Billy Graham Center

Collection 169 - Harold Paul Adolph. T2 Transcript.

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This is a complete and accurate transcript of the oral history interview of Harold Adolph (CN 169, #T2) in the Archives of the Billy Graham Center. No spoken words have been omitted, except for any non-English phrases which could not be understood by the transcribers. In very few cases words were to too unclear to be distinguished; in these cases "[unclear]" was inserted. This is a transcription of spoken English, which of course follows a different rhythm and rule than written English.

... Three dots indicate an interruption or break in the train of thought within the sentence on the part of the speaker.

.... Four dots indicate what the transcriber believes to be the end of an incomplete sentence.

() Words in parentheses are asides made by the speaker.

[] Words in brackets are comments by the transcriber.

This transcription was made by Christopher Easley and Paul Ericksen, and completed in December 1990.

Collection 169, #T2. Interview of Harold Adolph by Daniel Mercer, January 21, 1981.

MERCER: This is an interview with Dan Mercer with Dr. Adolph for the Missionary Source Collection of Wheaton College. This inter [sic] took place...took place at Wheaton College Billy Graham Center, on January 21st at 2:30 pm. [Pauses, rustling paper] Dr. Adolph, what sort of further preparations did you do after med school for the mission field?

ADOLPH: After I finished medical school at the University of Pennsylvania, I took my internship and three years of general surgical residency at Gorgas Hospital [named after Dr. William Gorgas, credited with eradicating malaria and yellow fever in Panama beginning in 1904] in the Canal Zone. I felt that God lead me to this particular hospital which was located in the tropics and run by [pauses] Am...Americans in order to gain the maximum advantage treating my patients in a similar setting in another location. And I think was the very best preparation that God allowed me to have for the work that I eventually did. We had a hundred leprosy patients. Ethiopia has a very large percentage of leprosy, up to three percent in certain areas. We had a large tuberculosis hospital associated with ours (larger than most hospitals here in the United States associated with that), so we did the chest surgery and other complications associated with tuberculosis. And then [Mercer clears throat] we saw all of the tropical diseases, and had a...a good admixture of cultures all over the world, because of the ships constantly going through. We would have Greek patients, Chinese patients, Japanese patients, Italian patients all at the same time.

MERCER: I'm just curious about leprosy. Is this the...the same biblical leprosy that we hear about in the Bible?

ADOLPH: Yes, I think so.

MERCER: Is it?.

ADOLPH: There's been a lot of discussion about leprosy and its connotations. I think [Mercer coughs] leprosy has been around a long time.

MERCER: That's interesting. Now I'm getting a little bit more specifically towards Ethiopia. What was your arrival like and your...your...your final step into going there?

ADOLPH: Well, at...while we were still in the Canal Zone of Panama, we felt God's direction to the Sudan Interior Mission, and to Ethiopia in particular, and to a hospital in Soddo. father's visit to that area and first hand report was very helpful in helping us to locate in an exact location. We then spent two years in Appalachia in a Presbyterian mission hospital, and two further years with the Navy, gaining experience in administration. And we left directly from Taiwan then to Africa.

MERCER: Taiwan?

ADOLPH: Pardon?

MERCER: Why particularly Taiwan?

ADOLPH: Taiwan...we were there assigned there with the Seventh Fleet, US Navy, and we worked their for the two years. We trusted God for the supplying of the necessary funds for our missionary work. And by the time we were to leave Taiwan, God had all of our entire support in without our roving through the countryside lecturing.

MERCER: That's interesting.

ADOLPH: When we got Africa, we had spent one month working at Viggo Olson's house in Bangladesh, where my brother works, and ten days in further leprosy and surgery in India with an Indian doctor friend. Our impressions on arriving in Africa were that it was very different from anything we had quite imagined. [Sound of approaching and passing train] It wasn't quite jungle, and we didn't see lions stalking around and monkeys hanging from trees. And the...the culture was very different, even though we thought we were extremely well prepared [laughs] for another culture, it was [microphone bumped several times] different. We weren't shocked by it particularly, [pauses] but we were sort of excited about new opportunities.

MERCER: That is interesting. Finally going to Ethiopia, how did you find the country? What was [sic] the first impressions?

ADOLPH: Well, we were...Ethiopia and the capital where we landed and the language school is on a very high plateau at...and we [Mercer clears throat] were at about nine thousand...between nine and ten thousand feet. So our summer wear [pauses] was very inadequate. One of the first things we did was buy a sweater at the market. It...the air was cool and clear and clean and very invigorating. We would huddle around our...our little [pauses] kerosene burner at night because it was so cool. During the first eight months of language school, when we were getting introduced to the country and the people, we were impressed with the people as [pauses] being very devout in the different beliefs that they had and very pleasant.

MERCER: That's interesting. What was the...the area like geographically [pauses] around were you were? And what part of Ethiopia was the hospital?

ADOLPH: The hospital was located [microphone bumped] in southern Ethiopia, at about seven and a half degrees north of the equator, and approximately two days by driving, if you could drive, to the Kenya border. We were...

MERCER: That's interesting.

ADOLPH: a tribe called the Walayta tribe [now called Wallamo tribe], which numbered about a million people. There was a further five million who spoke the Walayta language. And this was the tribe that Dr. [Raymond] Davis [general director of Sudan Interior Mission] wrote his book about called Fire on the Mountain, where he described the great revival that occurred after the Italian invasion during Second World War. They started with only fifty believers and...I mean, yeah fifty believers...and when the missionaries returned there were well over five thousand.

MERCER: That's exciting.

ADOLPH: It was a very great privilege to work in...amongst this particular tribe, because God had already and was working and you could see the Spirit of God working. did mean that Satan was especially active and caused us more trouble than would be if we were sitting behind the line somewhere. But that also was an encouraging facet of the work.

MERCER: When you mean that Satan was active, do you mean that you saw more visible signs witchcraft, or...or demon possession, or...or just attack on...on you as missionaries, discouragement, or...?

MERCER: All of...all of those are true. [Mercer chuckles, Adolph clears throat] The...I think that when you are coming to work in a tribe that is devoted to the worship of Satan, and they even have pins of their animals that are...have been donated and dedicated to Satan...

MERCER: Oh no.

ADOLPH: ...and they are actively worshiping Satan, and you come in with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, you can expect a little bit more Satanic activity than if you are [pauses] working in an area which may not be quite so overtly pagan. The [pauses]...the attack of Satan in other ways [pauses] from the standpoint of overwork, from the standpoint of other missionaries criticizing our activities, from the standpoint of missionaries getting along with each other, it was also very prevalent during our entire eight years.

MERCER: That's interesting. What year did you originally come to Ethiopia?

ADOLF: We went to Ethiopia in 1966.

MERCER: 1966.

ADOLPH: And at that time the furlough time...the period on the field was four years and furlough time [Mercer coughs] was one year.

MERCER: That's interesting. And stayed how many years in Ethiopia?

ADOLPH: We were there two full terms,...

MERCER: Two full terms. And you left....

ADOLPH: ...which was eight years, and we...we essentially were [rustling papers] with the mission full time for ten years.

MERCER: That's interesting. Was this bush country that you lived in or was it flatland?

