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“You shall love the Lord your God.” Matt. 22:37

Rev. John and Gwenyth Haspels support

Presbyterian World Mission, through the Board of Pensions, is covering most of the medical, air evacuation, and transportation expenses associated with the care provided after the Haspels' incident on October 1, 2014. We are thankful to all Presbyterians who have supported the church's mission budget which allows us to support our mission workers in this way. Congregations and individuals who wish to contribute to any unmet financial needs facing the Haspels can do so by sending a check to Presbyterian World Mission, P.O. Box 643700, Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700 for Extra Commitment Opportunity account #E200359, "Rev. John and Gwenyth Haspels Sending and Support". If we receive more funds than are needed, we will use them to support other mission workers' “urgent needs".
 To Donate, click here 

Depending on the available news, we may not be sharing updates daily, but will keep you closely posted on the Haspels’ progress.

Click on the titles below to read each update.

Update from Desta on her parents, John and Gwen Haspels, October 20, 2014

Dad is now scheduled for his eye surgery next Monday. They hope to remove a cataract that is forming and if possible reattach the retina of his left eye. We are continuing to pray wisdom for treatment, for healing and complete restoration of his sight.

Gwen's photo wall and Olaf

                                  Gwen's photo wall and Olaf

Mom went in to surgery today for an assessment to see what the complete plan of care will be. They will start on Friday to attach a skin graft onto her cheek (practical not cosmetic yet) and close the hole that has been there. This will help keep everything where it needs to stay. Let the reader understand. The healing has been good so far with minimal dead tissue so now they can start the slow process of rebuilding.

Mom has pics of family on the wall and a cute Olaf doll to make her smile. Many, many people praying for them and encouraging them from around the world have helped keep Mom and Dad stay focused on healing. Thank you for all your prayers!

Yes. I am tired. Yes. I am where I am supposed to be. Yes. I feel such a peace that God is with us. For real. No anxiety no fear and that’s the truth. Sometimes in life you have to go places you don’t want to go and deal with things and situations that separate you from your kids and family and it’s hard. In this world we will have trouble. But Jesus has overcome the world! Yeah! Standing on His promises today!

October 16, 2014

Mom did physical therapy yesterday and she walked 6 times around the room, did 10 knee ups, 20 side leg lifts, and 10 knee bends. Mom has figured out how to use the disposable saline container to suck up ice water and then squirt it into the back of her throat. Water never tasted so good she said. They are weaning her off morphine and she seems to be doing good with that. She continues to say JESUS IS MY CASE MANAGER! I'ts so true. Currently she has more energy than me or Dad as we are starting to feel fatigued.

Dad's eye is starting to droop a bit because he isn't using it. The eyeball still moves back and forth but his eye looks brown not blue due to the blood that is still in it. He will see the doctor again in two weeks. All his other wounds are finally healing nicely.

Heather, Habtom and their girls are planning to come to South Africa early next week. I am not planning on leaving soon as there are still too many unanswered questions and likely will be here a while longer yet. At this time me and Dad are staying in a hotel nearby the hospital, which has a nice breakfast buffet and even a yogurt shop around the corner.

I am looking forward to Habtom and Heather coming since they will be bringing real coffee and their coffee press. South Africa is a great country, but I have yet to drink a good, strong, dark, yummy cup of coffee. :-)

Desta (Haspels) Oppriecht 

October 13, 2014

Dad had another appointment today with his eye doctor. His injured eye is still very “angry”. Another small bone chip was removed today and he is now on two different eye drops. He still has a bone fragment in this eye along with a detached retina. All his other injuries are healing quite nicely. We are still praying 20/20 for him. Mom has made good progress in the last two days. She got a white board for her birthday and has already worn out the blue marker with all her “talking”. She is walking around the room with physical therapist and is not attached to the vent any more though she still has the trach. 

After prayer and discussion Dad and Mom have decided they wish to remain here for at least the next ten days, since she is doing so well with the care they are receiving here. They will be approaching life in 10 day increments, evaluating the situation every ten days to see what direction to take next. Dad and Mom feel the best care for them right now is for them to stay and heal some before they think about the next part of their journey. Her doctors are excellent and they both are very confident in the care they are receiving.

