World

'I asked God to help me ... get free': B.C. missionary attacked in Kenya

A Canadian couple who endured a vicious beating by men armed with machetes and clubs in Kenya said they will not let the terrifying experience deter them from their work with the poor.

7 arrested, including 2 security guards

A Canadian couple who endured a vicious beating by men armed with machetes and clubs in Kenya said they will not let the terrifying experience deter them from their work with the poor.

John Bergen, 72, and his wife Eloise, 63, are recovering in a Nairobi hospital, after undergoing hours of surgery to treat the deep cuts on their faces and bodies and their many broken bones.  

"We realize there's good and bad in Africa, just like there's good and bad in Canada," John Bergen told CBC News from his hospital bed on Friday. "We'll try to reach the bad as well as the good. What else can you do?"

Seven people have been arrested in their beating, including two security guards hired to protect the fenced-in compound where the couple live in the volatile region of Mount Elgon. Police are still hunting for four suspects and have not disclosed any information about a motive for the attack.

Hope for the Nations

Information line

(250) 712-2007

Bank of Montreal

Donations for the Bergens

Account no. 31410 001 3035545

The Bergens say they suspect their attackers may have been connected to some security guards they recently fired and may have been seeking revenge. Theft was also likely a motive since the couple's laptop and cash were stolen during the attack.

The Bergens, who moved from Vernon, B.C., to Kenya four months ago to do missionary work and run programs to feed the poor, said the attack came unexpectedly on Wednesday night.

'They just kept on pounding and cutting'

John said he was outside at about 9 p.m. when he was jumped by about four or five armed men who threw him to the ground and started choking him.

"They just kept on pounding and cutting and pounding and cutting and then finally threw me into a hedge," said John, whose voice is still raspy from being choked.

The men then moved into the house, where Eloise was taking a bath, John said. He said the men ganged up on her, beating her and sexually assaulting her for 45 minutes to an hour. They then left her, covered in blood, with her hands tied behind her back.

<a href="http://www.cbc.ca/news/yourvoice/"><img src="http://www.cbc.ca/news/yourvoice/img/yourvoice-sidebar-header.jpg"></a><br>[/CUSTOM]

'Many look at those from the city or developed nations as having money. They easily become targets.’

— Francis Omolo

"I asked God to help me figure out how to get free," Eloise said, describing how she managed to get a pair of scissors out of her makeup box and cut herself loose.

She wrapped herself in a blanket, ran barefoot outside and started yelling for her husband. When she found him under some bushes, looking like he'd been left for dead, she lifted him up and carried him into their truck. She went back into the house, found some clothes, and the two drove to the headquarters of the Christian charity they work for, Hope for the Nations.

"At first, we didn’t know what to do because there’s nobody we can run to, because nobody lives around us," Eloise said.

'She's a very strong person'

John said he was slipping in and out of consciousness by the time his wife reached him. He said he was amazed she managed to get him into the car.

"I don't know how she did that because she's really not strong enough to manhandle 128 pounds," John said.

He said his wife went through the worst of the attack but will recover because she has a strong relationship with Jesus Christ.

"She's not a weak person; she's a very strong person," he said. "She has a good foundation with her emotional and spiritual life."

More surgeries for the couple

John said he and his wife still have to undergo more surgeries in Nairobi. John was left with a broken jaw, broken arms and badly injured legs. Eloise's face is badly swollen, and her jaw is also broken.

The couple has four children, who are currently collecting donations for airfare in order to bring the couple back to Canada to recover from their injuries. It's expected to cost at least $150,000 to fly John back to Canada with medical assistance, but Robyn McGough, the couple's daughter-in-law, said the Bergens do not have enough insurance to cover the total cost of their treatment.

McGough said news of the attack was devastating for the family.

Canada's Foreign Affairs Department has called the attack a "senseless act of violence," and has said consular officials have been in contact with the couple and are providing assistance.

Canadian officials are also in contact with local police to ensure the investigation moves rapidly to apprehend the assailants, the department has said.

now