ADOLPH: We were at the foot of a 10,600 foot mountain called Damoto Mountain in the middle of the Walayta tribe, and the land would be described as a farm...small farm...small farm community. Our hospital was located at 7,400 feet, and we were approximately two miles outside of a five thousand populated town. The area was very...was fairly densely populated. We never lacked from...for poor patients. After we'd been there six weeks and people started to know us better [pauses] we...we had trouble keeping up with the sick people. A lot of them would travel days on end, walking [pauses] or being carried. Some people would walk several days [sound of approaching and passing train], come on a bus for another couple days to get to us. We had one fellow, that I remember very well, who had walked for fourteen days to get to the hospital.

MERCER: Wow! Was he...were you able to save him?

ADOLPH: Yes. He was...he was a very interesting man. He had a very bad cancer in his hand from a shrapnel wound during the Italian invasion. An Italian bomb went off. [Microphone bumped] And we did and extensive operation on him. When he came [rustling paper] to the hospital, he was [rustling paper] very belligerent, a very hostile man, caused a lot of trouble, was difficult to manage in every way. Was a...was an outright worker of...worshipper of Satan. God saved him miraculously and he was one of the nicest gentlemen you'd every want to meet in the world. He went back to his area and started seven churches in his area. He came back later for a...a second operation, which was successful, and told us all the wonderful things that God had done for him and through him. And it certainly made all [Mercer laughs] the troubles well worthwhile.

MERCER: That is exciting, really. That makes you think that all the preparation and all that hard sweat really did pay off.

ADOLPH: Yeah! Four years of Wheaton, four years of medical school, five years of surgical training and two years in the Navy. [Mercer laughs] And then when I got to the hospital in Ethiopia, I saw ninety-one of my hundred and five patients' beds were occupied by patients who had a very strange foot disease that I had never studied before. So I was challenged immediately to try to figure out what this strange disease was. And after sending tissue samples [Mercer clears throat] to many different friends in the United States and having them study it without any clear answer, I was operating one day and suddenly got a high fever, and collapsed to the floor and I regowned and gloved five times in order to finish the operation. When I got home I examined myself [microphone bumped] and I found that I had the same trouble with my feet starting, and treated myself. But it was the start of my understanding of this disease and being able to help these people with this strange condition.

MERCER: How was it when you first came [microphone bumped] to the hospital? How did the people react you and what was the situation in the hospital?

ADOLPH: I followed a series of [Mercer clears throat] very great missionary doctors, and the doctor that I followed, his name was Dr. Nathan Barlow. And he had come from California, had been there essentially working for twenty years. The people considered me as his son. I looked enough like him and our personalities were much similar. And for that reason, I think God brought blessing and [pauses] it was very evident that a lot of the success was contributed by the ground...the excellent groundwork, that was laid by my predecessors.

MERCER: How about medically, how was the hospital fit?

ADOLPH: The hospital was...was made of straw, [rustling paper] mud and sticks with a tin roof. It was not...I had to duck [laughs], 'cause some of the ceilings were only about five and a half feet above the floor, so I had difficulty walking from some areas to the other. And of course when it rained the sound was deafening because of the tin roof. But in spite of the minimal facility when I got there, we were...we were able, by [rustling paper] God's goodness, to get [microphone bumped] the necessary equipment and from the very beginning, God blessed our surgical work, and helped people to get well, and put his hand on them spiritually, mentally and physically. And we were...we were seeing people almost everyday accepting the Savior.

MERCER: What kind of staff did you have working with you?

ADOLPH: We had five...usually five missionary nurses. We had a...a training school [Mercer clears throat] for medical auxiliaries which we called dressers. There were usually approximately eighty-one in the school at any one time. Classes were between twenty-five and...and thirty. They were taken...these students were taken from fourteen of the surrounding tribes. Their pastors would indicate them [microphone bumped] as men with promise [microphone bumped] and ability. And then we would train them and then they would go back to their communities as medical evangelists or physicians. The students studied the Bible with us. They had a regular preaching schedule. They studied for three years, took government examinations after each year. So our...our Ethiopian staff came from these trainees and they made up our administrators. They made up our nurse...main nursing staff.

MERCER: I have often heard people say one problem about being a medical missionary is that you...when you go to the mission field, you go and be know, a doctor. You don't have a chance to share your faith. And if you want to go as a evan...evangelist, you should go as evangelist. But if you expect to go as a doctor, you should go as a doctor. How do you feel about that?

ADOLPH: Well, I think a...a doctor's avocation is his medicine, but his real calling is still to win people for Christ. And by being a physician in the setup that I was in, I was attracting people from all over the country to come and hear the Gospel. And although I obviously only had maybe one to five minutes with each of my hundred patients in the clinic each day, and with my hundred and so patients in the hospital, I obviously couldn't give lectures to all of them. The...the life and the testimony and sometimes just a...a few words, supported by a staff of preaching floor moppers and bed-cleaners was perhaps [Mercer clears throat] more vital than if I did...did nothing for peoples' physical needs. I think when the love of Christ can be demonstrated by a accomplishing a fulfillment of a tangible recognized need, that you get farther than if you tell 'em...tell a person you need something [pauses], but they don't... haven't...they haven't recognized that they need that. So they're coming to us with their recognized need; we're taking care of that and pointing out other needs, and....

MERCER: That's exciting. [Microphone bumped] I just want to [pauses]...I...I want to come back to the spiritual element, but going back to your arrival Ethiopia, what was the situation of the government? How closely did missionaries work, for instance, with Haile Selassie? Or...or how did the country change over the time that you were there [pauses, Adolph clears throat], referring basically to necessities, and just basic communication, and development of the country?

ADOLPH: We felt that Haile Se...Haile Selassie was a very great leader...

MERCER: Really.

ADOLPH: ...and brought great advancement to the country. [Mercer clears throat] The [pauses]...the edu...the literacy rate essentially went from zero to three or four percent during the fifty years of his reign. And there were twenty-seven mission hospitals that were scattered out through the countryside giving help health care that was non-existent before. He was very happy to see missions work in his country,...

MERCER: Really.

ADOLPH: ...and he frequently would visit hospitals and hand out dollar bills to patients to get them excited. He...he was depicted as a...a tyrant and only with selfish interest by the communist who wanted to take over the country. But I think every leader can be criticized in some ways for living differently than the simple farmer. We worked quite closely with the government, and we were essentially...[Mercer clears throat] we...we worked closely with the church itself. And they made a lot of decisions with us as regarding employees, regarding students, regarding how we conducted our medical practice, and different ministries.

MERCER: That's interesting. Had you...have you ever personally met Haile Selassie?

ADOLPH: Yes, I...just from a distance.

MERCER: Oh really.

ADOLPH: I didn't shake his hand. He came to our...he came to our location.

MERCER: Did he? Wow. Did the war in Etricia (I'm not sure how you pronounce that), the Italian colony, affect you at all? There was a lot of stress between that...that portion of the country.

ADOLPH: Eritrea...

MERCER: That's right.

ADOLPH: the northern part of the country. We had students, usually one or two that came from Eritrea every year, so that we were supporting that area of mission. The Eritreans, because they had the Italians there for a long period of time, had a much more advanced medical and educational system, and the people were very brilliant. The people that came from Eritrea were always the top people in our class at the school. And they did have a...a great deal of problem when...when Ethiopia became very firm and hard on them, and they've gone through a great deal of suffering. [Pauses] Genocide...

MERCER: Genocide.

ADOLPH: ...and many other terrible things. A lot of people have escaped often to Sudan and other places. But it's a very sad story.

MERCER: That is very sad. Do they still speak Italian there?

