Presbyterian mission co-workers injured in Ethiopia

John, Gwen Haspels attacked in ‘random act of violence’

October 2, 2014

John and Gwen Haspels

Gwen and John Haspels —World Mission photo


Presbyterian World Mission is asking for prayers for longtime Presbyterian Mission co-workers Gwen and John Haspels, who were injured Wednesday, October 1, when their car was attacked by armed bandits on a rural road in Ethiopia.

After the attack, John drove four hours to the nearest hospital in Aman, Ethiopia, where he was treated for injuries to his eye and is now in good condition. Gwen sustained more serious injuries and was in critical condition when they arrived at the hospital. Her condition has since been upgraded to fair, and the couple is now in route to an expertly equipped hospital in South Africa.

Presbyterian mission workers and World Mission staff worked around the clock to arrange for medical attention and the air ambulance flight to South Africa.

World Mission’s regional liaison for the Horn of Africa, the Rev. Michael Weller, said by phone from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, that the couple is greatly loved by the people of Ethiopia. He said that more than 200 people had quickly gathered at the rural hospital in Aman to show their love and support and that almost 1,000 were present when they left the airport in Addis Ababa on Thursday.

“The people of Ethiopia are surrounding the Haspels with love and prayer,” Weller said. “First they praised God for intervening and now are praying for God to heal their bodies. It’s just a privilege and an honor to be surrounded by this amazing community of witness.”

“We are so thankful that Gwen and John are safe and being given excellent medical care,” said Hunter Farrell, director of Presbyterian World Mission. “We ask everyone to lift them up in prayer and ask God for their continued recovery.”

“This was a random act of violence,” Farrell said. “They were not targeted.”

All World Mission co-workers receive extensive safety training and are linked to church partners worldwide, who carefully watch over them. “Our mission co-workers are aware that safety can never be guaranteed,” Farrell said, “but they are ready and willing to serve God’s mission.”

Gwen and John Haspels have been mission co-workers in Ethiopia since 1974, serving at the invitation of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY). They are currently planting churches among the Suri people of Ethiopia, who had none before the Haspelses and their EECMY colleagues arrived.

The couple was on their way to a new site in Moga — where they were to build a house for the Baale people — when the attack occurred.

Heather Kebede, one of the couple’s daughters, was able to see her parents briefly at the airport in Addis Ababa. “The Haspels family would like to say that we choose to forgive the men who did this and pray that they meet Jesus,” she says. “We are also very thankful that both of our parents are stable, and we praise the Lord for this miracle of life.”

Ethiopia, in East Africa, has a population of 36 million, of which 56 percent is Christian. One of the continent’s most populous countries, it struggles with severe poverty and hunger issues.

John Haspels was born in Pittsburgh and grew up in Ethiopia. He attended high school in Alexandria, Egypt, and is a graduate of Sterling College in Kansas. He received an M.Div. from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif., and was ordained in 1973. Before starting his mission work, John worked in development and church planting for the former United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America. He has continued this work in Africa.

Gwenyth Adair Haspels was born and raised in Sudan. She also attended high school in Alexandria, Egypt, and then Sterling College. She received an RN diploma from Wesley School of Nursing and worked as a nurse in Pasadena before becoming a mission co-worker. She has continued her medical work as a clinic supervisor in Africa.

John is a member of Southern Kansas Presbytery, Gwenyth of Halstead Presbyterian Church in Kansas. They have four grown children: Desta, Charles, John, and Heather.

  1. Dear Gwen and John, Vicki told me what happened and so sorry to hear I was not able to come and see you when you were here. I pray God continues to heal and strengthen you and may He be Glorified through you. Many have come to Christ through you and many more to come. I admire you!


