has expressed his feeling about working as a “really good feeling, I like it. People in the neighborhood ask me where I am going and I say ‘I’m going over to the church to work.’ It’s good to earn money and not just take. You should do something for your money.”

I have no idea how long the new Larry will last, but I hope it is for good. Over the past few weeks, he has really opened up and I feel that he is actually a friend, not just someone who wants something. With the Lenten season freshly behind us, Larry reminds me of the struggles we all need to learn from and be grateful that someone in this world has given us a second chance to redeem ourselves.

Brandon Newland is very pleased to be joining FMS to help serve communities around the world. He taught English as a second language in Korea for many years before returning to school to pursue his dream of helping the marginalized and impoverished. He has recently received his master's in international studies with a focus on community development, and looks forward to learning more on his journey. Brandon currently serves in Savannah la Mar, Jamaica.