ADOLPH: [Mercer clears throat] There are some that speak Italian. The...their Eritrean dialect is what they use most frequently. There are a hundred and fifty-one languages in Ethiopia, so the missionary is fraught with many problems. We had forty percent of our patients consisted [scratching sound] of the tribe that we worked with, and the others were people that were drawn in from surrounding areas.

MERCER: And the most common language, though, was the...the language of your tribe in this area?

ADOLPH: The national language was Amharic which was spoken by the leading tribe which...of which Haile Selassie was its [Mercer chuckles] dir...director. A slightly larger tribe was the Galla tribe, but they were...they were of the more numerous...they were not leader...a leader tribe. There was always strong animosity between tribes and long histories of battles between them.

MERCER: Do these languages all have a common base or were they...they very separate even in the....?

ADOLPH: They're very separate, especially to a foreigner who's trying to [Mercer laughs] learn one or two of them.

MERCER: I can believe it. What...what...what would we say [pauses] are necessary [pauses] commodities that you had, such as water, clothes, food? Were they hard to get?

MERCER: Well, when we arrived at our station, water was somewhat difficult to obtain. [Mercer clears throat] We had a muleteer driver, who...who had three [pauses] donkeys that he took down to a stream two miles a spring, and brought [pauses] his...kerosene/tin-laden donkeys back to the hospital and to our our home. We put all the water into a large barrel and let all the sediment drop out of it, and used alum to help it settle out because it was thick like mud. And then we would boil that for at least a half an hour [Mercer laughs]...

MERCER: My word.

ADOLPH: ...for our drinking supply. We...we had tin roofs and we collected all the water all the time, but during the dry season [banging noise], those [Mercer laughs] were all empty. So we had a irrigation ditch system. We also built a dam across the river that had the springs and built an elaborate system of a jet ram which would not require electricity. However, it was such a [Mercer clears throat] beautiful water system that the nearby town and governor coveted it [Mercer laughs] and took it [Mercer laughs].

MERCER: Oh no!

ADOLPH: So we...we developed another system after our dam was broken, and pumped our water to a special water container which was isolated. And the...the problems of rain and water are a very recognizable problem in Ethiopia. I had employees at the hospital whose wives walk...would walk for twelve hours to the closest water hole in the dry season to get water. So they were essentially going all day to get water and all day back to get...bring it back home. And that was their whole occupation.

MERCER: It's kind of like a woman at the well [story about Jesus in John 4].


MERCER: Wow. I guess that made...made water seem so much more precious. Do you still think of it when you see a lot of water?

ADOLPH: Yes, when I'm at the hospital and I'm scrubbing my hands, the nurses are always pointing out that I...I just use enough water to [Mercer laughs] barely wet my hands and to barely rinse them off. The faucets are set up that the water will run normally all the time while you're washing your hands, but of course you don't need the water running [Mercer laughs] all the time, and you can move it in such a way that it's saved. Water is a [Mercer clears throat] very precious commodity, and one of the projects that we were involved with was...was capping springs [microphone bumped] and...and getting a pure water supply for the...the people because a lot of the illnesses of Africa are carried by water and flies.

MERCER: How 'bout clothes and food?

ADOLPH: We [pauses]...we got along with the clothes that we brought out from the United States. They were rather tattered by the time we were ready to go back and our underwear were fit for nobody [Mercer laughs]. And we had let the poor people have them [Mercer laughs] and they thought...they thought even though we thought that they were completely worn out, they...they thought they were probably good for another ten years.

MERCER: Oh no. [Laughs] How about your food supply?

ADOLPH: We went to the...the market in town, which was visible from our home and from the hospital. Market was a gathering of ten thousand people in the an open area, and people spread their wares all over the...the ground in a large [pauses] area and usually had the market three times a week. We sent a [pauses] a...a worker to go in so that the price [laughs] would be somewhat more reasonable. It's obvious the...the foreigner, no matter how acclimated he is...he is obviously richer than any [pauses] counterpart.

MERCER: Did you ever, during your mission experience, develop a deep craving for something ridiculous like Oreo cookies or Fig Newtons or spaghetti and meatballs?

ADOLPH: I didn't have that trouble and it was probably because I was so tired [Mercer laughs] when I finished my work at the hospital that frequently I just flopped in bed.

MERCER: You mean you never had flashes of Don and Angie's [restaurant?] come up for you? [Mercer laughs]

ADOLPH: No, I didn't. I think it's because having grown up in China and having time in Kentucky, and being rather poor when I was at Wheaton College and poor during medical school [Mercer laughs] and poor during my training period (because they paid the doctors very little during those times), I never went out to restaurants and fancy food places.

MERCER: [Microphone bumped] Something that always...I always appreciate so much is that a lot of missionaries I know, despite the fact that they have so little money, their...their...their moral standards don't go down and their...their standard of living is good, despite the fact that they don't have much money, which I think really demonstrates God's hand in their lives.

ADOLPH: Yeah. I hope I didn't portray the fact I felt that God didn't adequately supply...

MERCER: Oh, no.

ADOLPH: ...because that [Mercer clears throat] absolu...absolutely wrong. He supplied very well in every facet of our living, spiritually, physically, and mentally. There were times when I got to the very end of my endurance, and I would say, "God, I don't know what I am going to do. There is no one else to take care of these patients. And I have had it [Mercer laughs] absolutely up to here." And from nowhere, but from where God had it, a surgeon or somebody would appear and take over for a short respite.

MERCER: Two more quick questions on your...just your basic life there. What did you do for spare time, firstly, and what were the hardest aspects of the missions field there? [Mercer clears throat]

ADOLPH: For my spare time [rustling paper] [laughs]...I...I didn't have any...much spare time. For my spare time, I made plans for [pauses] public health program and for building a new hospital. And since I liked architecture anyway and when I was at Wheaton College I was told I should be an architect, I put that to work and spent [rustling paper] time designing hospital, making out requests for grants, typing a lot, page after page, document after document, and diagram after diagram. But really, I would have to say also, along with that, that my spare time was caught up a lot just keeping abreast with medical advances, and the new kinds of cases that I was seeing. I read more avidly than ever before, because every day was a new challenge, a new problem that I'd never seen before. And in the United States where we can refer any problem to somebody else [Mercer laughs], it is entirely different than if you are the last place [Mercer laughs] that a person can go.

MERCER: The buck stops here.

ADOLPH: Yeah. So that was...on Sundays when there weren't emergencies, I [pauses] was out in sort of our backyard, or might take a very, very short walk. Since I was usually the only doctor, I couldn't go anywhere really, and that was...I would have liked to have gone hiking with the children or I would have liked to have gone out to different churches. But, when I did that I came...came [Mercer clears throat] back to several emergencies [Mercer laughs] that I felt shouldn't have waited. And so it was in some ways somewhat hampering. The other question regarding what I considered the most difficult aspect of my missionary work [clears throat], was the...the problem with other missionaries. I think that if your work is well received by the nationals [rustling papers], that jealousies very easily develop. Other missionaries become very jealous of your success, and I...I frequently found my wishing for no success, so that nobody would be jealous of what was happening. But it was something that I had to face during my entire period of time. At one time it became so difficult for me, that I ran...I left. I called the...the children, my wife and we...and grabbed one suitcase and just took off [Mercer clears throat] in the car to another of our missions hospitals, and worked there for six weeks until things settled down.

MERCER: This was problems from other missionaries?

ADOLPH: Yes, of our...our missionaries. Our own missionaries.

MERCER: They were threatening you?

ADOLPH: That's right.

