I had an interesting experience here a few weeks ago. I was wondering about the best way to talk about it, or even if I should talk about it at all. The events are a bit unsettling. I decided that posting it here on my blog for those interested, as opposed to in one of my newsletters for the unsuspecting, would be the best avenue. What follows is hardly a life altering event. I consider it more of a footnote to an interesting chapter in my life. However, I have decided to write about it because it does illustrate some very real challenges, both physical and spiritual, that Christians face.
What follows is a narrative about a violent encounter. If you feel like you may be triggered in a negative way by a such a story, please please please navigate away from this page. Also, at the end of the article is a photo of me following the confrontation that some might find a bit graphic. Be advised.
I was attacked the other day. It was all very random. What happened was I was out late at night following a practice and coach’s meeting for the Czech National Team. It was around 10:45pm when a taxi pulled up to the bus stop I was waiting at. A well dressed man got out and came towards me looking as though he was going to ask a question. I greeted him and he said something to the effect of, “Get in the car.” I’m not 100% sure what he said because it was late and my Czech language skills decline with the evening.
While I was thinking through whether I knew this man or not, he punched me right in the face. It was a square, well placed hit to the chin. He knew what he was doing. He clearly intended to knock me out. The punch had enough velocity behind it that my glasses flew off my face. I was stunned. I think he was stunned a bit as well, as I did not react to his punching me. He continued to yell, although I did not comprehend all that he was shouting at me.
We often wonder how we would react in a situation like this. What would I do if someone punched me in the face is a question that has been unfortunately answered. A natural response, especially for a larger guy like me, is to engage and fight back. However, somewhat surprisingly, that was not my initial instinct. I chose to wait and see if he would strike again. My reasoning was threefold. First, I did not know if he had more friends in the back of the taxi. My money is on me in a one on one fight, but anything more than that my odds go down significantly. Second, as an immigrant here, having my name listed as an aggressor of any type, even in my own self defense, in a police report would be problematic the next time my visa came up for renewal. This is a difficult fact of life for anyone who is a guest in another country, especially long term. Your ability and desire to defend yourself must be weighed against your desire to stay in your current context. Plus the fact that should the police have showed up and taken a report, it would have been a he said/he said situation and the police will almost always side with the Czech in that situation. And finally third, he showed up in a taxi and I reasoned that if I backed away slowly, he would not want to get too far from his ride.
Backing away proved to be the proper course of action. He yelled at me to run away as I was backing up. I didn’t because I needed the bus that was scheduled to arrive in a minute, but he got into his taxi and rode off. I’m thankful that the taxi driver, who looked just as confused as I was, took the man away.
As the bus rolled up, I called my friend, Zach, to let him in on the situation. He and his wife were kind enough to offer to come pick me up, but I was on the other side of the city and it would have taken less time to simply get home by public transportation than it would have for them to come and pick me up. When I sat down on the bus, I notice I had a good amount of blood on my shirt (photo below). My chin was bleeding. The man must have wearing a ring. I told this to Zach while I was on the phone with him. He then heard the bus announcements (Next Stop, that sort of thing) in the background and told me to get off and get an Uber, which was probably the right move.
When I got home, the bleeding got worse and it took me a good hour or two to get it stopped to the point I wasn’t dripping all over my apartment. Frankly, I should have probably gone to the hospital to be evaluated for stitches, but the late hour and fear that they might shave part of my beard took hold. Fatigue and vanity triumphed over common sense.
Once I go the bleeding under control and had some time to calm down a bit, I sat on my couch and thought to myself that that really was an odd situation. I texted my friend Matt to see if I could call him and get his read on the situation. Now I’m not one to scream spiritual warfare over every situation that does not go my way, but the situation was just odd enough and just inexplicable enough, that I felt like I needed the input of another person. Matt seemed to think there may have been a spiritual element behind it all, so he offered to pray for me, which I gladly accepted.
The last year has been difficult for me for many reasons. Church, football, and personal life all have had their fair share of challenges. That Friday was a really good day, though, for me spiritually. It was one of those days where I felt a genuine sense of optimism about life and ministry here. I spent the day with people I care about and made some connections that have good ministry potential down the road. And the moment I felt like I had begun to start crawling out of that hole, a random man pulls up in a taxi, punches me in the face, and tells me to run away. Apparently even Satan knows I don’t pick up on subtlety well.
Everyone has their own theory as to why this happened, ranging from the spiritual, to the man being under the influence of something, to xenophobia, especially in reference to my beard. Whatever the reason, this certainly served as a reminder for me to continue to pray for this city and the people in it.
Like I said in the introduction, I do not consider this to be a life altering event. And I am even a bit hesitant to share the story because it is not at all positive. However, every event in life is instructive in some way, and not all of those events are positive. Life has its challenges. But it’s also ok to laugh. It is an absurd situation. We learn what we can, see the humor in it, and move on.
Unlike some of my colleagues and classmates, I do not consider myself to be in harm’s way, but, as this situation demonstrates, opposition lurks wherever we are advancing the Gospel. So final request is for you is simply to continue to pray for us missionaries around the world.