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June 7, 2004

Calvin Mourns Death of Student

Note: Visitation for Nyala Turaki is Friday, June 11, from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. at Zaagman Memorial Chapel, 2800 Burton SE, in Grand Rapids. A memorial service is on Saturday, June 12, at 10:00 a.m. in the Calvin College Chapel, with reception time afterwards in the Chapel Undercroft.

Just over two weeks ago parents from around the globe journeyed to Grand Rapids for Commencement at Calvin College, a time of joyful transition for some 900 seniors from the life of a student to the world of a graduate.

This week the parents of Calvin senior Nyela Turaki will make a long journey from their home in Nigeria to West Michigan for a far more somber reason. On June 5 their precious daughter suffered a brain hemorrhage while enjoying a meal with close friends at a local restaurant. And on June 6 she went to her eternal home.

Now the parents will come to claim the body of their daughter. But, say Calvin officials, Nyela's parents, and her many friends, know that while death has claimed her earthly body, Nyela now will live for eternity with her faithful Lord and Savior.

"This weekend we were privileged to gather around Nyela's bed for a time of prayer, singing and scripture reading," says Calvin vice president for student life Shirley Hoogstra. "It was a time of reliance of God. Nyela's friends testified to her love for her Lord Jesus Christ. As Nyela's godmother said 'God's ways are not our ways, but we are held in the palm of his hand. Live each day fully, forgiving one another in the Lord.'"

Calvin had approximately 200 international students in 2003-2004 and about 30 of those students were from Nigeria. Many gathered this weekend to keep vigil with their friend.

Calvin's Linda Bosch is an advisor to international students and says Nyela's death is dealing the close-knit population a heavy blow.

"Nyela was such a gentle girl," says Bosch. "She has a warm smile and was very friendly. This is really, really, realy hard."

Frank Speyers, a professor of art at Calvin, had Nyela, an art major hoping to go into architecture, this past semester for a communication design class and echoes Bosch.

"Nyela Turaki was one of those rare jewels who seem to be the most content when noticed the least," he says. "Unobtrusive, graced with a quiet spirit, she never called attention to herself except that her work was always well-thought-out and stimulating. Her gentle, sweet presence and teachable spirit was evident to all. Soft spoken, ready with a brilliant smile, she enriched all of us. She had registered for another course I was planning to teach this coming fall. I will miss her presence."

Calvin currently is working with the office of Congressman Vern Ehlers to expedite the visas of Nyela's parents, Dr. Yusuf and Dr. Deborah Turaki, and that Zaagman Funeral home on Burton will be taking care of arrangements which are still pending due to the finalization of the parents' travel plans. Calvin also is hoping to hold a service of remembrance at the end of this week.

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Contact Phil de Haan
616-526-6475 (v)
616-526-7069 (f)