MERCER: No, you're kidding. Well, tell me more about the...the mission groups [microphone bumped]...that you were dealing with. What sort of problems...or others?

ADOLPH: Well [pauses] I suppose [microphone bumped] the [pauses] ...when a doctor in the United States works with a group, normally he interviews the doctor who's going to work with him, and get some ideal of compatibility, and similar goals, similar schedules, able to work out something [laughs] with...about the...the way the medical work is going. The missionary doctor is thrust in a very diff...different situation. He is assigned a strange hospital, with people that he has never had the chance to interview, who may differ from him very radically in many different ways, and who...who...whose backgrounds are entirely different. And the mission doctor will frequently have difficult circumstances arise, I think, from this. [Pauses] And I felt this very keenly. I knew that I was there because God wanted me to be there. And that was the only thing that kept me going many times, because although one does not seek for the...the accommodation or approval of the people that you work for, it certainly makes it easier if you have that type of...of agreement. My schedule involved going to the hospital early [Mercer clears throat], working hard and taking few vacations. My counterpart took frequent vacations, came to the hospital late, left early, and so there was quite an adjustment especially when the work was difficult anyway. And there are...when you have that type of thing happen, then there are sides that develop and conflicts. And that sort of thing was really present the entire period that I was there.

MERCER: That's amazing. Did you ever have any fellowship with the other missionaries? Were there bright spots with the other groups?

ADOLPH: Yeah. [Clears throat] Because I was so busy, I...I didn't have much time for the missionaries, and that of course was a problem. In other words, I had to choose. "If I'm here in Africa to help the Africans, I am going to devote my time to working with them. I won't have...I obviously won't have time to [Mercer coughs] spend a great deal in communicating or just fellowshipping with missionaries." If I had it to do over, I would see the weaknesses of that [clears throat] and recognize that in order to have the work go properly [pauses], I would spend more time...I would prioritize time to keep the missionaries happy. [Mercer laughs] I did as well as I could. I gave...I gave essentially a half of one day up from working...from operating, in order to have meetings, scheduled meetings, and talk over problems. But what the missionaries like or what the missionary staff likes at a mission hospital, is a doctor who does not work too hard, so they don't have to work too hard, and who will go out on weekends for picnics. And [pauses] so the...the strongest criticism was that I...I worked the nurses too hard. From my standpoint, I was already having to tell forty percent of the patients who came to me that I was not able to help them because of lack of time and lack of beds. So that to do any further curtailing of schedule, to me, was impossible. In other words, if I did not work to my capacity, I was...I was not doing it properly. I would manage that in the future, I'm not sure [clears throat], but it is a problem in a mission hospital.

MERCER: Where the any denominational problems?

ADOLPH: No denominational problems. Our mission had that handled very well. We never discussed theological-like problems. But dislikes and animosities were quite frequent.

MERCER: That must have been frustrating. Do you know the...the historical involvement of missionaries in Ethiopia? Who came first and did what where?

ADOLPH: Yes. A Dr. Lambie from Pennsylvania [clears throat] initially went to the Sudan, and...

MERCER: When was this? Do you know?

ADOLPH: That was...that would have be approximately [pauses] sixty-two years ago [clears throat].

MERCER: Which was the first missionary in Africa [Incorrect. There were Christians in Africa since the beginning of Christianity; there had been Protestant missionaries in Ethiopia since 1634.]

ADOLPH: [Clears throat] And [pauses] he came into Ethiopia over the border between Sudan and Ethiopia. And it's recorded that during his first days there, one of the governors had a beetle caught in his ear, and he extracted the...the vicious creature [Mercer laughs], and obtained a great admiration for doing that. And as a result he was introduced to Haile Se...Selassie in the capital, and established a hospital in Addis Ababa, and then went down to the hospital where I work, and...and established that as a station and a medical center. "Medical center" meaning one little hut that treated sick people initially. And then over the years patients were attracted and brought to a knowledge of Christ through them. The his...whole history of Ethiopia is so [rustling papers] complex that I don't think that I should go into that any further [rustling paper].

MERCER: Okay, I curious a little bit now, specifically about the differences in Christianity in the Ethiopian people themselves? Not just in Christianity, but the general religious view there. If I'm correct that there're four, five main religious groups, is that Christians, which includes the Orthodox and the...the Protestants. Then you'd have your Muslims, animists and others. I think there were about five groups.

ADOLPH: We divide them up as the...the Muslims, a third Muslims, a third Coptics [pauses], a third pagan or animists and then through the work of mission, approximately ten percent of the tribe that we work with became Christians. When we left there were six hundred and forty-four churches. There were eighty of the young who dedicated their lives to go out as missionaries to other tribal groups, some of which were still completely unreached. The main thrust of the mission, during the later years, was the translation of the Bible into the language of the people. And this had been accomplished now for the tribe that we worked with, the...the Walayta group. They've...have also put it on cassette, so that the chur...the ten churches can have one cassette player and one [pauses] series of the Bible in their language.

MERCER: Wow, that must be exciting.

ADOLPH: Uh-hmmm.

MERCER: Wow. [Rustling paper] Tell me a little bit about the Coptic Church? The...their response to the Gospel and your connection with them.

ADOLPH: The Coptics did not want the intrusion of missions and although we studied the language in an area that was very Coptic, because they...they were the ones that spoke the Amharic the best and usually were of the Amharic tribe. They did not usually [pauses] wish to be evangelized.

MERCER: Really.

ADOLPH: They would frequently accept Bibles and tracts and discussion. But we never saw any great turning amou...amongst their group.

MERCER: That's interesting.

ADOLPH: They know, the individuals occasionally would accept Christ, but was not like a...a big turning like it was in the tribe we worked with.

MERCER: That's interesting, and you'd mention that you had your biggest success with Muslims. Is that correct?

ADOLPH: No, I...I can't really say that...that our biggest success was with Muslims. [Mercer coughs] I can say that most of our Muslim patients were cataract patients and that while they lay in bed with their patches over their eyes, they had plenty of time to listen. The Muslim, when he accepts Christ, he usually accepts Christ as a whole family unit...

MERCER: Really.

ADOLPH: ...rather than just least they did in our area.


ADOLPH: And so if they wanted to accept Christ, they...they brought the other family members in and they made a big discussion of it [Mercer laughs] and then if they were going to they...they did it as a family.

MERCER: What did that mean in that society?

ADOLPH: Well, it meant essentially the same kind of persecution as it does for any Muslim.

MERCER: Really.

ADOLPH: And we had Muslim medical auxiliaries in training. Not...that is Muslims who have been converted to Christianity. We found them particularly helpful in dealing with the Muslims who came to the hospital, because of course they understood their background and...and their thinking much better than we did, even though we made special attempt to study that and learn as much as we could.

MERCER: So I'm sorry, I misunderstood. Your...your [microphone bumped] basic work then is with the animists, is that correct?

ADOLPH: That's right.

MERCER: [Microphone bumped] That's good. And what...what sort of hindrances did they have to the Gospel or...or is the Gospel generally presented to them?