They are so grateful for the outpouring of love and care they have received from so many people even people and churches they have never met.  They are also grateful for all the hard work the staff at PCUSA have done with support and logistics to bring them here to South Africa and in continuing to care for their needs. I am with Dad and Mom in Johannesburg and Heather and family will be coming soon as well.  Thank you so very much for your prayers and support of our family!

Desta (Haspels) Oppriecht

Day 9

October 10, 2014

Just to assure you of our whereabouts and. condition. We are still in SA waiting for the insurance to give the final go ahead. Gwen is doing better both physically and emotionally since she finally was able to communicate by writing on a piece of paper. With the “trake” in she can't talk. My eye still cannot see because it is full of blood and will need two more surgeries, one to remove possibly a bone or tooth chip in the eye seen by x-ray, and then try to attach the retina. The doctors have said even with the two surgeries, normal sight will not be likely. We have a pretty good eye doctor "whose eyes are on the sparrows" so we are expecting a miracle. We have seen God's hand in all that has happened. Just this morning for example we are being asked for insurance information. passport Numbers, yellow fever cards, etc. before we can be evacuated. The miracle is this: we were on our way to Moga to continue building with only what we needed for a few days. Gwen had packed all our important documents including insurance cards, US drivers’ license passports, health card etc. and we had them all with us and only necessary for international travel, not for a few days excursion into the bush. God's eye is certainly on the sparrows (also thinking of your bird photos exhibition Chuck) and we know he was not only watching over us but with us. If there is any unusual spelling, my depth perception has been compromised. Also another interesting thing is the verse God gave me on the new year as I took the eagle picture in Newton, KS. Is: 40:31, "But they that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength (be healed in a hospital bed), they shall mount up with wings as eagles, ( as I read this to Gwen before she had started communicating by writing she made the obvious hand sweep of a Lear Jet mounting up into the air as an eagle). We are soo thankful to God who has been, and is and will continue to be with us. We are soo thankful to God for all of you out there who have been praying. We want to give God all the glory. Feel free to share with family and friends. By the way, we are simple bush missionaries and don't smoke or drink or do Facebook, Linkedin, etc and email is even a challenge.


PS: Last night I peeled off a scab on my chest and attached to the scab was a half-inch bone chip that came out. Desta immediately said, "So that is what the scriptures mean 'bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh.” Desta has been singing to Mom in the hospital and asked Gwen for a request. She wrote down, "Oh No,” Matt Redman's song, "Oh No (or Know) You never let go!!!

Day 8

October 9, 2014

Gwen and John HaspelsGwen still had a tracheotomy so can't talk but has been able to communicate by writing. Today, Desta gave her a back rub, rubbed her feet and sang every song that came into her head for over an hour. Even the nurse joined in on a song. Desta said Gwen made victory gestures and pointed to heaven when she sang, "Oh no, you never let go, through the calm and through the storm."

John is enjoying his freedom while they wait for logistics to be worked out regarding Gwen's travel to the States on a SOS (air ambulance) flight.

Pray for favor for those working on travel logistics.

Day 7

October 8, 2014

Gwen and John HaspelsFrom Hunter Farrell in Johannesburg, South Africa: 
I had two extended visits with John Haspels, a brief visit with Gwen and several conversations with Desta and Jay. and two pastors from a local Johannesburg church who also relate to Eastminster Presbyterian Church (of Wichita, Kansas, a supporting church of the Haspels).  Image of John Haspels and daughter, Desta.

John was released from Garden City Hospital this afternoon but still needs another operation on his left eye.

Gwen is still slightly sedated in the isolation unit of the Trauma Centre but is in effect breathing on her own with a respirator still connected, in case. I was able to visit with her, talk briefly, squeeze her hand and pray with her. I shared with the whole family the many expressions of love, support and prayers that we were hearing about (e.g., the Moderator's trip in the Middle East is praying for the Haspels each day, several of the mission networks are keeping their members updated on the situation, and the daily Haspels updates on World Mission's webpage have generated to date more than 30,000 "hits"). John is lucid and active and says he has really not experienced any pain throughout the ordeal. Throughout the day, John recounted portions of the incident that revealed God's hand at work to protect the Haspels and get them to the medical care they needed.

