Billy Graham Center

Papers of Debbie Dortzbach - Collection 402

[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. ]

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Table of Contents

Brief Description of This Collection

Title Page and Restrictions

Biography of Debbie Dortzbach

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

List Audio Tapes in This Collection (Location Records)

List of the Contents of Boxes of Paper Records in This Collection (Container List)


Transcript 1

Transcript 2

Transcript 3

Excerpt from Transcript T1.

Click to listen to an excerpt from this interview. Click to visit the exhibit Web page featuring this and other excerpts with transcripts, visuals and audio links.

Brief Description.
Interview (2 hrs.) in which Dortzbach describes her childhood, education at Wheaton College, and missionary work in Ethiopia and Kenya. Among the mission-related subjects covered were the education and raising of children on the field, maintaining a marital relationship on the mission field, furloughs, intercultural communication, conflict among missionaries, medical missions and community health programs, and her kidnaping by the Eritrean Liberation Front. Also included are two letters from the ELF (one to her husband when the release negotiations were going badly and the other to her announcing her release) and a small notebook in which she wrote during her captivity. A fourth audio tape is a recording of a 1989 worship service at a Wheaton-area congregation during which Dortzbach gave a message in which she mentioned her captivity, recent mission experience, and God's concern for the poor, homeless and AIDS victims.

Collection 402 [February 28, 2003]
Dortzbach, Debbie; 1949-
Papers; 1974, 1988-1989

1 folder; 4 Reels Audio Tape


The notebook in folder 2 may not be used by researchers because of its fraile condition.

Transcripts to T1, T2 & T3 are available.

Full name: Deborah Ann Mull Dortzbach
Birthdate: September 7, 1949, in Pasadena, California
Parents: William Walter Mull, Jr., Baptist pastor, Wheaton graduate (1945), Athalda Lucille McClintock, teacher, Wheaton graduate (1946)
Siblings: twin brother, three younger brothers, four younger sisters
Marital Status: married to Karl Gray Dortzbach on August 27, 1971
Children: Joshua (1974), Hannah (1976), Jesse (1980)
Conversion: Date unknown, significant spiritual events occured in her life in 1952, 1955, 1960
1967-1969 Wheaton College (pre-med program)
1969-1971 Columbia University School of Nursing, New York City)
1990 Emory University School of Nursing, MN
Emory University School of Public Health, MPH
1973-1974 Internship as short-term missionary nurse in Ghinda, Ethiopia, with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC); Karl was working as a short-term teacher there
1974 Kidnaped while pregnant on May 27 by Eritrean Liberation Front rebels and held twenty-six days; demanded ransom was never paid and she was released on June 22. Anna, Dutch fellow nurse was killed by the rebels
1974-1976 Speaking with Karl throughout the US about her kidnaping experience
1976-1980 With Karl as he held a pastorate in Mundelein, Illinois
1980 Joined World Presbyterian Mission, mission arm of the Reformed Presbyterian Church (RPC was later merged into Presbyterian Church in America or PCA, whose mission arm was called Mission to the World)
1981-1982 Stationed in Nairobi
1982-1983 Stationed in a rural Kenyan village, working part-time as a community health nurse
1983-1984 Furlough
1984-1988 Stationed in Nairobi as community health trainer in urban poor setting; Karl was simultaneously part of a team establishing a church in the same community
Co-authored Kidnapped with Karl (published by Harper & Row, 1975)
Other significant background:
Grew up in rural New Jersey, Pennsylvania, eastern Canada

Scope and Content

In addition to the three-tape interview with Dortzbach which comprises the majority of the collection, there are two faded letters written by the executive committee of the Eritrean Liberation Front during her kidnaping, a letter Karl, her husband, wrote to her while she was captive, a small notebook she kept during that experience (consists of Scripture, hymn titles and lyrics, prayers and poems, and notes on activities and observations), and a 1989 message at a Wheaton-area church by Dortzbach on her captivity, recent history, and and how the church should share God's concern for the poor, homeless and those with AIDS. Note: bedcause of the fraile condition of the notebook mentioned above, researchers must used a photocopy made by the Srtchives staff.