ADOLPH: [Clears throat] The...there...there were several stories that we told that seemed to fit into their culture a great deal. One was the...the story of [pauses] the brother who took the...the punishment for another brother who was going to be hung. Hanging is a...was a very common punishment in Ethiopia. And you go to the market and you would frequently see people hanging there from the day's executions. And [Mercer coughs] so that a story that involved that type of thing, a brother taking a hanging for his brother, showed the...what Christ was...what had...what he had already done for them. And [pauses] they lived in such great fear [microphone bumped] of what Satan was going to do to them if they didn't do certain things to appease that, that when we were able to tell them that you can be freed from all these fears, you don't have...because God is stronger than Satan, you will be able to have something much stronger than Satan. He won't be able harm you, because just like God had a hedge around Jo...Job, so God ha...God will have a hedge around you and you can trust him. You will have persecution, you will have hard times, they will not go away, but you will learn that God is sufficient for those troubles. And [pauses] the Christian church in Ethiopia has always been a greatly persecuted church. I frequently had patients who have had slash marks or the scars of the beatings that they would have. They would be placed on the ground and their hands and legs out and they would have these thrashings and when we...just before the communists took over the new government from Haile Selassie [in 1975], the Christians were saying, "In order for us to be strong and vibrant, we...we need further persecution." And they...they certainly have had that.

MERCER: That's interesting. Were did the local church leaders get their...their training? Did you train them yourselves?

ADOLPH: Yes. [Mercer clears throat] Our mission had Bible schools. Initially the Bible school ministry started by having students from the countryside come to the compound for a like a Tuesday/Thursday Bible study and sermon preparation. They would go out with that sermon. They'd go back to their homes. They would preach that Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday.


ADOLPH: Meanwhile, they would of course be farming their fields and taking care of their family. Then they would come back in for another Tuesday/Wednesday Bible study preparation, sermon preparation for another sermon to be delivered. It started that way, and then they actually had a three-year Bible school program. But they have it in such a way that the people can usually get back to farm their fields and do the necessary work that they have. Then, beside that central Bible school, little ones developed in the different districts. So the national church themselves runs these from the people who graduated from the big school. And [pauses] it is has a [pauses] been a church with...with many problems but very exciting. Usually, a baptism, for example, will see five or six hundred people baptized. And you know, when we're in church, even a large church here, if they baptize five or six people [Mercer laughs] every month, why it's unusual.

MERCER: Then the...the Lord was really moving when you were there.

ADOLPH: Yes. And I...that was just a great privilege to see that.

MERCER: That was exciting.

ADOLPH: I felt...I felt absolutely completely dependent on God for many reasons, because I had a health problem. I had chronic sinusitus from the time I was at...a freshman at Wheaton College, requiring me to go to bed at ten o'clock every night throughout my study in medical school and training. And which usually had me [Mercer clears throat] sick one or two weeks every six weeks...


ADOLPH: ...throughout the entire time. And I frequently had to operate the hospital from my bed. [I'd] Tell the nurse what to do. And if it was an emergency operation I would get up and do it and go right back to bed again. So I've...I recognized that here was a person, myself, who could not do it himself, who was absolutely completely dependent on God for even sustenance, even to be able to stand up straight. And yet God privileged me to be in that area where he was just pouring out his Spirit, and I was seeing so many people come to Christ. And you know, I hear...I read the stories of other people who had such great problems, work for thirty, forty years, and never see a convert and sometimes just see the results of their work maybe ten years after they retire. So I was just very happy for that.

MERCER: It's been said that where Satan is strong, God's always stronger. Do you still...the two are there equal intensity often. Did you every see miraculou...miracles happen or...or really unusual things where the Holy Spirit had to directly intercede, or was that not part of the experience there.

ADOLPH: The answer to that as far as miracles goes is "yes." Miracles in the change of lives, like the patient that I talked to you about. Miracles in healing people that medically even if they had been in the greatest hospital in the world with the fanciest equipment could not have possibly been saved. I recently [Mercer coughs] reviewed the surgical care and treatment [microphone bumped] of patients with sigmoid volvulus with gangrene [pauses] in our hospital in Ethiopia as well in the Chicago area. The mortality of patients with this abnormality in the Chicago area (university hospitals, community hospitals, and other hospitals), it runs around twenty percent, and it's the same in all three kinds of hospitals. In our hospital it was three percent and I...I think we can attribute that to the working of God [pauses] amongst our patients.

MERCER: Have you kept contact with the Ethiopian church since you've been back, or is contact not accessible?

ADOLPH: When...when we left from Ethiopia, the people of the town and the church wrote a letter to the Minister of Health to prevent our leaving the country...

MERCER: Really.

ADOLPH: ...because they were afraid that maybe another surgeon wouldn't be assigned to the hospital or somebody to help them. And so we...we barely got out of the country when we left. We decided...

MERCER: [Unclear] loved [laughs].

ADOLPH: Yeah. We decided that it would be harmful to the people to be getting letters from the United States, with the government that was not pro-American. And so though we've gotten letters, we have never answered them directly, but only through friends and missionaries. So that we would not be responsible for any persecution or any imprisonment of any of our friends.

MERCER: What's the word on the church today?

ADOLPH: The word on the church that I...that I hear now is that they're still intermittently imprisoning. They...they [pauses]...they do have to meet very early in the morning because the...the government gives them jobs to do at church time, so that they can't meet at the usual church period...that time. hasn't come to the stage like it did in China, where...where all the groups completely meet underground. Not... "underground" is a bad word, but secretly.

MERCER: That's interesting. That especially right before the communist takeover, the Holy Spirit should have protected you. That's exciting! [Clears throat] The Ethiopian church... what...did they have any particular things which held them back? Often churches will have particular problems, you know, perhaps complacency or what not, or...?

ADOLPH: Well, if you were to ask that question [rustling paper, microphone bumped] to a missionary who was involved in church work particularly, he might answer it differently than I would. But as I see it, the...maybe the main problem [pauses]...the main problem of [pauses]...of the church was training...inadequate training, and possibly the lack of good teaching of the children. Because frequently we would see children who've grown up in a Christian home, who considered themselves Christians because they were born into the family of a mother and father who were Christians, and they had never experienced the new birth themselves. And so the...the mission pushed the training of pastors in Sunday school and people especially trained to teach children the Bible. And of course, as I have mentioned before, the lack of having the Bible in your own language, which was another pablem [sic]...problem, was just recently solved. And then the Bible school problem [Mercer coughs] teaching, and that was, I think [laughs]...I think those three areas were perhaps the major areas of concern. I think that there's no other group [rustling paper] that I can imagine who went out from their own communities under great physical hardships. You know, some of the greatest people I know would have to be, certainly, the evangelists of this particular tribe who went out, left their homes and their culture to go to tribes and learn new languages, and till fields in the foreign [rustling paper] location and bring about salvation of those people.

[tape recorder turned off and then started again]

MERCER: Dr. Adolf, you spoke a little bit about your...your work starting the hospital, watching it grow from basically a small operating room to a much larger structure. What was your experience doing this?

