Missionaries share story of forgiveness

Posted: October 16, 2008

Canadian missionaries John (College ’60) and Eloise Bergen visited the Briercrest College and Seminary campus on October 14 and 15 to share their inspiring story of healing and forgiveness after surviving a brutal attack in their home in Katale, Kenya, where they worked with Hope for the Nations.

They spoke in college chapel on Tuesday morning, made several more appearances in college classes and staff meetings, and met with some college students on Tuesday evening. Mr. Bergen also spoke in high school chapel Wednesday morning.

Eloise Bergen“I’ve never really watched a horror movie, but I’ve lived one,” Mrs. Bergen said of her ordeal. She described how on the evening of July 9, 2008, a group of men attacked her husband outside with clubs and machetes, dragged him over to a hedge, and presumably left him for dead.

The attackers then found her inside in the bathtub, tied her hands, and assaulted her for 45 minutes. After the attackers left, she was able to get free and find her husband.

Both said that the Lord answered their prayers for protection in the midst of the attacks. Mr. Bergen said that a small voice spoke to him with each blow, saying, “It doesn’t hurt as the enemy intended.” Later, he said that doctors were shocked at his condition—there were nine machete lacerations on his knees, but not a single tendon had been cut. He said that according to the doctors, one blow of the machete should have severed his leg completely.

“As the machete was at my neck, his presence came around me,” said Mrs. Bergen of her experience. I had a secret the attackers knew nothing about—I was in the secret place of the Most High.”

After the beatings ceased, she said that God was the one who helped her remember that she had some scissors in her makeup box that she could use to cut her hands free.

She also said that later, after she had found Mr. Bergen, God helped them escape to find help. Their home had been ransacked, but the thieves had left their car after driving it into a tree—and leaving the keys in the ignition.

He also helped her lift Mr. Bergen, who was dead-weight, into their vehicle. Because of his injuries, he couldn’t use his arms or legs at all. “I don’t know how my little girl did that!” said Mr. Bergen. Later, after they were airlifted to Nairobi, it had taken three men to move him.

John BergenOn Tuesday afternoon at a staff gathering, Mr. Bergen told a group about a woman who had prayed for their facial scars to disappear. Now, more than three months after the attacks, the scars on Mr. Bergen’s knees are still a deep red, but there is no visible trace of the many cuts and stitches on their faces.

Perhaps the most compelling part of their story, though, is the way they talk about their attackers. “If I met them again, I would tell them that Jesus loves them and that I love them,” said Mr. Bergen in college chapel. “I would tell them that there is forgiveness for what they’ve done.”

“I forgive you,” said Mrs. Bergen of her attackers as she lay in a hospital bed after the attacks. “I let it go.”

Mr. Bergen said that years ago, the Lord brought him through a difficult time, from which he “learned to live a lifetime of forgiveness.” When someone asked him when he forgave his attackers, he replied, “I didn’t have to. I think I forgave them years ago.”

He also said they aren’t sure what provoked the attack. He thinks their attackers came from a slum, and that “they were just hungry.”

Both Mr. and Mrs. Bergen also talked at length about their ministry in Kenya. Mr. Bergen became emotional when he talked about the orphans they worked with, and he said that he and his wife would like to return to their work there next summer.