"This is to show that you are the son, the adopted son of Beida, with all the rights of a Roman citizen. You are a free man and can never be enslaved," said the scholarly well dressed man. He looked at Beida and then continued, "Your name shall be called Simon. When you sign this you shall be a Roman. Here is the ring of the family and the seal. Beida has chosen you to be the head of his family. You have full authority over all his wealth, interests, and his two children. My son, at this moment you have become a very wealthy, prominent and important man. You are my boss; I will have time to inform you later as to the full extent of your property and possessions, but first sign here. "-and he dipped the pen into the ink and handed it to Ayo.
"What does all this mean?" he whispered to Beida. "Sign now, my son, quickly," he answered back. Ayo moved to the table and remembering the letters he had learned along the way from Beida, he wrote his name at all the places the lawyer pointed to. After he finished, Beida said, "Alexander and Rufus are my two sons; they are young. You must educate them and make them wise. You shall see them soon. I..." The old man began to cough and choke, everyone moved closer to him and Ayo held the struggling man's hand. "I'm not afraid to die, Ayo. Some Baba tribesmen stopped off to see me-they are old friends. They told me of Jesus. Son, I believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the Messiah. I shall see him face to face. I prayed and repented of my sins, I'm clean. He is the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world. I bless God!" Beida's voice now strongly filled the room, "That a sinner like me could find grace through Jesus. Yea I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil." He was now sitting up-everyone tried to calm him and laid him down, but the old man was smiling.
He was looking up with his hands uplifted, "Oh the beauty, Our Father, which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy...name"-he began to struggle, coughing and choking. His skin began to change color, then... all was still. Ayo felt no pulse...and Beida...was dead. No one moved. For what seemed an endless age not one sound could be heard, then slowly Ayo released the hand of Beida, stood up and walked from the room.
The past days had been fast, hard and exhausting for Ayo-the funeral, the important things for him to know about his new responsibility, decisions to make, people to meet and see. Often Ayo cried behind his eyes and if the days had not been so busy the grief he felt would have destroyed him. It was always on his mind the change that had come over Beida, for the though old man, the unreligious, to suddenly became a disciple of Jesus, was beyond his understanding. One thing troubled him beyond all else. The lawyer had given to Ayo a small strip of parchment upon which were the words that the Baba tribesmen had given to Beida. The lawyer said the tribesmen had explained it to Beida and that Beida had wanted the words. It was as follows:
"For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.
He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.
He was taken from prison and from judgement: and who shall declare his generation? For he was cut off out of the land of the living; for the transgressions of my people was he stricken.
And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief; when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied; by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore will divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors." Isaiah 53:2-12
All this trouble Ayo. Surely it was about Jesus, but what about the suffering, the sorrow, the death. He thought Jesus was to take away all this, yet from this it appeared he would suffer more that anyone else. He wondered if anyone had showed this to Jesus and what Jesus would say about it. He kept it and vowed if he ever saw this man he would ask him about this writing... but there was much to do.
The two strong, sparkling white horses drew up to a halt after charging up the steep hill on the splendid road to the sea. Ayo stood trembling with excitement. He found it impossible to believe the beauty before him! From the steep rocky hill he could see past the yellow flowers, ancient trees, the quiet blue sea before him! As far as he could see it stretched-on and on. He saw a sparkling white city of stone below him with ships bigger then he ever dreamed of docked in the harbor. The lawyer, Thaddeus, was pointing to a small villa by the sea-this was home!
As they wound their way down the descending, winding road with his caravan following behind, he wondered how he would break the news to the children, and how he would tell them he was now their father. A man they had never seen-a black man. What would he say?
They were passing through the narrow streets in a city filled with thousands of things he had never seen before. He suddenly saw two black ladies selling drums on a street corner market. He had the driver stop and he ran to the two women and quickly was back with two big drums. He was grinning and smiling as they entered the splendid villa. Suddenly two screaming boys burst from the house running toward the chariot. They stopped just before the boys arrived and Ayo stepped from the chariot clothed as a Roman in fine apparel.
"Daddy, Daddy, Where are you?" they hollered and looked and leaped about.
"Hey, come here," called Ayo. He lifted the big drums out and began to beat a rhythm, playing both at the same time. The boys ran up and began to dance about. The servants from the house gathered about and soon the whole place was like a festival.
"I'm Alexander"-"I'm Rufus"-"Where's our dad?" they asked. Ayo stopped, sat in the grass and called them to him, setting one on each knee.
"Sons, your daddy loves you very much. He had to go away and he wants me to look after you like a father. "That's fine," Alexander said soberly, "But he's been away so long. When shall we see him again?"
Ayo was now at the end of the road. He tried to hold back the tears but they slowly ran down his cheeks. "Your father believed in a man named Jesus. He believed that there is a wonderful place that he has made. Your father has gone there to wait for you. I was with him when he left. He was smiling and unafraid."
"Is he dead?" Rufus asked slowly.
"Yes"-said Ayo "but he loved you very much." The two boys began to cry, tears bigger than he had ever seen. "We have waited for so long to see him, every day we looked for dust on the road. At every sound we would run to see if it was Daddy, and now he won't come at all!" Ayo held them and tears poured from six eyes, for the first time Ayo could hold it no more. For now over a month had passed, but at last his feelings were free. He cried as freely as they. Soon he realized they were no longer crying but looking at him.
"Did you love him so much?" asked Rufus.
"Yes, oh yes, I did-as much as you I'm sure. I've been with him for many months I can't remember. He took me to him as a son. I learned from him about all I know, how to read, write and speak languages, and I came to depend upon him for everything. Now he is gone and left me with all these things I know nothing about. I'm a common man, now like a king, I have no wife but two sons, I came in search of the truth to find God and now I'm rich. I have everything but my heart is still empty and your father had more joy in his face at death than I have in life. I know how you looked for him. I do too. How many times a day I start to say 'Beida'-think of him and then have to stop and say, no. he's gone, and I'm on my own, but I don't like it this way!"
At that moment both boys grabbed the big black man around his neck and began to cry and laugh. "You are just like us, we feel the same," and they both kissed him on each tear washed cheek. Ayo, wiping tears, smiled and said, "Come inside, I'll tell you all about our trip across the desert!"
"Oh, what is your name father?" said Alexander with a smile. Ayo thought-Ayo, Simon of Cyrene, or maybe, Beida-or should it be Simon Ayo Beida Bu of Cyrene? He said hesitantly, "Simon!"
"Simon, come with us, we will show you around." And they ran racing through the garden with Simon leaping to keep up with them.
Days turned into weeks and weeks into months, as Simon was busy about the affairs of the estate. Much had waited for the return of Beida, but now it was all his responsibility. In the morning and late at night he studied Greek and Arabic from a special teacher. He ate lunch with the boys and in the afternoon it was all business. Thaddeus had been invaluable in every