ADOLPH: Well, through the entire seven years that we were attempting to improve the hospital facilities to give better medical care and to better demonstrate the love of Christ, we could see the hand of God. We could see how God was teaching us lessons increase our faith. In 1966, just after leaving language school we started actually building our own block. But after two hundred block...two hundred block were made, nothing happened really for almost [pauses]...for three years there was just absolutely nothing. In 1969, three years later, we made out a grant to the Dutch foreign aid group [sound of approaching and passing train], whose titles are ICC...ICCO. And against great odds such as low country priority, low project priority, and a previous bad experience [microphone bumped] in Ethiopia [microphone bumped], with a similar project [rustling papers] where they lost essentially a million...million dollars, in spite of all of that [Mercer clears throat], our project was accepted and the mission [Mercer snaps open his ring binder] agreed that a hosp...a new facility [rustling papers] should be built. [Mercer snaps closed his notebook] In 1970, God brought us into contact with a [rustling papers] Christian architect and builder named Group [?] in England, and that was essentially the birth of a vision for us. Just like God gave the birth of a vision Joseph and through the years of great trouble, imprisonment and what not [biblical story in Genesis], this birth of vision was carried out. But the next phase of our time in Ethiopia was the death of a vision. [Clears throat] In 1970, a poor quality building was started, and was stopped after six months and the builder who came out from England ran off with 72,000 U.S. dollars. [Microphone bumped, Mercer laughs] The promise of a very good friend who promised to donate a large sum of money, completely fell through and he didn't even give a penny. That was in 1971. In 1972, there was a great deal of opposition by missionaries and various groups bec...with the...the whole idea that a building is not part of mission and even if it's to house sick people, it's a building and God doesn't like buildings. God only likes you to do things for people or to preach people. Then in 1972, in November, a mission builder actually arrived. The old hospital [pauses]...the old section that had been done was destroyed and the work started all over again. In 1972, that second builder left after only eighteen months of work [microphone bumped] and with only two-thirds of the first floor of a two story building completed [microphone bumped]. And in 1974, about a month-and-a-half later, my wife and I, because we realized that God wanted the hospital completed, and we were sure that God would not start a project without completing it, we contacted an Egyptian Christian contractor to finish the...the building, first and second floors, for a total of a half a million Ethiopian dollars. And my wife and I signed that contract even though we did not have those funds available. Over the next period of time there was more political...there was more...more opposition from the mission, there was political and economic upheaval, social unrest in the country, and the overtaking of the...the government of Haile Selassie. And [pauses] through the...the next year we saw the entire amount of money come in and the hospital completed, dedicated just before we left Ethiopia. So on April 24th of 1975, the hospital was actually dedicated. And the Minister of Health came down do the dedication. The actual final finishing touches were on...on July 1st of that same year. On December 1st of that same year, there were only $7,891 left to pay the contractor. And so in our minds it was just enumeration of just another facet of God's miracle working power both with patients and with things that would help patients.

MERCER: Good. Thank you. If you could, give me a...a brief history [Adolph clears throat] of perhaps what patients [microphone bumped] you worked [microphone bumped] with in these experiences.

ADOLPH: Well possibly, I could do that best telling the story [pauses] of a...a gentleman called Ato Bogala, who came in during the very [pauses] later months of my time there. And this story will...will have to have some of the color of the Walamo countryside, so if it sounds a little bit foreign to American suburbia or city life, you'll have to forgive me. And it will be told more in the sense of this particular person talking. [Adolph reads from manuscript]

"As the chirping of the birds became silent and darkness crept over the...the Walayta countryside, smoke rose from hundreds of thatch roof homes nestled on their subsistence farms surrounded by false banana, fields of potatoes and millet and corn. Ato Bogala [Mercer coughs], who had lead the surrounding community in the worship of Satan, as their witch doctor, started having abdominal pain. The day had been busy, speaking with his clients who came with their problems. They first gentleman had came because he wanted to know who had stolen his cow. The second was a child with swelling around the elbow after a fall from a tree. A splint had been applied. The next was a rich man's third wife, who was having problems with other...the other two wives. Then, following a baby with fever for whom he had removed the uvula, the little piece that sticks out from the soft palette, [Mercer clears throat] the...the...the previous evening, the leaders of he community or their elders, had met together to discuss their problem of roving thieves who were taking the cattle. They had decided to set up watches in thatch guard houses along all the paths of intersection, especially on market days of Tuesday and Saturday. His thoughts of the day were again disturbed when spasms of pain came which caused him to writhe on the dirt floor beside the small fire in the floor [Mercer coughs] of his home. Intermittently, [Mercer sneezes] outside and sometimes very close [Mercer sneezes] was the howl of the hyena. He noticed that swelling was developing over the abdomen also, and through the long night of agony which followed became progressively worse. Toward the middle of the night he had gone out place his most beautiful pure white goat into the sacrifice pen for Satan. In the morning, as the sun broke through the mist, he went out and placed his prized bull in the same pen. Then he started to think, between the spasms of excruciating pain, 'I wonder if one of my enemies has poisoned me.' He thought of the many enemies which he had liquidated by burning their homes. He thought of constant fear that he and his people lived in and the mental anguish and torture, which hate always brings. The second day of pain brought with it the realization that death was not very far away, and he lived with the great dread of the unknown. All the day, the fetish dances and frenzy of the drums have been going. His abdominal skin had been burned with a red hot iron over all the areas of pain. Sometime, toward morning the third night, the community leaders and family were able to convince Ato Bogala, that the doctor who brought the message of Jesus Christ's love and forgiveness for sin, could perform an operation which would save his life. They reviewed the story of Ato Hilu who had suffered with similar pains for five years..." (correction) "...for five [laughs] days, and whose life had been saved. He was now a follower of Jesus Christ. He certainly remembered Ato Yiferu, who had gone to the hospital with a large congenital defect in his right upper lip and had returned with a normal face. Also the woman in the next valley who had been attacked by hyena while returning from the Saturday market three months ago, and whose life had been saved at the hospital. She too was a different person now. In the neighboring district he remembered three women who had been unable to deliver their babies. The midwife had pushed on their abdomens unmercifully for three days, and when life seemed to be leaving them, their friends had carried them on a stretcher to the hospital, and they too were well. He recalled, too, a friend who had been unable to eat for almost five years and always had gnawing pain in the upper abdomen and vomiting. His legs had become swollen as well as his abdomen. His face had been pale and his body weak. He also had a operation which made his stomach new again. He could eat without trouble. Wayzero Zingero had a large tumor on her neck, which had made swallowing difficult and brought hoarseness of her voice. She had even not been able to turn her head and look at the path. Three months ago the young men had carried his friend to the hospital. He had been wracked by fever and chills for two weeks and had lost his mind. Now he lay back with his family without any sign of sickness. Each night Ato Bogala had listened to the death wails from various homes in his valleys. He knew they came from the fathers and mothers who had lost their youngest children to the meningitis epidemic which was sweeping through the area. Last year it had been measles and the year before small pox. But many had received the vaccination from the hospital since then. At 5:30 in the morning, a group of twenty anxious young men were outside his home with a straw padded improvised stretcher and a heavy blanket with which to wrap Ato Bogala. Strong hemp rope secured the dying man. He would need those ropes on the six hour trip to the hospital as his carriers brought him along treacherous mountain trails and through gorges over rushing streams. Upon arrival at the hospital, three medical auxiliaries-in-training started preparing him for the necessary operation. The doctor was still operating on another patient, and would be out to check him later. While his intravenous fluids were started, the ab...the abdominal skin shaved and burns treated, he heard again why the doctors and nurses had left their country to help him and his people. In the operating room, following a spinal anesthetic, large loops of gangrenous intestine were removed and the good ends of the intestine joined together after a word of prayer. Soon he was on a large twenty-four bed ward with others from his tribe. Feeling his abdomen, he noticed that the swelling was gone. The lower part of his entire body was without feeling. What relief from the excruciating pain of the last three days and nights. As he started recovering strength each day, he was more aware of those around him. In the next bed was an old man, who had been unable to see to walk for one-and-a-half years. His six-year old [microphone bumped] grandson had led him around wherever he went. Just the day before, the doctor had taken off his bandages and he was overjoyed to be able to see again. In three more days the doctor said he could have glasses, which would help him [pauses, clears throat] and he would be able to move around normally. He too was impressed with the love that was shown him by the hospital workers. He too was listening to God's message from the Bible shared with him each day. On the other side, a middle aged gentleman who had had great trouble passing his urine, was there. He had to jump up and down [laughs, Mercer coughs] in order to get [microphone bumped]...and get into unusual positions and always had severe pain and even bleeding when going to the bathroom. In a very soiled napkin beside his bed lay a treasured stone, with rough surfaces, which had been removed. It measured three inches across, and the doctor had removed it from the patient's bladder. Now no pain was present. He also had burned his Satan fetishes behind the hospital and had become a Christian after the doctor prayed with him that previous day. Soon [Mercer clears throat] Ato Bogala was ready to go home himself. His heart too had been ch...changed by the love of Christ shown him day by day. The day before, he had had his son take all his fetishes outside his home and burn them. He no longer wondered why eighty men of his own tribe were telling this message throughout the countryside into neighboring tribes. He could see why there were over 625 churches of his tribemen [sic], which had sprung up in the last forty-eight years, since the first missionary doctor had come." [Excerpt of similar manuscript appeared in Sudan Interior Mission's Africa Now, March/April 1977, No. 91, p. 13.]

