Eight years ago tomorrow, I entered the MTC. Armed with my dork-dot and way too much luggage, I embarked on the most incredible 18 months of my life. I got in a lot of trouble in the MTC, for everything from the length of my skirts to the way I wore my hair. Before I adjusted my attitude, I referred to it as "spirit prison." I was already missing my family, and luckily two of my brothers, Dustin and Nathan, entered the MTC two weeks later. I even had a childhood friend in my district. My husband was there, too, though I didn’t know at the time that that's who he would be (contrary to popular belief!). I left for Ecuador the following January. I’m currently writing an essay for one of my classes about the time I was robbed at knife-point, about a year after I arrived in the country. It was exciting! It was lame at the time, but it sure is a good story. So, maybe that’s the one I’ll tell right now.
I was serving in the middle of Quito with Porter at the time, and she was going home in about a week and a half. We were walking to our chapel for the Christmas Conference broadcast and we were less than a mile away. Not two days earlier, we came up behind someone on the street and greeted him with the typical “Buenas noches!” He could see that we were not townies, so he explained to us that you should never greet somebody that way from behind or in front. He said that only bad people do that. I thought the advice strange as I had been in the country for almost a year and had never heard that before. We thanked him and went about our missionary duties, not thinking another thing of it.
Until a couple of days later.
As we walked down that busy road, which was full of cars and devoid of Good Samaritans, two men walked ahead of us. When one of them turned around and said, “Buenas noches,” I stopped dead in my tracks. I then noticed the knife he was holding; the handle was in his hand and the blade extended up to his elbow. This was no butter knife.
Suddenly Porter and I were against the wall behind us (which fenced an Abbey, as it were) and the machete-man was yelling, “Dinero! Dinero!” Then, just in case and as an extra bit of salt in our wounds, he translated for us, “Money! Money!” So, we pulled out our cash ($13 between the two of us) and handed it over. This wasn’t enough. He screamed at us for our watches. Porter’s was a yellow plastic watch she had just bought for a dollar. Mine was a black plastic men’s watch that an acquaintance had given me in my first area. We handed over about $1.50 worth of plastic. My comp dropped her watch as she passed it to him, she was so terrified, and asked in a trembling voice, “Que mas quieran? (what more do you want?)” Seriously? I guess it was easier for me because I was not yet being held by machete man. My assailant seemed to be a mute, doing only what he was directed to do. The next demand was for our bags. We took them off and while Porter handed hers over, I took out my scriptures first and said, “You don’t want these.”
Machete-man was tired of my antics, I guess, and he ran over and pressed his knife to my neck. “Te mato! Te mato!” he screamed (translated: I kill you! I kill you!) My bag now held only my schedule, one tore-up knee high, and a few tampons. Somehow, they were not yet satiated. Poor guys; they were just trying to make a living and let's be honest: this couldn't have been their most lucrative hit! We were next obligated to give them our jackets. I was taking my sweet time because it was my only way to defy them. I couldn’t risk my life over a $12.50 Old Navy jacket, but I was sure pissed. He screamed at me to do it faster and reminded me that he would kill me. I screamed back, “I’m doing it!” He again issued his threat to kill me. Once our things were in his hands, he handed them to his mute goon friend, who ran them across the street. Machete-man then wished us a good evening, with a smile, and ran to join his friend in the darkness of the night.
I saw machete-man a couple of weeks later. He was on my street and he recognized me as I recognized him. He smiled at me, of course, and I was still helpless. I smiled to myself, imagining that he was wearing one solitary, tore-up nylon knee-high under one of his pant legs. Bastard. I also imagine that he read Porter’s scriptures and joined the church. She had her scriptures all marked beautifully and he couldn’t have helped but read the really powerful passages, had he opened the book. So, you know. He’s probably a bishop somewhere in Ecuador, strengthening the stakes. Right?
What’s something scary that has happened to you?