This is the place to find the most updated information concerning Missionary John Leonard. Most recent post are written by the family themselves.

Monday, July 11, 2005

News - Missionary Recovers After Attack

News - Article from The Des Moines Register

Missionary recovers after attack

John Leonard regains consciousness after being shot near his church in Brazil.

July 11, 2005

The Saylorville Baptist Church congregation rejoiced Sunday morning at news that one of their own - missionary John Leonard - had regained consciousness.

Leonard, 45, a long-time member and missionary for the Des Moines-area church, had been shot at close range by two men outside his mission church in Brazil on July 3. He is believed to be paralyzed from the neck down and has pneumonia.

He was flown to Iowa Methodist Medical Center on Saturday and regained con- sciousness overnight, opening his eyes and communicating to friends and family by nodding his head, the congregation was told.

"Your prayers woke him up in the night," the Rev. Pat Nemmers told worshippers at the 10:45 a.m. service.

William Smallman, vice president of the Ohio-based mission agency to which Leonard belonged, said such an attack on a missionary is "exceedingly rare." Based on the information his group has about the shooting, it's clear that the men, who have not been identified, went to the church to kill Leonard.

What is unclear is the motive.

In February, Dorothy Stang, a Catholic nun and environmental activist who frequently clashed with farmers and loggers in her attempts to protect Amazon rain forest land, was shot in the face and killed by men whom Brazilian authorities believe were hired to get rid of Stang.

But Leonard was not an environmental activist, and he worked in a different area of the nation, family members said. Alagoas, a small coastal state known for its beaches, is largely agricultural, with sugar cane and some tobacco crops.

Leonard had never been involved in political activism, even though some groups had asked him to, said his brother, Jim Leonard.

"We're there to help the people," Jim Leonard said. "It's not through political activism, it's through spiritual health."

Jim Leonard said his brother founded his fourth church since 1990 in a fishing village with lots of alcohol, drug and prostitution problems. Smallman speculated that the men who shot Leonard might have been involved in drug trafficking.

Leonard had finished a sermon at the church when two men approached and asked to speak with him. Outside the church, the men fired several shots from close range, hitting him in the face, arm and back.

Ironically, Leonard wasn't supposed to be in Brazil. He and his wife, Bev, and three of their four children had returned to Iowa for a year's furlough. Leonard had gone back to Brazil to get his oldest son, Josh.

Josh Leonard, 19, a college student in Brazil, went through chemotherapy for cancer earlier this year. Recently, he fell and broke a wrist and ankle. About a week later, he had a seizure and broke his right hip, so John Leonard was going to bring him to Iowa to recuperate.

Josh Leonard is still in Brazil, and the family hopes to bring him to Iowa later for medical care. Until then, the focus is on his father.

Nemmers said he visited John Leonard on Sunday morning. "He responded to me with little nods," Nemmers said. "He recognized who I was."

Leonard has a badly broken arm, with a bullet still lodged inside, Nemmers said. Bullet fragments also remain in Leonard's neck.

The Leonard family attended Sunday services, and brother Jim spoke briefly during the service.

"It's really encouraging that he's conscious," he said.

Since returning to Iowa, John Leonard's health has improved, his brother said.

"From what we see, we're satisfied," he said. "We see a big difference."

Jim Leonard, also a missionary in Brazil, said several members of the family have been involved in missionary work since their parents began missionary work there in 1962.
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