    January 10, 2016

  2. Hello Mr. and Mrs. Haspels, You might not remember me but my younger brother stayed with Les and Joyce Haspels. I went to Sterling College. My sister found this article and I am deeply saddened by what happened to you and to your wife. I pray that you and your wife are fully recovered and doing well. Prayerfully, Sehin Belew

    by Sehin Belew

    August 2, 2015

  3. Dear John and Gwen, So glad you survived the attack! I used to work at American Mission in Addis in the 70's and I get nostalgic for my missionary friends and so go to the UPCUSA website. Then I read about the attack. God bless you and your great work!! Sincerely, Almaz Tsehay

    by Almaz Tsehay

    August 2, 2015

  4. Gwen & John, So sorry to hear about the attack. Please know you are in my thoughts and prayers for a complete & speedy recovery by your doctors and our Lord, Jesus Christ. I heard of your work at St. Andrews, Anaheim First, and Corona First during your visits to California, which gave me the idea of continuing my education so I too could become a missionary. I will also pray for those who hurt you that they would feel the love of our Lord. My love to you and your family.

    by Dianne Horn

    April 13, 2015

  5. dear john and gwen . . we just got your letter today written for thanksgiving . . we must have missed the previous one as we did not know about this incident. We will pray with you for the lives and souls of those responsible and for rapid healing for you both . . . with our love . . bob and joyce

    by bob and joyce hedderly

    December 1, 2014

  6. Praying for a speedy recovery. Praising God you two are okay. I just learned when the Boma Bulletin came. So sorry, and I will pray for those men. Bless you and may God's healing touch comfort and strengthen you. Sending my love, Andi

    by Andrea Anderson

    December 1, 2014

  7. I just read the news letter and am so sorry to hear what happened and praising Him you are alive. Will continue to pray for all and esp. For healing for Gwen. God is there and He loves you. Andi

    by Andrea Anderson

    November 30, 2014

  8. God bless and greetings from Gambella

    by Johan Mooij

    November 16, 2014

  9. Mary and I were very sorry for what has happened to you. You are always in front line in God's work. Murle congregation in South Sudan continue to pray for you. They are very sorry too for what has had befallen you. The Devil, our bitter enemy, has done this to make you retreat from the Ministry. We praise God for you for the forgiveness you have given to the criminals. We continue to pray for your quick recovery. We love you so much. Idris & Mary Juba/ South Sudan

    by Idris Nalos

    November 16, 2014

  10. Dear Gwen, dear John. I love to remember visiting you in Tulgit in 2002 and staying in the small guest house adjacent to the the place we used to have morning sermon. That was when I was in Tulgit for my research project in Suri cultural practices. So sad to hear about the attack. Wish you fast recovery. Greetings from Geneva, Switzerland, Yetmgeta

    by Yetmgeta Eyayou Abdella

    November 3, 2014

  11. Der John and Gwenn, This week I heard what happend to you from Joek. I pray for you from the Netherlands. My memories went back to the time we were serving the Lord in the Sudan together. Love Carla

    by Carla Mooij-Gorter

    October 30, 2014

  12. i have had the pleasure of meeting the family and been able to see gods miracles at work , to see what the doctors have managed to date through Gods hand - i was even able to wave at Gwen through her window and talk to John , as well as their son and daughter . (i was in hospital at the same time ) They are well and doing woderfully - Amazing People , they give me strength to keep on fighting - larn

    by Larn Cronje - South Africa

    October 28, 2014

  13. Dear Gwen and John, Just heard at Presbytery of your injuries; giving praise to God you both survived this attack. Will pray daily for your physical healing, and for those who perpetrated this senseless act, that God can open their hearts to the saving love of Christ.

