BYU’s football team is chalk full of return missionaries that have served all over the world. BYU tight end Dennis Pitta received a call to serve in the Dominican Republic, an island in the Caribbean.
But as missionaries know, serving in a foreign land among a culture not their own can often bring surprises and danger as the greenhorn Elders do their best to learn the social ropes while surviving the dos and don’ts as soon as possible.
Tourists to the Dominican Republic often see two sides of the island. On the one hand, there’s the white sandy beaches and natural beauty. On the other hand, the country has a reputation for poverty, crime and general social unrest.
For these two elders looking to share a message, this night would be an unforgettable one.
“My companion and I were driving down a road,” said Pitta. “In the Dominican Republic, people oftentimes have parties out in the middle of the streets and we kind of got caught in the middle of one as we were driving down this one street ... I was the one driving the car and my companion was in the passenger seat when all of a sudden, we were in the middle of this party. I looked over to my left and there was a guy with a gun tapping on the window.”
With a crowd of partygoers surrounding the car, Pitta simply couldn’t step on the gas to make a quick getaway.
“It was pretty scary because we were going to get carjacked or robbed, but I couldn’t go anywhere,” Pitta said. “Here was this guy with a gun tapping it on the window, so what we did was we just didn’t look at him. It wasn’t like I could just step on the gas and get out of there.”
Ignoring the gunman was an unorthodox way of dealing with the situation, but it ended up being effective.
“It was pretty scary because you don’t know what was going to happen,” Pitta said. “We just kept going through the crowd and I pretended like I didn’t see him. I just ignored him and kept going and I tried not to make eye contact or make him mad. I guess we did a pretty good job and must have fooled him or something.”
Fortunately for Elder Pitta and his companion, they both finally weaved and dodged their way through the crowd without incident. Pretending not to see the gunman worked, and the two elders were kept from harm while on the streets of the Dominican Republic that night.