Elijah Makes it Home

Written by Kathryn Spurgeon in the October 2008 Issue

Dan Nygol, UCO student, experienced unspeakable horror when his brother Elijah disappeared in the Kenyan riots on December 28, 2007. While the riots raged, Elijah travelled to Kenya to check on his family, but after he arrived in the capitol city of Nairobi, he wasn’t heard from for five months.

When Elijah arrived amidst the chaos in Kenya, law enforcement officers took him by bus to a church – supposedly to reach safety. Three days later, however, the church burned down in the middle of the night. Elijah recalls that children’s blankets caught on fire as they slept on the ground. Although he escaped the flames, he was captured by rebels and forced to turn over all of his possessions. After relinquishing his luggage, money, cell phone and passport, he was repeatedly beaten and confined in darkness.

“Guys you’ve grown up with and known all your life become animals,” Elijah says of the Kenyan violence. “I wondered how, in a Christian country, so many came to be the way they were.”

After approximately three months, Elijah’s captors finally released him and nine other men, abandoning them in the jungle.

By the time the ten men were found, five of them were already dead. The other five were taken to a hospital in Nairobi where two more died. Due to his injuries, Elijah was unconscious for a month. Nobody in Kenya knew who he was. When he regained consciousness, he told medical professionals how to locate his family.

Despite the joy that accompanied the arrival of Elijah’s family, his life was still in danger. In addition to serious internal injuries, his right arm had been so critically damaged that he lost the use of it. The Kenyan doctors didn’t have the expertise or facilities to treat such a mangled limb.

Within a few weeks, Elijah recovered enough to return to the U.S. On arrival an ambulance rushed him to a Kansas hospital. He underwent an extensive operation in which the bones in his arm were screwed back together and his elbow realigned.

“I can handle the physical pain, but the mental part is difficult,” said Elijah. “I have nightmares of the things the kids went through there.”

He goes to physical therapy twice a day and to counseling every week. “I’ve seen horrors like this on TV, but it wasn’t real,” says Elijah, “I never imagined it happening to me. If I hadn’t believed in God before, I would now. He must have a purpose or I wouldn’t be here today.”

Happy that his brother’s alive and safe, Nygol’s almost back to his normal, cheerful self and continues to pursue his dream of becoming a doctor. Elijah was providing financial support for him to attend UCO. Like many international students on a tight budget, Nygol pays the previous semester shortly before school starts so he can enroll in the next semester. During Elijah’s absence, he raised enough money to pay for most of the 2008 spring semester and enroll for fall.

“In January, my life looked really bleak,” said Nygol. “I thought I would be going back to Kenya, but with God’s help, I’m still here.”

The International Office at UCO is helping Nygol recover financially. He now has a part-time campus job and saves every dime for tuition, books and other needs. Despite his family’s recent troubles, he still has a rare opportunity.
A fund has been set up by the Foundation Department at UCO to help Nygol with his tuition. Contributors can send a check made out to “UCO Foundation,” to the International Office, 100 N. University Drive, Edmond, Oklahoma 73034.

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