Thursday, October 30, 2008

Elder Layton's Australian Missionary Attack/Miracle Connection

Elder Layton has a good friend serving in the Sydney Australia North Mission right now. Logan Grow is one of the C-5 kids that hung out together from the time they were young. A couple of weeks ago, two missionaries in Elder Grow's mission, one a 6'9" BYU basketball player, were viciously attacked. They were stabbed and slashed, beaten and kicked. Yet they were watched over by angels and by a good Samaritan here on earth.

Just after the brutal attack, the mission President sent out a letter to all parents in the mission. I believe it is uplifting and of value to read. I don't believe there are any portions that are meant to be confidential or that are sensitive to a limited readership. In fact, it has been distributed via email, and I have the permission of Elder Grow's mother to post this. It is relevant to this blog because Elder Grow and Elder Layton are close friends and a number of our readers know him as well. It is also relevant because of the nature of the work they are both involved in. This is a portion of the President's letter.

On Tuesday night around 9 PM, I was working at the mission home when my mobile rang and Elder Collinsworth -- not sounding good -- said, "President, Elder Ferguson and I are at Westmead hospital. We have been stabbed. Gotta go." I took the assistants with me and drove 30 minutes to the hospital. A woman at ER admissions, seeing my name tag, said, "You here to check on your lads? I can't let you in right now they are surrounded by doctors."

At about 8:45 PM, Elders Collinsworth (out about 6 months from Mapleton, UT; BYU basketball player, 6'9", 220 lbs) and Elder Ferguson (out about 18 months from Great Falls, Montana; BYU major in Ancient Near Eastern Studies, 6'1" -- very slender), were walking on the sidewalk about 1/2 a block from their apartment. The area, Auburn, is our most urban. The missionaries refer to it as "all manner of 'ese: Chinese, Sudanese, Lebanese, etc." The Elders saw two Lebanese men, over six feet tall with mullets, walking towards them. As they approached, the Elders stepped off the sidewalk to let them pass. As soon as the men were in striking distance, they struck. Elder Collinsworth grabbed his attacker and threw him down into the street and held him to the ground. Elder Ferguson exchanged punches with his attacker with enough ferocity that the coward fled. By this time a third attacker jumped on Elder Collinsworth pulling his shirt over his head. He was knocked to the ground and kicked. He said the last thing he saw as he hit the street was Elder Ferguson running towards him. Elder Ferguson knocked the third attacker off of Elder Collinsworth. The second attacker who had run away earlier returned to join the attack.

At this time a passing Sudanese motorist stopped and honked his horn, flashed his lights and yelled. The three attackers ran away. The motorist got out and checked on the Elders -- now both on the street -- and then went to get a nearby policeman. At this point the Elders realized they had both been stabbed. Elder Collinsworth, once in the back; Elder Ferguson, thrice -- in the thigh, the upper left arm, and the left wrist. Blood was especially pouring out of the wrist wound, so Elder Collinsworth took off his tie and bound the wound. An ambulance quickly arrived and transported them two Westmead which is a very good hospital.

When they arrived at the hospital, a paramedic helped them out of the ambulance and handed them his mobile phone saying, "Elders, better call your mission president." The Lord had positioned a returned missionary who lives over an hour up the coast to be at the hospital that night. He watched over the missionaries until I arrived.

Elder Collinsworth had been stabbed on the right side of the mid-to-lower back, right by the kidney. He was the one the trauma team was most concerned about, but a ct scan and various other tests quickly relieved concern of kidney damage. He was patched up and released the next day.

Elder Ferguson required surgery so they could probe for tendon damage (there was none) and have a plastic surgeon close the wounds on the arm and wrist. The doctors did a remarkable job. The remaining scars will only be the size of the knife blade. Elder Ferguson was released Thursday morning. He went to his flat, got into his suit and he and Elder Collinsworth came to the regularly scheduled zone meeting, sore, but very happy to be there.

It is a slight exaggeration to say they are "back to work," but they are getting out as much as they can without overdoing it. Elder Collinsworth is in good condition, Elder Ferguson is still in pain and finds it difficult to climb stairs or walk very far due to the leg wound. The Elders insist they want to stay in their areas. Given the proximity of the attack to their apartment, we are closing the flat and looking for a place on the other side of the area.