Dortzbach was interviewed by Paul Ericksen on September 27, 1988, at Dortzbach's residence in Decatur, Georgia. The events described in the interview cover the time period 1949-1988.

T1 (43 minutes). (Click to listen to an excerpt from this interview. You can also visit the Archives exhibit with the audio excerpt and accompanying transcript.)

Growing up (family background, father's ministry, cross-cultural experience in living in Canada, family's religious practices, parents' character, being in a large family, being a pastor's daughter, Christian growth (rebellion and challenge to faith, conversion, parental influence), Wheaton College (Women's Glee Club and Francis Schaeffer lectures as sources of strength during kidnaping experience, Sunday school with special needs children, sit-ins and police on campus in riot gear, influence of Ellen Thompson and Neal Brace, nursing interest, Dr. Edman's death, missions emphasis), awareness of missions (world needs and perspective), leaving Wheaton to attend Columbia, relationship with Karl, interest in missions, public health experience in Philadelphia (freedom, preventive medicine), impact of Urbana '70 (on Karl, John Stott's messages), experience and growth in Ethiopia (enjoyed work, belonging, language difficulty

T2 (45 minutes). Work in Ethiopia (major health needs, public health emphasis, preventive vs. curative care in missions), God's direction for next step toward their ministry (confirmation from nationals and missionaries of their suitability for cross-cultural ministry, difficulty of waiting to return to missions during pastorate), writing and speaking about the kidnaping experience, long-term impact of kidnaping, work in Kenya (Nairobi and rural village, home schooling), rural experience among Kamba people (lack of privacy, building trust, mistakes, gender roles, tribe's religious background), expectations of women missionaries, participation of children in ministry, chronology of assignments in rural area and Nairobi, ministry in Nairobi at African Evangelical Presbyterian Church (attempts to address total human needs, lay involvement, evangelism and health care, urban poor community, uncertainty of program continuity while they are on furlough), favorable impact of communal and traditional religious values

T3 (32 minutes). Negative impact of eroding family on culture, AIDS and need for church to respond in developing world, MAP International's influence, furlough studies in anticipation of future ministry, missionary relationships (difficulty and healing, example of Dutch colleague who was killed, communication and conflict), raising a family and growing a marriage on the mission field (challenges, hazards and threats, opportunities, missions providing resources for families), development of avenues, evaluation of furloughs (connecting with people, confronting American ignorance and narrowness), the most valued interaction with supporters included Scripture and accounts of growth, values opportunity to see God work, personal frustrations (need for repeated lessons, lack of maturity, inability to understand other culture or fully fit in), embarrassing experiences and adjusting to culture


The materials in this collection were given to the Archives of the Billy Graham Center by Dortzbach in September 1988, March 1990, August 1992, and April 1997.

Accession: 88-112, 89-129, 92-103, 97-31
April 23, 1997
Paul A. Ericksen
S. Henning

Accession: 88-112, 89-129
Type of Material: Audio Tapes

The following items are located in the AUDIO TAPE FILE:

T1 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips speed, approximately 43 minutes. One side. Interview with Debbie Dortzbach by Paul Ericksen on September 27, 1988. Original interview was recorded on cassette tape and later transferred by the Archives staff to a reel-to-reel master tape for preservation.

T2 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips speed, approximately 45 minutes. One side. Interview with Debbie Dortzbach by Paul Ericksen on September 27, 1988. Original interview was recorded on cassette tape and later transferred by the Archives staff to a reel-to-reel master tape for preservation.

T3 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips speed, approximately 32 minutes. One side. Interview with Debbie Dortzbach by Paul Ericksen on September 27, 1988. Original interview was recorded on cassette tape and later transferred by the Archives staff to a reel-to-reel master tape for preservation.

T4 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips speed, approximately 22 minutes. Recorded during morning worship of Immanuel Presbyterian Church (meeting in Glen Ellyn) on December 3, 1989. Message by Dortzbach on sharing God's concern for the poor. Original recording on audio cassette was was later transferred by the Archives staff to a reel-to-reel master tape for preservation.

Box Folder Item
1 1 Notebook and letters; 1974
1 2 Notebook (original); 1974

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