MERCER: That's exciting. [Pauses]. After...after having healed a patient like that, were they particularly...that...that must have been a particularly good time to share the Gospel with them, because they were very thankful.

ADOLPH: The people of [Mercer clears throat] this particular tribe are extremely grateful for any small kindnesses shown to them. And they have the habit [knock on door, door opens] kneeling down on their [door closes] hands and knees and grabbing the ankles of the one that they're thanking.

MERCER: What sort of things would they do for you?

ADOLPH: They would bring [Mercer clears throat] eggs wrapped in banana leaves to our home, and sometimes an actual chicken.

MERCER: Had you attempted to raise any animals during this time?

ADOLPH: We raised rabbits and guinea pigs. We used them to show [Mercer clears throat] the people how eating good food made them look better and feel better [Mercer laughs]. So we had some rabbits that were on the starvation kind of diet [Mercer laughs] and poor nutrition, and poor protein. And their hair was scroungy looking and they looked ugly. And the other ones that had good food, they looked white. They...their fur was nice and they were able to move around their cages better.

MERCER: Oh, that's funny. [Unclear]

ADOLPH: My daughter would take the little rabbits to [Mercer clears throat] let the little children pet them, and...because they were...they were called foreign...foreign rats [Mercer laughs]...or rabbits [laughs].

MERCER: They'd never...they'd never seen rabbits.

ADOLPH: No, not this kind. [Mercer laughs] These were [laughs]...these were white rabbits.

MERCER: Oh no.

ADOLPH: Experimental rabbits.

MERCER: You never ate these though.

ADOLPH: Yes we did. That provided our own protein.

MERCER: That was your...your sole source of protein?

ADOLPH: That wasn't our sole source, but almost and sometimes...

MERCER: Wow. Do you still enjoy rabbit meat?


MERCER: Do you get...can you find it here in the States very easily?


MERCER: No. That's interesting.

ADOLPH: We pretend the chicken is rabbit.

MERCER: Oh wow. Yeah, Europe, I had a chance to eat a lot of rabbit soup in the homes [microphone bumped]. That's interesting. [Clears throat]. How did you kids react to being in Ethiopia?

ADOLPH: Well, they went through the Calvert school [a system of programed home instruction with regular testing]. And my son, all the way through the eleventh grade [Mercer coughs], and my daughter all the way [Mercer coughs, clears throat] through to seventh grade. I felt that they were able to enter into our work more completely. My son worked at the hospital regularly, helping me in surgery sometimes. My daughter made rounds with me on Sunday mornings, and colored with some of the children. So [pauses] the...they would have...they would get the benefit of...of a family thrust to the work. My son helped me a great deal [microphone bumped] in repairing the evangelists' tape [rustling papers] recorders and doing maintenance work at the hospital [Mercer clears throat] and keeping the water system running and the electricity running, and doing many odd jobs. He ran a small dump truck for the hospital building project. And I think he felt a whole part of the mission work rather than somebody just going to school.

MERCER: That's interesting. Where would...what did they do for fun? Did they....?

ADOLPH: They played games almost all day long [laughs]...

MERCER: Did they really?

ADOLPH: ...except for the two hours that they did [laughs] their school work in the morning.

MERCER: Oh wow.

ADOLPH: And [pauses] so they...they had a good time.

MERCER: Oh that's good.

ADOLPH: They played with the natio...nationals at sch...the school, and with our dresser trainings they showed moving pictures...our medical moving pictures to the people and...and other special films from A...USAID [United States government agency] [Mercer clears throat]. So they were very active. [Mercer clears throat]

MERCER: That's interesting [microphone bumped].

ADOLPH: They also went out on public health trips, giving vaccinations with jack-guns to children, usually five hundred at a time, which is a...

MERCER: Quite a...

ADOLPH: ...full day's job.

MERCER: Indeed. Indeed. [Clears throat] Swinging now a little bit towards the...the later part of your stay Ethiopia. You were in Ethiopia the year of the revolution [1974-1975]. What were the circumstances leading up to it and what were your general impressions of the revolution?

ADOLPH: Just before the revolution, there was very severe famine and drought in Ethiopia, essentially for the three years before this occurred. And the revolutionaries were able say that the [Mercer laughs] drought was caused by poor management of Haile Selassie, and use it to their advantage. The customs and cultures of the people changed absolutely, almost immediately.

MERCER: Because of the drought?

ADOLPH: Well, not because of the drought, but because of the revo...with the change of government, you weren't allowed to have a picture of Haile Selassie. And so at ten o'clock one night I...I slipped over to the hospital when nobody was looking and took the...the pictures of these great people away and hid them [Mercer clears throat]. Because the hospital had been threatened at four o'clock that afternoon, that if they were...they [the [pictures] remained there they would destroy the hospital. The people were unable to communicate as well with us after that. Everybody became very quiet...

MERCER: Really.

ADOLPH: ...because it was not really good to be talking to an American when the government was very anti-American. There were a lot of problems caused by university students who were communist-instigated and they broke up our prayer meetings. They demanded the [pauses] dismissal of certain employees who they felt were from other tribes than they wanted to see in the hospital. So it was a time of great frustration, and also a time where [Mercer clears throat] employees were stimulated to request higher wages and more benefits, at a time when the inflation was high and it was more difficult to obtain things. There were many times we had to make our own intravenous fluids. We would be out of medications and be praying and the truck would finally arrive just within an hour of the time of need. Cement for our...our new hospital was very difficult to secure, and a person would have to get in line at the one single factory in the country at four o'clock in the morning and stand maybe all day to get a very small shipment. And there were also many answers to prayer in that regard. Inflation was very bad [microphone bumped], and we did have to raise wages, because their...the previous wages were inadequate to obtain even a...a moderate living, especially with large numbers of children.

MERCER: How was the Ethiopian revolution similar to the Chinese revolution [1946-1948] or different?