Yesterday, Saturday, Sister Scruggs and I took Elder Collinsworth and Elder Ferguson, along with their companions, the other companionship in the district, the zone leaders and the assistants (10 missionaries) over to visit the site of the attack. The sidewalk was covered with still glistening blood. You could follow the drops out to the street. The Elders gave us a narrated re-enaction, we took some pictures and then gathered around the bloody sidewalk. I told them that the blood cried out not for vengeance, but for faithfulness. I bore testimony to them that as I had administered to both of them in the hospital that the Spirit had spoken very clearly to me that because they had been in the right place at the right time, doing the right thing, that even though they had encountered the wrong guys, they were worthy of and had received the protection of Angels. I said, "we are standing on hallowed ground. Not just because it is stained with the blood of the servants of the Lord, but because this is the one place outside of the Temple that each of you can say with certainty that you know you are standing where Angels of the Lord have stood." The Spirit was thick and our hearts swollen in gratitude.

We took the group for pizza at a nearby restaurant -- run by a Turkish family generous to the missionaries, who are regular customers. The conversation turned to more general missionary topics, though Elder Collinsworth made an amusing observation, "When you get home and tell people you got hurt in a bike wreck, they think you're a dork; but when you tell them you got jumped and stabbed, we'll get some respect."

We enjoyed our pizza and dropped the Elders off at their baptism.

I told the Elders, that while Sister Scruggs and I would be real happy if we didn't have any more "hallowed ground" while we were here, it's been a good week in the Australia Sydney North Mission.

So, let's discuss the question that has to be on your mind -- is your missionary safe?

No area is without risks. That is why we beg the Lord to protect our missionaries every day, in every prayer. Some live and walk in poor, urban areas. Others bike or drive in suburbs with busy highways. Far more missionaries are hurt in car and bike accidents every year than from violent assualts. If I believed the area where the Elders were attacked was not safe, they would not have been allowed to reside or work there. If either of the mothers of the Elders who were stabbed would have emailed me the night before the incident asking if their sons were safe, I would have replied, "yes, if they are obedient and careful." We remind them often to be both. This incident has prompted us to refresh and amplify the need for wisdom, caution and inspiration.

We will continue to train our missionaries to be careful and obedient. The fact that they are in their apartments by 9 PM every night protects them from most mischief, but not all. We have no idea why these three men attacked our Elders. So far as we know it was random. It's hard to safeguard against crazy, drunk or stupid. We have not had any incident remotely like this since we have been here -- and we will do all we can to prevent another.

The most productive missionary areas are those in humble, diverse neighborhoods. It has always been so. While most parents want their missionaries to serve in the quiet suburbs, the missionaries themselves long to be "where the action is" but where greater care is called for.

We teach the importance of health and safety at every zone conference. We meet with each missionary privately every six weeks to check on their health and happiness -- and to make sure they are writing home. The Church has made arrangements for excellent health care for the missionaries. We even have our own doctor, Elder Oldroyd, who makes himself available around the clock for everything from diahrea to, well, stab wounds. If there is something more you think we ought to be doing, we are anxious to improve.

We love your missionary and watch after them as if they were our own.

Please don't hesitate to contact us if you have questions or concerns -- and keep us in your prayers.

President and Sister Scruggs

Two weeks ago, Elder Grow was transferred to the very zone where this attack took place. I forwarded this email to Elder Layton earlier today.


Gin said...

i read this story in the daily universe and was extremely touched by the account of the events, but now I am even more touched. our boys (men) are out there doing everything they can and facing their challenges. it is so very impressive.

Megan said...

that story brought tears to my eyes and filled my heart. thank you so much for sharing it. some times i feel at a loss as of what to pray for when it comes to the missionaries. i pray that they will find those that are ready for the Gospel. but never did i realized how much we should be praying for their safety. i'm so grateful those two missionaries were watched over by the lord. i'm grateful that our young men )the c-5 and others) are watched over day and night.