John Leonard, his wife, Beverly, and their children, Jerrod, Jonna, Jeanne, and Josh, flew out of O’hare International Airport on Thursday, May 30. Almost two years after a murder attempt on John Leonard left him paralyzed, the family is returning to the ministry they care so deeply about. When they arrive in Brazil, the Leonards’ ministry will be located in a rural village in southern Brazil.
On July 3, 2005, after an evening service, two men entered the church asking for Pastor John. When John identified himself, one of the men shot him three times. John was wounded in the face, the arm, and most seriously the fourth vertebrae of his spine. The shot to his spine left him paralyzed from his armpits down. The two men ran out and escaped in a car driven by a third man. To this day no suspects have been found.
In their hearts, the Leonards are still missionaries and have a huge burden for the people of Brazil to come and know the Savior. The road to recovery has been difficult, but the Leonards have faced it with determination. John has desired to return to Brazil, but his doctors would not release him. He and his wife, Bev, prayed in the hospital that the Lord would allow them to return to their work. After much waiting and praying, a doctor finally gave them the answer they were looking for: “Follow your heart.”
The Leonards are doing just that. Before John’s injury, the village where the Leonards ministered was home to a large child prostitution ring, gangs, and drug lords. The Leonards helped rehabilitate victims and addicts. They suspect the attack on John was planned because people thought he might know information on the crimes taking place in the village. Since his injury, John had reached out and spoken with the drug and gang lords of the village.
The Leonard family is excited about their return to Brazil. They feel safe and are ready to continue serving the Lord. Bev explained, according to the Des Moines Register, “This has been John’s dream all along. This is his goal, to continue what God called him to do.” John stated as he was getting ready to fly out of O’Hare “I’m still a missionary. My heart is still in Brazil. God is going to have to close the door for me not to go back.”