Billy Graham Center

Bonnie Jo Adelsman Adolph -
Collection 282

[Note: What follows is a description of the documents in this collection which are available for use at BGC Archives in Wheaton, Illinois, USA. The actual documents are not, in most cases, available online, only this description of them. Nor are they available for sale or rent. Some or all of this collection can be borrowed through interlibrary loan. ]

Since we are migrating our website to a new platform, we will no longer be updating this earlier version our site. Please visit our Archon database for online guide descriptions. In early 2018, look for our new site, currently under construction, linked in the BGC Archives section on the Library and Archives page. (12/11/2017)

Table of Contents

Brief Description of This Collection

Title Page and Restrictions

Biography of Bonnie Jo Adolph

An Essay on the Contents of the Collection (Scope and Content)

List of Audio Tapes in This Collection (Location Records)


Transcript 1

Transcript 2

Brief Description.
Tape of an oral history interview with Mrs. Adolph which mainly covers the years of her life between 1954 and 1974 during which time she attended Wheaton College, married Harold Adolph, and served with him as a missionary of the Sudan Interior Mission in Ethiopia.

Collection 282 [December 1, 2000]
Adolph, Bonnie Jo Adelsman; 1933-
Interview; 1984
Audio Tapes


There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.



Bonnie Jo Adelsman was born in 1933, the fourth daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Adelsman. She grew up in Mason City, Iowa, but during her later adolescence her family lived in Wheaton, Illinois. She attended Wheaton College as a Home Economics major and graduated in 1955. While at Wheaton, she met and became engaged to pre-med student Harold Adolph. Through Adolph's influence, she also decided to become a missionary. They were married August 19, 1955.

They moved several times in the next few years. From 1955 until 1958, they lived in Philadelphia while Harold completed his M.D. at the University of Pennsylvania. While in Philadelphia, Bonnie Jo taught home economics at a public junior high school. Then they moved to the Canal Zone in Panama, where Harold took his surgical residency at Gorgas Hospital. Their two children were born during this period: David Harold (1959) and Carolyn Joy (1961). In 1962, the family moved to Banner Elk, North Carolina, for Harold's surgical preceptorship. During this time, the Adolphs were accepted by the Sudan Interior Mission for service in Ethiopia. In 1965, it was time for Harold to complete his military service. He became an officer in the navy and was assigned to the HSA Station Hospital in Taiwan. The next year, the family headed for Ethiopia.

Most of the next eight years were spent at SIM's hospital in Soddo. While Harold worked in the hospital, Bonnie Jo was mainly occupied with her duties as wife and mother, but she also became hospital bookkeeper, teaching her children and leading Bible classes for hospital staff. The entire family came back to Wheaton in 1970 for a year on furlough. In 1974, because of growing difficulties with the new national government, the Adolphs left Ethiopia for good and returned to Wheaton, where Harold set up a practice. In 1981, Harold and Bonnie Jo traveled to Bangladesh to serve as short term missionaries for about two months. Harold was surgeon at the Memorial Christian Hospital in Malumghat. They also visited briefly in Hong Kong and Taiwan. From December 1983 to February 1984 they again, along with their daughter, served as short term medical missionaries in the Central African Republic.

Scope and Content

Collection 282 consists of two reels of tape of an interview of Bonnie Jo Adolph by Wheaton College student Britta Koch. This interview took place at the office of the Archives of the Billy Graham Center on October 30, 1984. The interview was mainly concerned with Mrs. Adolph's life from about 1954 through 1974. The topics discussed are listed below. Time elapsed from the start of the tape is recorded to the left of the topics. This index is keyed to the cassette copies and not the reel-to-reel original.

