Thursday, August 21, 2003

So I got chased by an Axe Murderer

My friend and I almost got chopped up by an axe murderer - it's a true story.

Today I was recalling a story from my church mission to Brazil that happened in January 1998. At the time, I was serving with Elder Elias in Santa Cruz. I had been in Brazil for two months, so I didn't really speak Portuguese very well. There was a particular neighborhood in Santa Cruz that was extremely poor. All of the locals advised the missionaries not to go in there because it was extremely dangerous. So naturally, like any other curious 19 year old boy would do, we went in there right away to see what all the fuss was about.

We were shocked to see the run down condition of these people's lives. The old brick road quickly turned into a dirt path about the width of a sidewalk and the trees became denser. After a few more hundred feet the path was only wide enough for one person to walk and we were in the middle of the rough. We looked around and saw a few houses here and there. It was obvious that there was no plumbing back here. How could anyone live back here?

We found a clearing with a few houses and began to talk with an old guy that was hanging up some laundry on a string tied between his "house" and a nearby tree. After about a minute we heard some screaming and yelling and we all looked up at the path to see what was going on. There was a young man, about 20 years old, with dirty, dark hair that had was swinging a full size axe around in the air and hitting stuff. A few women and children were standing about 20 feet away from him, yelling profusely at him - demanding that he stop.

This enraged the man only more and he cut down their clothes line. Then we ran over to their house and started chopping down the side wall. He put a pretty big chunk in the side of the house and knocked down their door. By this time people were starting to gather. We just sat frozen only about 40 feet away - watching, not knowing if we should get involved.

The man was just going ballistic. He stopped for a moment and glared at the people. He looked around for another target. A few people tried to approach him but he would just swing the axe wildly until they stepped away. He almost got one kid right in the head. (Why the kid was trying to get him to stop, I don't know). The man spotted the satellite dish next the little house. (Yes, that's right ... a freakin' satellite dish. Brazilians, no matter how bad their life, no matter how poor they are, no matter their income, will always have a nice TV and stereo. It comes before buying clothes and food for their children) He approached the satellite dish and everyone stopped yelling because they were over come by horror.

Never mind the house. Never mind our tree. Never mind the little kid you almost cut open. JUST PLEASE DON'T HIT THE DISH!!! The man cocked back and came down on the dish, tearing away one of its panels. The silence broke out into a roar and everyone charged the man. After all, how dare he hit someone's satellite dish?

The man swung wildly to back the people away. He ran around and started heading for us. Right at us! We sat frozen. The people started throwing rocks at him, trying to knock him out or scare him away. The rocks were flying all around us, but for some reason we just sat there calmly. Mid-stride the crazy man with the axe spotted two missionaries with bright white shirts and ties sitting in front of him and his whole demeanor changed. He stopped running and calmly sat down in the chair next to us. People stopped throwing rocks and we just sat there looking at each other.

I broke the ice. "Hey, how's it going?" "Good," he calmly replied, as if nothing was wrong. "I'm kind of having a rough day." My companion looked at me, then at the man. "Hey, do you need some help with something?" The man looked confused, as if he had no idea that something was wrong. "No, I'm good."

Suddenly, a rock nailed the man right in the back and he clutched his axe tightly and screamed at the top of his lungs as he lunged out of the chair back at the angry mob. Everyone ran in every direction and we took that as a cue to get the heck out of there. Sirens were heard in the distance and everyone started running inside. It would take the police at least 15 minutes to get back there by foot, so we had time to get out of there. The last thing I needed was to get caught by the Brazilian police for being involved in an axe fight. They would be very upset when they found out that a satellite dish was damaged in the attack.

I was amazed at how the man changed when he was in our presence. He saw us and could apparently see that we were missionaries trying to teach the Word of God to the people. He felt our peace, if only for a moment. I'm glad we were protected that day. We left there (running as fast as we could) with a prayer of thanks in our hearts.

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