Two of the Haspels children, Jay and DestaDaughter Desta Oppriecht and son Jay Haspels have been here since last weekend and are helping to manage their parents' hospitalization, keep communications flowing and provide support to their parents in all ways. The family is hopeful Gwen and John's care can be transferred to the U.S. so that they can return to the States for continued treatment.

Family Update from Melanie Haspels: Regarding Gwen's surgery on Tuesday, the anesthesiologist said the surgery was really fast because the wound looked really good. This is very positive. On Wednesday, the physical therapist came to work with Gwen as she has been on bed rest. According to Desta, she is doing amazing considering the circumstances and the swelling has gone down. All praise to God for the progress made in just one week!

John has been discharged but will still need eye surgery, just as an outpatient. Where this surgery will be done is still yet to be determined.

Prayer requests for today are for discussions between the chief surgeons, insurance and SOS regarding when Gwen might be able to be moved to the States. Pray for the timing of those discussions and favor with each of the players involved.  Image of two of the Haspels children, Jay and Desta.

Day 6

October 7, 2014

Some positive news from South Africa about the Haspels. During a visit with Desta and her brother Jay, John went to the cafeteria and enjoyed some ice cream. John's doctor is in favor of him returning to the U.S. for further eye surgery. What has been done thus far is just moving the eye toward healing. Gwen had another short surgery today to clean her wound.

Desta and Jay saw a bumper sticker on the way to the hospital today that was encouraging to them. It had Jeremiah 32:17 on it: "Ah, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You."

Please join us in prayer for strength and a good night’s rest for the Haspels and all the members of their family.

Day 5

October 6, 2014

Gwen and John HaspelsPhotograph of John and Gwen Haspels as they began mission service in the 70's.

The doctor who repaired Gwen's jaw, chin and tongue said the surgical repair went well and he is confident she will regain full use of all. Gwen is awake more and responding to her daughter Desta. John’s eye surgery went well. He will require another, but doctor’s in South Africa, and his family, say they would like him to return to the U.S. for any further eye surgery, but that decision will have to be reviewed since there is no return date scheduled as yet.

Presbyterian World Mission, through the Board of Pensions, is covering most of the medical, air evacuation, and transportation expenses associated with the care provided after the Haspels' incident last Wednesday. We are thankful to all Presbyterians who have supported the church's mission budget which allows us to support our mission workers in this way. Congregations and individuals who wish to contribute to any unmet financial needs facing the Haspels can do so by sending a check to Presbyterian World Mission, P.O. Box 643700, Pittsburgh, PA 15264-3700 for Extra Commitment Opportunity account #E200359, "Rev. John and Gwenyth Haspels Sending and Support". If we receive more funds than are needed, we will use them to support other mission workers' “urgent needs".

To Donate, click here

Day 4

October 5, 2014

On this, the Lord’s Day, we join all of you in giving thanks to God for watching over the Haspels and for the overwhelming support of the African community and our brothers and sisters around the world, who lift up the Haspels daily in their prayers. More than 1,000 people gathering at the airport to show their love and support of Gwen and John, is evidence of God’s love at work.

Gwen has had several surgeries so far. Her vitals are good and she is responding to questions. John was taken to a hospital about 20 minutes away. He had eye surgery today, and he is recovering. Doug Tilton, our regional liaison in South Africa, has called on our brother in Christ, Rev. Stephen Van Schalkwyk, one of three pastors on the staff of St. Columba’s Uniting Presbyterian Church in Parkview, Johannesburg. He is making daily pastoral visits with the Haspels and their family. Hunter Farrell, Director of World Mission, will visit the Haspels this week, to pray with them and to thank God for their 40 years of service. After a stop-over in Johannesburg, he will continue on to Asia to meet with mission co-workers there.

If you’d like to send a card to the Haspels, you can write to them in care of Presbyterian World Mission, 100 Witherspoon, Louisville, KY 40202.

Day 3

October 4, 2014

This update is from the Haspels’ youngest daughter, Heather, through Rev. Michael Weller, World Mission’s Regional Liaison for the Horn of Africa. Both John and Gwen are stable. John is in good condition in intensive care. He will see an eye specialist today. He is battling low blood pressure and a number of bullet fragments. Gwen came out of a seven hour surgery in good condition and will have another one later today on her cheek injury. She is in a medically induced sedation to alleviate stress on her body.