ADOLPH: It followed the same pattern that they use world wide. Within the first year they usually confiscate all firearms. And anybody caught with a firearm after the deadline is executed. That takes away any resistance of the people. Then anybody that is thought to be against the government is [pauses] eliminated. They took ninety-two very prominent, very good, well educated people and killed them right off. The initial junta of a hundred and twenty ruling people finally was down to [Mercer clears throat] a small handful of people, all of the others being killed. There were mobs in various areas. They encouraged young people to be rebellious and to destroy things. And anyth...anything done to a rich person was...anything bad done to them was encouraged. They reapportioned the land amongst the poor. But the thing that was forgotten was that the poor people were poor because they were lazy. And so giving them land only meant that the land was idle. And the rich people were rich because they worked hard. And when you took and gave them only a small proportion of land, they still did well with their land. But they had much less to give away or to help other people with, because they no longer had the land that was [laughs] apportioned to other people. So it was time of great suffering [microphone bumped] and [pauses] time of adjustment [Mercer coughs], but a time actually of growth of the church and...and strengthening.

MERCER: It was said that a lot of the groups had gotten [clears throat] very anti-Haile...Haile Selassie towards the end of the...of his reign. They were saying, for instance, that a revolution was inevitable. Only from where it came was probably one of the bigger questions. Do you feel there really was that general discontent among the [microphone bumped] elite well-educated people of Ethiopia?

ADOLPH: No, I don't think so. I think the...the elite actually appreciated him and were happy with the government. I think the...the discontent was...was bred into the university students where communism always works especially hard. And I think it was from that group over a period of many years that the...the communism became active in the country. They'd had a coup in 1965 [microphone bumped]...

MERCER: [Unclear]

ADOLPH: ...which was averted and those people were jailed. But it was only really a matter of time befor they regathered, regrouped and became powerful enough.

MERCER: Surely Haile Selassie was aware of these.

ADOLPH: He was aware of it and.... [Sighs] Well, it''s's very hard imagine how he could do any better in a country that has so many problems. A literacy rate that's so low [Mercer coughs], a country that's trying to develop. And I just think he did a very fantastic job.

MERCER: That's...that's an interesting perspective.


MERCER: Tell me a little bit about your...your trip from Ethiopia.

ADOLPH: Back to the United States?

MERCER: Right.

ADOLPH: Each time [microphone bumped] we came back the United States, we...we tried...we [laughs] made it a time of renewal, spiritual and otherwise. We stopped in Austria with a group that had helped us in Ethiopia, and presented the work. And this was instrumental [microphone bumped] in starting the feeling for medical missions there. And approximately two years after our visit they sent their first doctor missionary to Sudan. So we were encouraged by that aspect of our furlough time. We...we took Eurail pass both times and rented a boat in Holland for our family to go up and down the canals...

MERCER: Oh wow.

ADOLPH: ...and that was always a...a super time.

MERCER: That's good.

ADOLPH: We always came back by ship.

MERCER: Really.

ADOLPH: The first time [Mercer clears throat] we came [pauses] on the P & O Line, and the second time on the...the SS Queen Elizabeth. And it was always a...a time of real refreshment before taking meetings in the United States.

MERCER: That's exciting. Did you have any trouble getting out Ethio...out of Ethiopia?

ADOLPH: The people in our community were so anxious for us to stay that they wrote letters to the government and to the Minister of Health requesting that they force us to stay and not to give us permits to leave the country. And they were almost successful. We [laughs] decided not to test it out. We...we [laughs] left at ten o'...we left at five o'clock in the morning [Mercer laughs] before it became [Mercer clears throat] light. We pushed our car [Mercer laughs] down the road a stretch...

MERCER: Really.

ADOLPH: ...before starting our motor...

MERCER: It's like Sound of Music [story of the Trapp family in Austria and how they fled the Nazis].

ADOLPH: ...and turning...and turning the light on. And we hit the guard...first guard station, when the guard was still sleeping [Mercer laughs, microphone bumped], which is a very frequent thing in Ethiopia, especially around five in the morning. Our car completely broke down...

MERCER: Oh no.

ADOLPH: ...about an hour and a half later [Mercer clears throat]. But this was an was actually an answer to prayer that we didn't realize. At the time we were right in the middle of the desert, and I left the family there in a rather dangerous area, where the tribespeople were known attack cars that...that become immobilized. And I went on to the next mission hospital and brought help back and got our car started. When we pulled into Addis Ababa seven and a half hours later, we found we'd just missed the May Day presentation car-turning over and fire-ignition of cars. And we saw all the May Day people driving out in trucks with their red caps on. So by our having car trouble, we...God manipulated it so that we arrived at a safe time to enter the city. We left then quietly on the plane.

MERCER: The planes then were still going back and forth?

ADOLPH: The planes were still going back and forth, and....

MERCER: Which airline was this?

ADOLPH: We went...we left on Ethiopian Airlines.

MERCER: That's interesting. Is that still open today?

ADOLPH: Ethiopian Airlines still flies.

MERCER: Can anyone leave if they want or is it very difficult?

ADOLPH: It's difficult to leave and it's difficult [Mercer clears throat] to get in. And if I went back [laughs] there would be a problem [laughs], because I think they would capture me, and...and make...and put me down at that hospital [Mercer laughs]. It's fine be liked, and it's fine to be appreciated. But the lack of freedom of movement, you know, of feeling that you're going to a place and never can leave, is something that would be somewhat restrictive [Mercer laughs] as far as family goes.

MERCER: Indeed [microphone bumped]. Since you've been back in Wheaton, you've been involved with the Christian Medical Society. What specifically has been your function there?

ADOLPH: I went initially to the [laughs] Christian Medical Society as a missionary delegate. I came back from the meeting as a trustee and as a secretary-treasurer. The secretary- treasurer a little bit later on. And that essentially tied me down for three years, so that I [pauses]...God was telling me that he wanted me to stay in the area. It was a very challenging thing, because now I have just completed my time as trustee and as secretary-treasurer. My hand is still sore [laughs] from all the writing. But I was assigned a very exciting project, to which was that of stimulating evangelism amongst doctors. Doctors with their fellow doctors and with their patients, which is something that I've always been very interested in. And we are now going to have a special evangelism committee [microphone bumped], which will have [rustling papers] an evangelism symposium in two locations, Kansas City and Denver, this summer. And we will also [pauses] be circulating materials and correspondence courses, that I think will be very helpful to doctors who are interested in improving their ability to evangelize.

MERCER: [Coughs] Real quick, I...probably be our last question. How do you feel about the need for the Gospel along with the social gospel. I've heard that in the Christian Medical Society, there's a problem often because doctors will go down, and basically just be a team of doctors working in the country, and really not make very large spiritual impact on the countries. But then you have some other doctors or other mission groups who go down and do solely evangelism, and then...and no social work whatsoever.

ADOLPH: I think the short term project has great problems, because there has to be a continuing influence of the person who is interested both in the spiritual and social aspects of helping people. And we would have doctors come out to visit with us and they would not be used to the country. They would make mistakes [laughs]. And it was almost a process of learning over four or five years before you''re really where you can accomplish a great deal. And so I would answer the question by saying that I think [Mercer clears throat] evangelism and social [pauses] help to the people needs to to be combined. It can't be simply a public health ministry. It must be both treating sick people as well as dealing with public health problems.

MERCER: Yeah. We've both seen that Central America and all over the world the medical needs are insatiable. [There] seems to be no end to what you could do. Which is exciting to think how many more people can go.

ADOLPH: Yes. There's no end of the...[microphone bumped] this physical needs all of the world.

MERCER: Well, this has been a great help, and thank you very much for your time.

ADOLPH: I've enjoyed talking with you very much.

MERCER: [Microphone bumped] Me too. Thank you.


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Wheaton College 2005