An attack was coming. Hannelie had expected as much.
She had no idea exactly where or when, but on November 29th, 2014, Hannelie Groenewald feared violence was approaching.
Roughly 12 years before that day, Hannelie and her family had moved from South Africa where her husband, Werner, had been a pastor of a church for five years.
Before the move, their family was established and flourishing. In the city of Pretoria, South Africa, Hannelie worked as a doctor as the couple raised their two children, a son, Jean-Pierre, and a daughter, Rodé.
However, in 2002, Werner felt God saying it was time to move.
The destination? Kabul, Afghanistan.
Less than a year after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Afghanistan was wrought with turmoil, violence, and unrest, much due to anti-American sentiment.
At the time, the children were only five and three years old.
There were many reasons not to move, but Werner felt God calling him to the lost and hurting people of this war-torn Asian country.
Although Hannelie knew the move could very well endanger her two children, she agreed to answer the call to bring the gospel to the people of Afghanistan.
After the family moved in 2003, Werner served in several different capacities, including leading a training center for the Global Hope Network International from 2003 to 2008. In addition to being a pastor, Werner also led an organization called Partnership in Academics & Development (PAD), providing education to the people of Kabul who could not afford public school.
Hannelie resumed her medical work in the new country, which continued through 2014.
November 29th of that year was a Saturday, usually Hannelie’s day off. However, the clinic had called her into work that day, so she was not at home.
As she was leaving the clinic for the day, around 4 p.m., three armed Taliban attackers rushed the compound where her family lived and started firing their weapons inside.
By the time Hannelie arrived at the compound, it was blocked off by the Afghan police. Gunfire and explosions from inside could be heard from the street.
At 11:30 p.m., Hannelie learned that her children and husband were dead.
In the time after the attack, a Taliban spokesperson claimed responsibility, saying that the compound (where Werner would hold PAD meetings) was a “secret Christianity missionary group.”
“I believe there is a price tag attached to being a real born-again believer,” said Hannelie. “There will be a price to pay.”
“We had a clear calling,” she remembers. “We had a mandate...we counted the cost. We knew something like this could happen.”
Hannelie has kept the faith, continuing to serve the Lord even after the loss of her entire family. Individuals like Hannelie are excellent examples of the costliness that often accompanies taking the gospel to the world. She knew what it would take. She knew it would be dangerous. And she still chose to go.
In the days before November 29th, one of Werner’s last meetings was with a group of international workers. He spoke to them on counting the cost of following Jesus.
According to a witness close to Werner, he closed the meeting with one simple truth.
“We die only once, so it might as well be for Jesus.”
This week, Engage is teaming up with Global Outreach International for this year's Orange Letter Campaign. We're gathering and sending letters from you to missionaries all around the world. We ask that you prayerfully type out a letter and submit it to firstname.lastname@example.org.