Hannelie Groenewald had expected the Taliban’s attack in Kabul that day. She and other doctors from her clinic had even been put on standby at a UN meeting in case of attack. Nothing, however, had prepared her for the Taliban’s actual target.
A terrible silence hung in the air, and nothing seemed to move. The usual city noises of traffic, horns and barking dogs were strangely absent. As darkness approached, Hannelie noticed that no lights were on in their top-floor apartment. She worried and prayed while awaiting news of her family.
At 5:45pm, the silence was shattered by the sound of gunfire, followed by a large explosion. Onlookers in the street scattered for cover.
Hannelie was to learn later, her husband and two children had not survived.
Answering the Call
Before moving to Afghanistan in 2003, Hannelie and her husband, Werner, had discussed the possibility of dying in the war-torn country. They considered the dangers of raising their two children, Jean-Pierre, then five, and Rodé, then three, in a region dominated by the Taliban. They knew their lives would be drastically different from the life they had known in South Africa. Yet God’s call was just as real as the dangers they would face, and they knew obedience to Him mattered more than their fears.
Still worth it
Nearly three years after the attack, Hannelie will tell you, “It is well with my soul.” Although it hasn’t been easy for her to find this peace, she knows God has been with her through everything.
Looking back on her family’s years in Afghanistan, she said it was worth it. She wouldn’t change a thing.
“I don’t think that we will ever know 100% what the impact is of what we made in Afghanistan through the years,” she said. “I think that we will know that one day, though, when we are in front of the Lord. But I believe that we made an impact on people’s lives. I believe, also, that my family’s blood that was shed, is like the seed for the Afghan church and that there will be a thousand-fold harvest in the end, because I believe God has the last move.”
Hannelie said she is proud of her family’s obedience to Christ; she knows their sacrifice and service was for God’s glory.
“It is easy for us as Christians to worship the Lord on Sundays in church and praise Him, but it is difficult to have a heartfelt obedience to the Lord and go when He calls you,” she said. “I believe there is a price tag attached to being a real born-again believer. Jesus Christ was persecuted Himself. He was crucified and we, his students, we are nothing better than He is or He was. It will happen to us as well if you really live a lifestyle that is like that of a born-again believer following the Lord in obedience. There will be a price to pay.”
“We had a clear calling,” she said. “We had a mandate with this; we counted the cost. We knew that something like this could happen. God allowed that for a reason.
“I know that they are actually chasing me on to finish the race as well, to finish well,” she continued. “I believe one-day Jean-Pierre will say, ‘Mum, what took you so long to get here?’ I believe they are where they are supposed to be, on Jesus’ lap, and I cannot wait to be there as well. But I have to finish this race for the Lord.”
See Hannelie tell her story below.