    by Stan Adamson

    October 25, 2014

  14. Dear John, Gwen Haspels as i heard you were attacked, i drove from Nazareth to see you before your flight to Nairobi, sorry all in vain. i was so shocked, touched with your work, concern, sharing, daring and caring attitude which ended up with this painful incidence . May the Lord give you quick recover assurance and cure in body, mind and emotions . yours truly friend with similar vision for the disadvantaged Alemu Nega , nekemte, Wollega, eye Hospital

    by Revd Alemu Nega

    October 23, 2014

  15. With good memories of our time together in Ethiopia in the '70s I lift my prayers to our God for your recovery and for your ministry with the Suri people. - Merl Galusha

    by Merl Galusha

    October 18, 2014

  16. You know your whole family is in all our thoughts these days--and especially you two. God is faithful and you have proved that for us. Praying for quick and complete healing and God's clear direction for days ahead. We love you both,

    by Lois Colburn

    October 15, 2014

  17. You are in our thoughts and prayers each day!!

    by Gene and Arnella Webb

    October 14, 2014

  18. Gwenny, that's how I remember you when you lived at Obel, South Sudan. In fact my mom, Phyllis Webb, delivered you!! What fun days we had at Obel though you were at Schutz with David, Nellie (deceased now).Robin and Marian. ......I remember John as I was at Bingham and the American Mission kids were invited so often to you folks home! Met you at NWMC when you were going out to the Boma Plateau, Ethiopia. Been doing some hard core praying for you too. Only God can do the impossible!! We have to let go and let God.....Love Jessie Webb McCallum

    by Jessie Webb McCallum

    October 14, 2014

  19. Just want you to know that we are praying for your recovery each day. Blessings from Gene and Arnella Webb

    by Gene and Arnella Webb

    October 14, 2014

  20. We learned of the attack on you recently and pray that our loving Lord will heal you to full strength. Your ministry is powerful! Be strong in the Lord. We also pray that the hearts of the attackers will be turned to the Lord.

    by Bill Sharp and the Westminster Presbyterian Church

    October 14, 2014

  21. Mt Pleasant Church is praying for you and your family. Thru Brant and Kate we are receiving updates. We received a blessing from your Oct. 12 testimony of God's blessings to you thru this ordeal.

    by Keith and Nadene Lauer

    October 13, 2014

  22. Mt. Pleasant EPC is praying for you and your family. We receive updates ( thru Brant and Kate's e-mails)and received a blessing from reading Oct. 12's testimony of your spiritual blessings thru this ordeal.

    by Keith and Nadene Lauer

    October 13, 2014

  23. Praying for you both and for the children. You have lot more work to do. Love Prof. M.M.Ninan of Juba University

    by Prof. M. M. Ninan

    October 11, 2014

  24. We are praying for you Gwen and John and and your family at this time. We are praying for healing and for your plans to return to the US. Many in Green Bay and De Pere are praying for your recovery.

    by Sandra Ballard

    October 11, 2014

  25. Praise God for your recover and for your wife's improvement. Will pray for continued improvement and for the SA physicians. If I have this right, you have Iowa connections, and I cared for your grandparents in NW Iowa.

    by Dr. Ron Zoutendam

    October 10, 2014

  26. Just as I prayed for you in 1983 when you were held captive in Sudan, (we were in Toposa), I pray for you both now. Ruth Alloway

    by Ruth Alloway

    October 9, 2014

  27. Dear Gwen, dear John. I love to remember visiting you in Tulgit with my father two years ago. So sad to hear about the attack. To reach this new tribal group, the Baale, is a battle. The enemy doesn't like it. Therefore we are doing something right. May the Lord heal and restore you quickly! We sure pray for you and the ministry! Long to see you again. Greetings from Switzerland, with much love. Simon

    by Simon Tanner

    October 9, 2014

  28. You are in our thoughts and prayers. So sad to hear of the injury to two special people. Also pray for safe travels to the States.

    by United Presbyterian Church, Boyden, IA

    October 8, 2014

  29. Sending you love and healing at this time. So grateful that your lives were spared. Take care and rest now.

    by Tan and Bill Chesky

    October 8, 2014

  30. We were with the Fahnestocks this evening and heard the news of this awful attack. We are praying earnestly for you. The Lord be with you.

    by Rev. June Barrow

    October 7, 2014

  31. I am sorry to hear that. We are prying for comfort and recovery for both. GOD bless. Lia and family.

    by Lia Afework

    October 6, 2014

  32. What tragic news. Prayers from all over silver city, new mexico are going out for John and Gwen's recovery and for safe travels, patience, and strength for the kids. Love to you all!