T1 - side 1 (Click to link to the transcript of this tape)
00:10 Introduction
00:30 Family moves to Mason City, Iowa
01:45 Christian and Missionary Alliance church
02:10 Conversion as a child
03:05 Growth in Christian life
04:30 Hobbies as a child, art work, architecture
06:15 Lack of interest in missions as a child
07:45 Home economic major at Wheaton College, IL
09:30 Mrs. Clara E. Giuliani, head of Home Economics Department
10:35 Literary societies on campus
12:50 Glee club trips
13:50 Met Harold Adolph; attendance at College church
17:00 Decision to become a missionary
21:30 Reasons for attending Wheaton
23:00 Changes at Wheaton since Adolph's student days; two different types of students
24:30 Academic standards at Wheaton
24:50 Marriage; teaching at a junior high school in Philadelphia
29:20 The Adolphs work in the Panama Canal zone
32:30 Harold's surgical preceptorship in North Carolina, family life during this period
35:10 Move to Taiwan when Harold entered military service
36:30 Taiwan as a preparation for the mission field; reaction of the children to Taiwan; church activity
41:40 Getting to know missionaries in Taiwan
43:10 Involvement in Ethiopia; Harold's parents visit to Ethiopia
44:20 Reason for choosing the SIM; desire not to send children away to boarding school
45:50 Application to SIM
46:45 SIM candidate school; anxieties before acceptance
49:50 Struggle to reconcile motherhood with mission work; experience of the Lord
51:10 Fears about going to out as a missionary; fear of the future
53:00 Very little deputation work; reaction of parents to becoming a missionary
55:10 Arriving late for language school in Ethiopia; living accommodations; size of the class
57:25 "Things I wish I had known before I came to Ethiopia"
58:10 Adapting to Ethiopian culture
62:10 End of side 1

T1 - side 2
00:00 Start of tape
00:06 Adapting to Ethiopian culture; Christmas in Ethiopia
05:10 Health habits; the place of gratitude in the culture
07:00 Common types of meals; pancakes as the national food
09:45 End of side 2

T2 - side 1 (Click to link to the transcript of this tape)
00:00 Start of Tape
00:08 Four types of religious worship in area: Muslim, Eastern Orthodox, evangelical, nonbelievers
01:05 Coptic Christians
02:20 Similar approach to all groups
03:35 Eastern Orthodox and Muslims least responsive to Gospel, animists most responsive
04:45 Importance of children in the Adolph home; Harold and Bonnie both agreed on not sending their children to boarding school; taking their son to language school with them; resisting pressure to send their children away
11:25 Reaction of the Adolph children to Ethiopia
13:30 The hospital facilities in Ethiopia; teaching at a mission school
15:45 Interpersonal conflicts between missionaries
16:20 Resolution of conflicts
16:50 The development of the Adolph's family during their missionary work; pressures of missionary work; influence of the books of Merlin Carothers; praising God no matter what the situation
24:25 Changes in the Adolphs during their furlough year
26:00 The change of government in Ethiopia; the departure of the Adolphs at the end of their term
27:05 Attitude of the new government to missionaries; support of the local population for the medical work; lack of trauma in leaving; meeting with supporters
29:35 Attitudes towards women in Ethiopia and Bangladesh
33:10 Current attitudes toward missions; short term missionary activities; Harold's continuing interest in missions
37:05 Dislike of flying; comfort from the Lord; personal struggles
39:45 End of tape



The tapes of this interview were received by the Archives in October 1984.

Accession 84-126
February 5, 1986
Robert Shuster
B. Koch
J. Nasgowitz

February 22, 1990, revised
L. Beloz

Accession 84-126
Type of Material: Audio Tapes
The following items are located in the AUDIO TAPE FILE

T1 -Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4, 72 minutes. Interview of Bonnie Jo Adolph by Britta Koch. Adolph discusses her childhood, conversion, decision to become a missionary, marriage, training by the Sudan Interior Mission, and arrival in Ethiopia. October 30, 1984. 1 side.

T2 -Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4, 40 minutes. Continuation of Adolph interview in which she discusses rearing children on the mission field and her work in Ethiopia. October 30, 1984. 1 side.

Send us a message

Return to BGC Archives Home Page
Last Revised: 12/01/00
Expiration: indefinite