My wife Lynann and I are Lostiacs--fans of the ABC series "Lost" (9 PM Wednesdays). This last week, we were treated to the back story on Eko, the mysterious Nigerian, and got one of the most amazing stories of Christian redemption I have ever seen on network TV.
In an early scene, we see a teenaged Eko playing soccer in the dirt-covered streets of his Nigerian town. The townspeople are poor, but there's a vibrancy to the area.
A pickup truck speeds into town carrying heavily armed men. They pour from the truck and round up the children for a recruiting session: the boys are being drafted into a local warlord's makeshift army. An old priest runs from the church to protest, but a mercenary silences him with a swift blow to the head. Yemi, Eko's younger brother--a boy who is considerably smaller then his huge teenaged sibling--clutches Eko's side.
The group's leader sees Yemi's fear and decides it's time for a lesson. He unholsters his pistol and drags Yemi forward. The boy trembles as the warlord wraps Yemi's small hands around the gun's handle and forces him to aim the barrel at an old man kneeling nearby. "Kill him," the man orders. Yemi quivers. The gun shakes. The warlord's displeasure starts to show. Eko, sensing that his brother's life is hanging in the balance, marches forward, grabs the gun and pulls the trigger.
The warlord is shocked ... and duly impressed. He grabs the gun from Eko, then wraps his arm around the boy's shoulders and declares him "a natural born killer." Eko lower his head, inadvertently causing a cross hanging from his neck to dangle into view. The warlord grabs the cross and rips it free. "You won't need this anymore," he says as he chucks the cross to the ground. The warlord rounds up his platoon and guides Eko to the truck. The townspeople--including Eko's brother and the other boys--watch as Eko and the bandits ride out of town. Yemi picks the cross from the dirt and cradles it in his hands.
Later we see Eko as a man. Now he's in charge, an involved in drug-smuggling--and is known as "the man who has no soul." The only way to dispose of a massive quantity of heroin is to fly it out of the country, and the only private planes allowed to hit the skies are owned by either the UN or Catholic missionaries.
Eko goes back to his home village where Yemi is now the priest. Eko's visit isn't a social call. The heroin he "bought" needs to be exported and, as we learned before, there's only two organizations that have access to private planes. Eko decides to use his brother's connections to move his merchandise.
Yemi isn't keen on the idea of compromising his faith. So Eko ups the ante. He returns a few days laster with his two henchmen in tow. Eko has a plan: His brother doesn't need to run the drugs at all. Rather, he just needs to sign three "ordination" documents to make Eko and his boys full-blown priests. Once they're ordained, Eko can take to the skies.
Again, Yemi protests, but Eko drives a hard bargain. If Father Brother doesn't sign the papers, Eko's boys will burn the church to the ground. Moreover, Eko is willing to dump a pile of cash into his brother's lap--and that cash could buy a lot of medicine. And so Yemi acquiesces.
Next we see Eko and his henchmen are loading drug-filled Virgin Mary statues into an old Beechcraft airplane. Eko and his boys are dressed like priests.
Yemi drives up and pleads with Eko to not get on the plane. His protestations are cut short by the arrival of a military truck overflowing with armed soldiers. Eko's men open fire. The soldiers return fire, cutting down one of Eko's henchmen. Yemi runs forward and screams for the soldiers to stop shooting.
A bullet buries itself deep in Yemi's chest. Eko catches his brother as the Beechcraft sputters to life behind him (the other henchman -- the one who wasn't shot--fired up the plane). Eko drags Yemi to the plane's door and the henchman helps him load his brother's near-dead body into the plane. Eko curls his fingers inside the doorway and prepares to thrust himself into the plane, but the henchman has other ideas. He sneers then kicks Eko in the chest and shuts the door. Eko, sprawled on the tarmac, watches as the plane, his brother, his henchman and 300 Virgin Mary statues loaded with heroin, arc into the deep blue sky.
"Are you okay, Father?" a soldier asks.
And in this one revelatory moment, pieces of the Eko puzzle snap into place: the faith we've seen him exhibit on the island likely stems from his conversion.
Without going into much more detail, let me add that Eko, with Charlie (the fallen Irish Catholic altarboy turned drug-addicted rock drummer) finds the very plane on the island. He finds his dead brother and weeps for him.
Eko decides to burn the wreckage so his brother can be properly honored. As the flames consume the fuselage and Yemi's remains, Charlie asks: "So, are you a priest, or aren't you?"
Eko carefully lifts his brother's cross over his head and hangs it around his neck.
Looking straight into the flames he says, "Yes. I am."
And with that, Eko recites the 23rd Psalm. Charlie joins him a few sentences in:
"The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He maketh me lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul. He leadeth me in the path of righteousness for his namesake. Yea, though I walk through the shadow of valley of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. Amen."