    by Fiona

    October 6, 2014

  33. Prayers for healing and comfort from Derry Presbyterians in Hershey, PA

    by Marie Buffaloe

    October 6, 2014

  34. Praying for God's Sovereign healing for both John and Gwen and the Drs and surgeons to be wisely guided to help bring the healing!!! Our love and continued prayers

    by Tim and Sheryl Jaeger

    October 6, 2014

  35. We are thankful for God's Sovereign hand of protection for John and Gwen and are praying for God's perfect timing and may healing be complete and the JOY of The Lord their strength as they both heal!!! May all the Drs and surgeons have wise minds n gentle use of teur hands to bring forth healing!!! Love and prayers

    by Tim and Sheryl Jaeger

    October 6, 2014

  36. Praying for you at this time.

    by carolyn adolph

    October 6, 2014

  37. Spreading a blanket of prayer over the Haspels with family and friends in North Carolina. Love and hugs and healing, in Jesus' name!!!

    by Janet Asbury

    October 4, 2014

  38. As part of the Bethel family, prayers are being offered to our Great and Able God for your healing and comfort.

    by Beth Kissling

    October 4, 2014

  39. We are praying much for you, dear John and Gwen. Psalm 46 With our love, Paul and Lila

    by Paul and Lila Balisky

    October 4, 2014

  40. May the Lord Almighty give you strength to recover! Remembering you all in our prayers, Anna-Kaarina & Matti Palmu, FELM, Finland

    by Anna-Kaarina Palmu

    October 4, 2014

  41. I pray for your health care professionals that their care be healing and that your huge wonderful family be kept in God's safety and love. Peace.

    by Jan Spotts

    October 4, 2014

  42. Thanking God for his miraclous protection, I offer my prayer for your csomplete recovery! Stay blessed

    by Bayesa J. Disasa

    October 4, 2014

  43. Praying for them. Finnish Lutheran Mission in Ethiopia

    by Pirkko Tuppurainen

    October 4, 2014

  44. Thanking God for his mir aclous protection, I offer my prayer for your complete recovery! Stay blessed

    by Bayesa J. Disasa

    October 4, 2014

  45. Dear friends in Christ;Gwen and John Haspels, It is so sad to hear such a painful information. As I have read the incident is very difficult. However I thank God that he protect you and keep you alive in his mighty power. Your hurt is ours and your sickness our sickness. I am so sorry again. I will continue praying for you. I thank Debbi for sharing information. May God be with you all.

    by Rev.Zahara Said

    October 3, 2014

  46. We love you dear friends and we are believing for your total and complete recovery!! Kate & Brant

    by Brant & Kate Rader

    October 3, 2014

  47. Providence Presbytery is lifting John and Gwen in prayer.

    by Dot KILLIAN

    October 3, 2014

  48. We are praying for comfort and recovery for John and Gwen. We're so thankful they survived the attack.

    by Anne and Terry Woolsey

    October 3, 2014

  49. In the prayers of Prospect Hill Presbytery.

    by John Pehrson

    October 3, 2014

  50. Praise God that they are alive. I will keep them in my prayer

    by Haile Sadins Sabab

    October 3, 2014

  51. May Almighty GOD give them cure soon. And strength to their heart to serve GOD!!! Note:- The Ethiopian people is counted not 36 million as stated in the news, it's approximately 92 million. Tnx

    by Kibruyisfa

    October 3, 2014

  52. I am thankful that you both survived the attack and are in the safe and caring arms of health care professionals and your dear family. I pray for rapid recovery and blessings for your future endeavors

    by Arnold Froese

    October 2, 2014

  53. Love and prayers for deep healing of body and spirt! Rejoice in the lord always.

    by Jack Wineman

    October 2, 2014

  54. Peace and Grace.

    by Jeffrey DeYoe

    October 2, 2014