Remembering Martyrs: The Groenewald Family, Afghanistan

Nov 29, 2022 | VoM

On 29 November 2014, Werner Groenewald and his two children, Jean-Pierre and Rode, were killed by Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.

Just one month before their deaths, Werner had delivered a conference message on the topic of counting the cost of living for Christ. He’d ended his message by saying, “We die only once. It might as well be for Christ.”

Years earlier in 2022, Werner and his wife, Hannelie, had felt the call from God to leave their comfortable life in South Africa to live and minister in Afghanistan.

Despite their reservations about the safety of their five-year-old son, Jean-Pierre, and three-year-old daughter, Rode, they trusted in the Lord and knew that obedience mattered more than their fears.

Now living in Afghanistan, Hannelie served as a doctor and Werner as a teacher providing English-language lessons and leadership training. Over the years, the Groenewald family developed relationships with their Afghan community and began to feel at home.

It was an ordinary Saturday on 29 November 2014; Hannelie was on call at the medical clinic, Werner was running leadership training classes, Jean-Pierre spent the day playing the guitar and chatting with friends, and Rode was crocheting and playing computer games.

At about 3:30pm, three armed men arrived at the compound where the Groenewalds lived and Werner taught. The men shot the unarmed gatekeeper and climbed inside the compound. As soon as Werner heard the gunshots, he instructed his students to take refuge in another room and went to confront the attackers. He was shot three times, and died almost instantly.

Next, the attackers reached the Groenewalds’ apartment and killed Jean-Pierre and Rode. They continued throughout the compound killing several of Werner’s Afghan Christian students.

When Hannelie arrived home from work, she was confronted by armoured cars and police officers barricading the street. Running to the compound, she begged to know what had happened. Then, she heard the news: her husband and children were dead.

Though she grieves the loss of her family, Hannelie remains faithful to the Lord. “We had a clear calling,” she says. “We knew that something like this could happen. God allowed that for a reason.

“I know that [my family] are actually chasing me on to finish the race as well, to finish well,” she continues. “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.”

Watch Hannelie’s Testimony