An Iowa missionary remains in critical condition at a Methodist Hospital in Des Moines after he was shot several times last week outside a Brazil church he founded.
Although sources say 45-year-old John Leonard did awake from his coma Saturday night and responded to his family, doctors are still not able to perform surgery on him yet because he's at risk for pneumonia. He is believed to be paralyzed from the neck down.
On July 3, Leonard was shot at close range by two men outside his mission church in Brazil after a church service. Leonard, a long-time member and missionary for the Saylorville Baptist Church in Des Moines, was rushed to a hospital, suffering from gunshot wounds to his face.
On Saturday, Leonard was flown to Iowa Methodist Medical Center where he regained consciousness overnight, opening his eyes and communicating to friends and family by nodding his head, Saylorville church members were told, according to the Des Moines Register.
"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.
Beth Levine, the spokeswoman for Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, who helped arrange Leonard's transportation to Iowa Methodist said she did not know whether a U.S. government agency was investigating the shooting.
However, the Des Moines Register reports that Grassley has now gotten involved in the investigation in Brazil.