Heather has spoken with the Suri representative to parliament, Lanjoy, who is a personal friend of the Haspels, to communicate the family's message of forgiveness and their desire that the men who did this will come to know Jesus. A translator is talking directly to the Suri community . They are being told that the Haspels are not angry with the Suri people and continue to love them as they always have. Reports coming in from Ethiopia are that the main perpetrator has been killed. He apparently was intoxicated and walked to Tuligit. The Suri people recognized him and called police. This man is a known criminal in the area, robbing tourists, stealing from the Suri and government and other visitors to the area. When he was recognized, the man ran away into the mountains. Police caught up with him and urged him to surrender, but he refused, and was killed in a gun fight. The Haspels , who had already forgiven the man, were sad to learn of his death and continue to pray for the others who participated in the robbery attempt.

The Haspels son John, has arrived in South Africa to be with his parents and will be joined later today by his sisters Heather and Desta.

Those wishing to send cards and letters can send them to: Presbyterian World Mission, John and Gwen Haspels, 100 Witherspoon, Louisville, KY 40202.

Day 2

October 3, 2014

John Haspelswen and John Haspels arrived early this morning by air ambulance (eastern time) at a Level 1 trauma center in South Africa. A plan is being developed for their ongoing care. Several of the Haspels’ family members are leaving today to join them in South Africa. Presbyterian World Mission staff and our South African partners are providing pastoral care for Gwen and John, as well as assisting with logistics. Both are in serious condition; however, John’s injuries were worse than previously thought. He has some very deep graze wounds, and there is still concern about his sight in one eye. The Haspels are deeply loved by the people of Ethiopia and their Presbyterian family around the world.

Gwen HaspelsWe ask that you lift up in prayer:

  • Gwen and John for their wounds to be healed;
  • the medical staff that are helping the Haspels recover;
  • family members, who are traveling to be with them;
  • the ongoing work of raising up a church among the Suri people;
  • and our sister church, the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, for its tireless efforts to share the hope of the gospel in Ethiopia and around the world.

To learn more about the work to which the Haspels and their partners have been so dedicated, click here.

Day 1

October 2, 2014

Presbyterian World Mission is asking for prayers for longtime Presbyterian Mission coworkers 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 Gwen 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, Rev. Michael Weller, told us 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,” says 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 says. “They were not targeted.” All World Mission coworkers receive extensive safety training and are linked to church partners worldwide, who carefully watch over them. “Our mission coworkers are aware that safety can never be guaranteed,” he says, “but they are ready and willing to serve God’s mission.”

Gwen and John Haspels have been mission coworkers 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 Haspels 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 93 million, which is 56 percent 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 MDiv from Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, 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 coworker. 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.


World Mission: Better Together

We are thankful for all you do to support our work. Please watch this short overview of our work hosted by Hunter Farrell, Director of Presbyterian World Mission.

Hunter Farrell


As churchwide funding changes, direct financial support from individuals (over and above their congregational giving), combined with Basic Mission Support from congregations, is vital to enable dedicated Presbyterian mission personnel to share the love of Jesus Christ in approximately 50 countries.

World Mission will send as many mission workers as the church will support. Your financial gift blesses our sisters and brothers in countries all across the globe by expanding World Mission’s capacity to respond to urgent requests for mission personnel.

Thank you!

Give now

World Mission

Hunter Farrell, Director

Presbyterian World Mission brings God's global family together to heal the wounds of poverty and violence and proclaim God's saving love in Jesus Christ.

The year 2012 marked the 175thanniversary of international mission by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church. Over the years, Presbyterian missionaries have planted churches, built hospitals, and started schools on every continent. The seeds sown by those missionaries have, in many places, developed into self-sustaining churches and institutions now led by local Christians. In fact, more than 94 million Christians around the world now belong to churches that were founded or co-founded by Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) mission workers. Read more.

Read the latest news from World Mission.

Learn More About World Mission
World Mission's Strategic Direction - Presbyterians do mission in partnership - Core values - Stay connected - Mission stories - Presbyterians at work around the world

Empower and Support World Mission
Why support World Mission - Giving opportunities catalog - Mission worker prayer cards - Make the P.L.E.D.G.E.

