Robbery in Brazil

(Testimony from 1990)

It is always good to listen to advice, especially Godly advice. Sometimes God can speak to you through others but if we are not sensitive we will miss it. Sometimes the LORD can save your life, or do other miracles through the simple fact of listening to others. Ask God for a listening ear not only to Him in prayer but also through others He can use. I learned this clearly one time in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1988.

I had been a headmaster of a small mission-based international school there. I was due for a ‘visa trip’. Visa trips in those days meant one day very-long distance trip to Iguacu Falls on the border with Paraguay, crossing the border and returning the next day with a new 6 month visa.

My pastor there had made available about US $700 for me for this trip. She had also freed up a bodyguard, dear Davi, who was on our school staff and an ex-Brazilian army black belt karate expert, but now a faithful missionary himself with his lovely wife Anna and three super precious children. So he was assigned to go with me, the white foreigner, to make sure I was well looked after. I felt very touched my school had been so kind. Davi and I were already quite good friends. He was around thirty years old and quite thin. I always noticed how little he ate compared with others, and he always ate very healthy fruits and lots of vegetables. Good man!

When my pastor handed over the wad of money to me, I simply deposited it into my two front trouser pockets. She looked at me aghast.  Being relatively new to Brazil and Rio at the time I had obviously not fully appreciated the nature of this long trip and its inherent dangers. ‘Jerry’, she suggested, ‘you need a money belt or something like that, don’t you have one? Put most of the money there’. A money belt was found and with my small suitcase, we set out happily, after united prayer.

The trip to central Rio was a normal trip, and the eventual plan was to first take a local bus from our HQ in south Rio into the city centre where we connected with the long distance luxury buses to all parts of Brazil.  I looked forward to this trip and hoped to be able to actually visit the majestic waterfalls of Foz De Iguacu, and even stand underneath them looking out.

It happened on this day as was usual in our Christian mission, that we always tried to fit as much other business or evangelism into our day as possible in order to ‘redeem the time, for the days were evil!’ So we therefore first had an appointment to deliver a Bible study with the female PA of the major five star hotel in South Rio first. After that we were free to proceed to the major bus station in downtown Rio.

I have always been impressed at how wonderfully many Brazilians receive and appreciate the living Word of God and how interested they are for the Gospel and more learning. This particular lady in her early thirties was no exception. I was a blessed man to live in Brazil I often thought.

After this wonderfully inspiring Bible study which Davi ably conducted in Portuguese, we made our way to the rather dingy local bus station. Davi bought the tickets and then excused himself, I think to make a phone call. No mobile phone in those days, my friend. Can you imagine a day with no computers, no mobile phones, no other modern means of communication? Well it was only 1989 and we had them in their infancy at this time.

So I was left alone in the queue for a few minutes and the call to board the bus came. I was near the very front of this queue and it started moving so I had no choice but to move also with it. My bodyguard was nowhere to be found! As I got on (from the back of the bus in Brazil in those days) I glanced to my left to see a young man who was already sitting there. His face seemed a shroud of darkness and an evil vibe came straight from his face towards me. Mmmm, I thought to myself; let’s get a seat far from the back. 

I was wearing that money belt under my clothes and I placed the small suitcase under my seat. Davi was delayed behind me and boarded the bus much later so that we were not able to sit together. He sat further to the front and I was in the middle section of the bus. Our journey began.

The bus wound its gentle way up the picturesque mountain. Those going to the city centre from this location always had to cross over this peak and wind down the mountain again the other side into the centre of Rio.

   The local bus was very noisy, as is often the case in some Brazilian buses- people chatting merrily or expostulating while in the background or foreground is the noise of some Samba or some such music blaring. So the bus was noisy, one can definitely say. On my part, I was looking out the window and enjoying the fauna and flora, occasionally thinking, ‘My, aren’t these Brazilians a noisy bunch of people?’ In the seat in front of me, an old lady, who was facing me, suddenly raised her eyebrows in shock at me as startled by something behind. I slowly turned my head, only to encounter a silver pistol at the back of my head. At the end of the pistol was the thin, wiry and dark arm of the same young man I had previously seen at the back of the bus. He was shouting at me to, ‘Get up and empty my pockets’.

