When I'd been on my mission for about 12 months, I was transferred to a new area to serve with Elder Kristensen from Denmark. The guy was hilarious. Not on purpose, really, but he was a very entertaining missionary. We lived with two other missionaries in the same apartment. Elder Carr and Elder Bundt. They were like caricatures of missionaries. One of them was, like, eight feet tall and skinny and the other one was five feet tall and a perfect sphere.
I'd been in the area for two days and we were just coming home from a tea appointment. We got off the bus and started walking toward our flat which was about a quarter mile away. Elder Kristensen and I were about 20 yards in front of the other Elders. I noticed someone walking toward us. He was a younger guy around our age. Kristensen mumbled to me in his broken English, "Car-ful of this guys. We've seen him before and he'd a liddle dodgy."
The guy walks up to Kristensen and me. We stop walking and this guy reaches up and puts one hand on each of our heads. Then he starts applying pressure trying to force our heads into each other. Not too aggressive, but it was obvious what he was trying to do. I could smell alcohol on his breath. He let go of our heads and gritted his teeth. He looked at me and said, "What are you doing here? Are you from America, as well?" I said, "Yeah. I came over here to talk to people about our church." He stepped back a half step, looked me up and down and said, "I don't think I like you." Kristensen said, "He's a good guy, mon." The guy stepped up to me, reached out and took my super cool and spiritually lucky pen out of my breast pocket. Then he put my pen in his back pocket. "Do you want your pen, mate?" I didn't say anything. Then he followed it up with, "Come and get it."
I knew that he'd been drinking and I figured he probably would have been a decent guy had he been sober. Then I heard some unplanned words coming out of my mouth, "How much have you been drinking?" I felt his fist crash into my right temple. It knocked me backward into the street. My ear was ringing. What in the crap was I looking at while he was cocking his arm back? How did I miss his fist hurtling toward my head? I looked up and noticed Carr and Bundt approaching this stranger ever so slowly from behind. My first thought was, "Awesome! Four-on-one!" I slipped the right strap from my backpack off of my shoulder. Then I noticed Carr and Bundt had walked passed this bad guy and were walking along without a care in the world. Kristensen was standing next to the guy trying to talk him down as best he could. "Easy, mon. He's like me." Then the guy started screaming. He looked toward the other two elders then back at me, totally ignoring Kristensen. "Take off your bag! Go ahead! I'll take all four of you! LET'S GO!"
I was baffled for a couple of reasons. First... why was this guy so willing to pick a fight with four people? It didn't make any sense. Second... why weren't Carr and Bundt doing anything about it? I remembered the counsel we'd received in the MTC. We were told to avoid any and all physical confrontation. The church did not want to be involved in a news story with the headline "Four Mormon Missionaries Mop Pavement With Drunkards Face".
I slowly slipped the strap back onto my shoulder and walked swiftly toward my roommates until I was only a few feet behind Carr and Bundt. Kristensen and the bad guy were about five yards behind me. I heard the evil, evil man say to Kristensen, "You're alright..." I glanced over my shoulder hoping he'd had a change of heart and was talking to me. I made eye contact with him as he pointed at me and said to Kristensen, "...but I want a piece of your mate there." I looked forward again and whispered to Carr and Bundt as loudly as I was comfortable with, "What are you guys doing? There are four of us!" Carr cranked his head to the side and said, "Get in front of us and walk as fast as you can." I crowded in between the two of them and walked as fast as I could... trying hard not to run... cause that would just be wussy.
I rounded a corner that went through a Church of Ireland graveyard which was our usual shortcut. After I walked a few hundred feet, I noticed the other three elders weren't behind me anymore. I walked back to the point that I'd split off from them. As I rounded the corner, I heard some commotion. Bundt had been backed into a tall, wall-like bush. The bad guy was swinging jabs, uppercuts, and roundhouse punches as fast as his drunk little fists would allow. Only about 10% of them were hitting their mark. Bundt was able to deflect most of them with his beefy arms and hands. Kristensen was standing next to the bad guy with his hand on his shoulder almost chanting, "Hey, mon. Relax. We don't want any trouble." Sorry Kristensen... hate to break it to you, but we're smack dab in the middle of trouble.
Just then a car screeched to a halt in the street. Three bald, mean looking guys, jumped out of the car with fists clenched. The bad guy called to them by name and told them to join in on the one person melee. One of the bald guys looked at Kristensen since he was the only person who appeared to be actively engaged in the altercation... with his hand on the guys shoulder. Kristensen said, "We're here for our church and we're just trying to walk home." It sounded almost like a white flag of surrender. Kinda like, "Well... NOW we're screwed. Oh well. I tried."
The guys glanced around at all four of the missionaries. They could tell by the desperate and helpless looks on our faces that we were somehow the victims. They grabbed their friend and said, "C'mon man. These guys are just trying to get home." They all jumped in the car and were gone. It was over.
We all stood there. Confused and relieved.
We all continued to walk home, laughing and joking. We talked about our feelings and reactions to what had just happened. I expressed some frustration that Carr and Bundt appeared to be fully prepared to let me fend for myself with the bad guy. Then we talked about what might have happened if we had fought back. That guy obviously knew his friends were coming to pick him up. They would have arrived to find four guys (in suits and ties) pounding on their friend and all hell would have broken loose. Seriously. By the look of that guy's friends, we'd have gotten our righteous butts kicked all over that conveniently placed graveyard.
So maybe the Spirit prompted us to not fight back, which, in turn saved us from an untimely demise. Atheists will say, "Or maybe you're just a foursome of total pansies." Maybe. But I like to think God had a hand in our actions that day. Our patience. The calm we felt as it was happening.
I learned a lot about myself that day. I also learned a lot about the Elders I was serving with and around. Kristensen and I joked about that fight for the whole two months we were together. I would say stuff like, "Hey, Kristensen. What if we round that corner and there's a bunch of kids waiting to throw rocks and empty bottles at us?" Kristensen's reply was always the same. He'd laugh and say, "Oh... I don't hope so. I don't hope so."