Matthew H. considered himself lucky. He had only a few weeks to go on his LDS Church mission in Midwestern Brazil and except for a few close calls he had never been robbed even though almost every single one of his companions had at least one story about being assaulted. His luck ran out in September 2004.
He and his companion were leaving from an investigators* home at about 10 p.m. and were walking through a very dangerous neighborhood. “We were basically putting the importance of teaching somebody over our safety. We had actually been told that we shouldn’t walk around there at night but we really didn’t have a choice because we had an appointment to keep. And we figured that we were missionaries and the Lord would protect us”
As they walked they decided to take the long way home because it was the better lit of the two paths. To pass the time they discussed a scripture from the Doctrine & Covenants and were reciting it when Matt looked to the end of the road at the only dark spot on the entire path that was between two buildings.
“I could see two silhouettes of people in the darkness, but I couldn’t tell what they were doing because we were too far away for me to tell for sure. So I didn’t think anything of it and we kept walking.”
As they got closer to the men they could see that one was on a bike and the two men appeared to be having a conversation on the side of the road. “It made me kind of nervous because normal people don’t just hang out in a dark alleyway,” said Matt, “but we continued anyway.”
Then as the two missionaries got even closer one of the men approached him. “He asked for a little bit of money, I thought he was a beggar or something.” But the man wasn’t prepared to take no for an answer.
“He reached out for me but I hit his hand and backed away before he could grab my tie. So he reached over and grabbed my companion by his tie and started yelling to the other man ‘Pega o alto!’ which is Portuguese for ‘Get the tall one,’ (Matt stands 6’4”) my companion wasn’t really sure what was going on. He grew up in a ritzy California neighborhood and had only been in the mission field for three weeks and didn’t speak Portuguese very well so when I was yelling ‘Sai dai! Solta ele! (Get away from there! Let go of him!) He didn’t understand what was going on and had no idea he was being mugged.
“As a missionary we’re taught to not really react to people like that. You’re told you should just give them your money or whatever they want. So I tried to see if he had a knife and I couldn’t see anything in his hand.”
And then Matt did something the robber was not expecting. He went after him.
“Strangely the first thing that came to my mind was ‘punch him.’ He was still yelling for his partner but the other man just sat on his bike like maybe he didn’t want to rob us or something, so I knew it would be two against one so I walked after him and raised my fist, when the robber saw what I was doing he looked at me like I was crazy and said ‘O que esta fazendo?’ (what are you doing?). Apparently he didn’t think missionaries could hit anybody.”
As Matt went after the man, the robber, now scared and still holding on to his companion’s tie, started maneuvering around trying to get away and keep Matt’s companion in front of him so that the missionary couldn’t get a good shot at him, Matt swung anyway.
“My knuckle caught the side of his face and it was just enough to make him stumble backward and let go of the tie and my companion and I took the opportunity and sprinted away.”
The two muggers didn’t take chase and Matt and his companion made it home without further incident. “I didn’t tell anybody, especially my mom, until I got back.”
Despite the frightening ordeal Matt says he learned a valuable lesson from what he calls his own stupidity, “The experience taught me a lot, I learned that you don’t pray for protection and then go and put yourself in a dangerous situation.”
*an investigator is a prospective LDS convert for those of you not privy to the Mormon jargon :)
Monday, April 05, 2010
Mormon Missionary punches assailant... who knew!?!
This here is a feature article I wrote about a roommate I had in college back in March of 2005. Lots of missionaries have interesting stories about their time in the field, but this is one of the more... unique tales I've ever heard. Matt is a great guy and allowed me to interview him for this article, hopefully he doesn't mind me reproducing this piece now that he's all growed up and has the whole 'wife-and-kids' thing going on, people may not want them knowing how bad-ass he was back in the day.