By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
AMSTERDAM/BUDAPEST (BosNewsLife)-- Dutch media evangelist Leo Habets who published The Netherlands' leading evangelical newspaper Uitdaging (Challenge), has died after a long illness. Habets was 70 years old.
The Christian leader suffered nearly two years of colon cancer and passed away Wednesday, January 2, friends confirmed to BosNewsLife. He leaves behind his wife Christine, three daughters and three grandchildren.
Habets came to faith in Christ as a young man. He soon saw it as a calling from God to spread the Gospel through media.
In 1982, Habets and Dutch journalist Johan Th. Bos turned news bulletin Challenge into an influential monthly newspaper for Dutch speaking evangelical Christians in especially The Netherlands and neighboring Belgium, comparable in style to its U.S. counterpart Christianity Today.
In recent years, Challenge became a news partner of Budapest-based online news agency BosNewsLife, with both media carrying stories on the persecution of Christians around the world.
CHALLENGE IS PASSION
Challenge was initially published by the Dutch affiliate of Christian group Campus Crusade for Christ. Decades later, Habets became its publisher.
The printed Challenge and its website was his passion. But illness and the rapidly changing media landscape made it financially difficult to continue.
Last year he announced that Challenge would end its operations after he and his wife could no longer finance operations. "You can imagine that this is very painful. The newspaper played an important, informative and encouraging role for the evangelical community in The Netherlands," he wrote at the time in a statement obtained by BosNewsLife.
"My prayer is that God through readers like you will show us His grace to end project Challenge correctly" and "meet all financial obligations." Soon after, other Christians took over Challenge as part of efforts to continue the newspaper, but its future remains uncertain.
Besides Challenge, Habets was involved in several other evangelism efforts. In 1982, Habets supervised the Dutch campaign 'There is Hope' backed by more than 300 churches. As part of that campaign, an evangelism magazine was distributed to households throughout the Netherlands with a circulation of 5.2 million copies.
BIBLE STUDY IMPORTANT
From 1987 to 1996 he also led the European work of international Campus Crusade for Christ with more than 700 full-time employees in 15 countries.
In the 1990s he also began one of the first Dutch Bible study sites called Manna-Vandaag (Manna-Today). Interested parties could subscribe to daily Bible study. "More than 30 million studies were sent worldwide in Dutch, English, and German over the years," friends said in a statement.
Friends and family members say that Habets remained faithful to proclaiming the Gospel through the media for more than half a century. Despite his suffering, he did not lose his trust in God.
Habets made clear that he was convinced that He would spend eternity with God, who he believed will wipe out all tears. "I feel myself connected to you in the love and mission of our Lord, who despite pain and uncertainties is keeping everything in His hands," he wrote to friends last year.
His funeral was to be attended only by family members and close relatives. But his supporters were encouraged to express condolences through email: firstname.lastname@example.org