Call to Mission

Presbyterian World Mission is launching three campaigns to engage in God's mission:
   • Evangelism
: To train pastors for community transformation
   • Poverty Alleviation
: To educate 1 million children by 2020
   • Reconciliation
: To end violence against women and children

Three critical global issues of World Mission

Global partners, mission personnel, and Presbyterians across the United States have asked World Mission to address three critical global issues: the root causes of poverty, especially as it impacts women and children; working to share the good news of Jesus Christ; and working for reconciliation among cultures of violence, including our own. Learn more now.

The Initiative Plan
Planning how we will address poverty, evangelism, reconciliation.

News from around the world

(See also the "Current News" box on the Presbyterians at work around the world webpage)

April 2014 - Rwanda: 20 Years Later
Dr. Elisee Musemakweli, President of the Presbyterian Church of Rwanda, remembers the genocide that gripped his home in 1994. He shares his thoughts on his country before, during, and after the tragedy and the important role Presbyterians play today in reconciliation and peacebuilding.

February 28, 2014 - PC(USA) leaders briefed in meetings with Syrian, Lebanese partners
Amgad Beblawi, Presbyterian World Mission’s coordinator for the Middle East, Central Asia and Europe, and Laurie Kraus, coordinator of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, recently visited members of the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon (NESSL), a PC(USA) partner, to discuss the humanitarian response to the crisis in Syria. Learn more about the church's role in promoting peace. 

January 19, 2014-PC(USA) delegation accompanies Syrian Church partners in meeting with Syrian President Assad to press for peace
Representatives from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) this week visited partner churches and leaders of the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon to provide encouragement to sisters and brothers in that region. Learn more now.

January 13, 2014 - Presbyterians are Working to End Violence Against Women and Children
Stand up. Speak up. Be counted among those Presbyterians who are engaged more deeply in God’s work of reconciliation – taking part in World Mission’s call to end violence against women and children in communities around the world, including our own. Learn how you and your faith community can take part.

January 2014 - Displaced by Violence: the people of South Sudan need our help
We are working with our Sudanese partners, but the needs are much greater than we can handle without significant gifts from supporters like you. Learn how you can stand in the GAP (Give/Act/Pray) for those in need in South Sudan.

January 2014 - Despair in South Sudan 
Presbyterians continue to walk with the Murle people in the Jonglei Province of South Sudan (image left). Experience it through the eyes of one mission co-worker. 



Call to Prayer for Madagascar - Elections bring fears of violence and injustice
Pray for Peace in Mozambique -
Prayers needed as the country experiences increasing conflicts
Presbyterian leaders released following imprisonment
- Read the full story now
Super Typhoon Haiyan - Presbyterians respond to the need
Share the power of faith with others - a call to action
Crisis in SyriaThe Jinishian Memorial Program (JMP) is responding to the rising violence.
South Sudan: church leaders detained - Two members of the Presbyterian Church in South Sudan. Find out how you can help.
Changing the way you view your relationship with those in need
Read more now.
"Reclaiming the Legacy"
- Hunter Farrell addresses the National Conference of the Korean Presbyterian Church


Notice of Change Regarding World Mission Extra Commitment Opportunity Project Accounts
Celebrating 175 Years of Presbyterian World Mission (2012)
Companion resources for The Power of 'We': Collective Impact in God's Mission




World Mission Ministries


  • Our prayers are with you. Rob Elder, pastor, Salem, Oregon, HR by Rob Elder on 10/10/2014 at 9:39 p.m.

  • We have been aware of John & Gwen Haspels for 40 years, and know them to be faithful, dedicated workers in Ethiopia. We have been able to keep updated on them, as John has spoken at Presbytery of Southern Kansas meetings whenever he's been on home leave.We know God has been and will be will be with them as they recover. by RevRevs. Shirley & John Barnum on 10/10/2014 at 3:51 p.m.

  • Thanks be. To God for saving your lifes by chris gantt on 10/09/2014 at 7:39 p.m.

  • I am a member of FPC, San Antonio and as we Live to Make Jesus Visible here, we are set a beautiful example by servants such as The Haspels. Thank you for such informative coverage. by Charlotte Hains on 10/08/2014 at 8:45 p.m.

  • You are in my prayers. by Barbara lee on 10/04/2014 at 8:24 p.m.

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