   Instinctively, my MI5 and military training kicked in and I hit him with a lightning chop strike to the neck, and saw his lifeless body crash out the window, the silver pistol careening through the bus which I deftly picked up and pocketed with a smirk. ‘There, that will teach him to mess with Jerry English,’ I said to the admiring passengers of mostly young females. Well, no, that didn’t happen. Let’s rewind.

    And so it was, as I faced this pistol, still pointed dangerously now at my temple I suddenly felt an amazing peace I’d never felt before, and instead of panic, I looked calmly into the young man’s eyes. I saw a nervous man, who was sweating and obviously wanted a quick answer from me. Maintaining eye contact, I began speaking slowly in Portuguese, ‘Ok, no problem,’ and as I knew in my pocket were only a few Brazilian Reais, I dreaded his reaction, so I continued, ‘Well, actually I am just a teacher and as you know teachers are not well paid. I am not a tourist and I live here and teach small children, so I am so sorry I don’t have much to give you. If I had more I would gladly give it to you,’ at the same time I slowly drew out the few Reais I had with me which approximated to about US$4.00. While locked in eye- contact with this dear young man, I suddenly realized the worst was over. He, though, being a professional perhaps was not done with the operation, and cast a quick eye to my watch. I complied and immediately gave it to him. In his haste he must have forgotten my small suitcase conveniently tucked under the seat, and my money belt more conveniently tucked under my midriff.

   And so he was gone, perhaps not as fast as he came, but this was one small ‘brush with death’ as they say, which thankfully to God I lived to tell the tale. After all, who wants to die at 38!

     My advice to any of you reading this, is don’t be so macho or proud as to lose your life for 4 dollars, 400 dollars, or even 4,000 dollars, as unfortunately, many have around the world. Things can be recouped, but your life is precious. Always pray for the protection of God whenever you go out of the door. If you don’t pray why should God protect you? Many people walk out of their houses and never come back even just a short walk or drive to the shops; it’s all over for them. It happens every day. Read the papers and see.

1Pe_5:8  Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:

Psa 91:1  He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.

Psa 91:2  I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.

Psa 91:3  Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.

Psa 91:4  He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.

Psa 91:5  Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day;

Psa 91:6  Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday.

Psa 91:7  A thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.

Psa 91:8  Only with thine eyes shalt thou behold and see the reward of the wicked.

Psa 91:9  Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation;

Psa 91:10  There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.

Psa 91:11  For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.

Psa 91:12  They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.

Psa 91:13  Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet.

Psa 91:14  Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name.

Psa 91:15  He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.

Psa 91:16  With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation.

   And what happened to Davi, my dear Brazilian army friend with the black belt in Karate some of you more astute readers have already asked? The answer is that shortly after we arrived at the terminal, he rushed over to me and was very apologetic.

“Jerry, I am so sorry”, he sincerely explained, “My God, if I had been there by your side, I would have chopped him with a karate strike to the neck and his lifeless body would have crashed out the window! I am sorry I failed you in your moment of need.”

    I smiled comfortingly, “Don’t worry Davi, the bullet travels faster even than your swift hand, I am glad God arranged for you to sit up front.” He seemed satisfied with this reply and so we happily continued the rest of our long adventure together. He was a good man and taught me many things by his dedication and sacrifice and love for God’s work.

However Brazil is a wonderful place with so many hospitable people and needy souls. I loved the four years we were there, and left with a yearning to go back some time in the Millennium.

May the Lord bless Brazil and help its leaders and people to continue to know God, for the corruption and disparity of wealth that is presently there to end, and for all God’s sheep to continue to hear his voice and produce many disciples for Christ among such a wonderful people.

This testimony is taken from the book ‘Shake off the Dust!’ by Jerry Finch. Get a copy from