I’m not sure if you heard about it in the news, but earlier this week a missionary couple from Vernon, BC were attacked in the home they were living in while doing missionary/humanitarian work in Kenya.  John, 72, and his wife Eloise, 63, were attacked in their home by 5 men.  From what I understand, they were living in a walled compound with guards, but the guards have since been arrested presumably for helping with the crime. Mr. Bergen was beaten just outside their home with machetes and other weapons and left virtually for dead, while his wife Eloise was subsequently attacked inside the home while she was taking a bath, had her hands bound by the attackers, and was sexually assaulted.  The couple’s story after that is quite amazing, because Eloise was able to free herself and find her husband, haul him into their vehicle, and drive to their organization’s compound.  From what I’ve heard, he may have died from his injuries if his wife wasn’t able to get them to safety, because his cuts were quite deep (although it seems that thankfully no major arteries were severed).

The reason I’m making myself blog about this is because of what I heard and saw in a video interview I caught on TV with John Bergen from his hospital bed.  I can’t find that footage anymore, but I will relay as best I can remember it.  In the interview, John shared a lot about what happened to them, but a pivotal part came when the interviewer asked him what he would tell his attackers if he got a chance to speak with them.  Mr. Bergen’s response moved me a lot, because he said something like – I would tell them that Jesus loves them, and I forgive them, and that God wants to forgive them, if they’d receive it.

As far as I can remember, never have I heard such a specific and accurate message of love from a Christian aid worker on Canadian or American television.  Specific, because he was unashamed to mention the name of Jesus and because he knew that those young men needed to “receive” God’s forgiveness.  That’s very different from what you might hear from some “Christian” leaders or public figures, who might tell you that your beliefs about God don’t matter as long as you’re a decent person.  But Mr. Bergen’s message of love was also accurate, because while those young men could be greatly helped by having the Bergens’ forgiveness, by being rehabilitated and integrated properly into society, and by being lifted from poverty, etc. – that’s not ultimately what they need.  What they need the most is peace.  Peace with God, because by default, we are enemies of God and are in a state of hostilities towards Him.  Which is no big deal if it was your 3-year old cousin, but not so cool when it’s God (who’s right).

It’s like if you met a young teenager, and you found out that he had purposely set fire to his Dad’s house and now he was living in the city, broke and desparate.  Sure, you could give him a place to stay and feed him, but that’s just a temporary fix.  On the other hand, if you knew that his Dad wanted him to come home beecause he loved him, wouldn’t the most important thing you could tell the guy would be to go home, apologize to his Dad, and trust that his Dad would make things right?  That’s pretty much what John Bergen wants to tell his and his wife’s attackers.

What I think is easy to miss in this story is that these are the men who raped his wife.  You can tell how precious Eloise is to him when you hear him describe his pride in how his wife managed to save him and haul him into the vehicle.  How his “little girl” managed to life his 128lb body after being attacked herself, he’s not too sure.  I’ve never been married, but I am a guy, and I would imagine that it would be tearing a lot of guys up to know that their wife was sexually assaulted and tormented by pitiable men such as these.  For that reason, and many others, I really respect how John and Eloise Bergen have responded to this incident.  From what I’ve observed, John Bergen is an inspiration and a challenge to live as a man of integrity to the praise of God’s glorious Grace.

Note: Here are some links for more this story.

thestar.com – Missionary won’t leave Kenya despite attack”
“What we’re going to do is go to the prison where the perpetrators are and show them that Jesus loves them and we forgive them,” he said. “So that’s the plan.”

CTV British Columbia – “Missionary describes terrifying ordeal in Kenya”
(features several videos)

CBC.ca – news article, including this 7 minute long audio interview with John Bergen (RealPlayer file)

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