Fifty years from now, the summer of 2003 may be known as the time when Americans rediscovered Africa. HIV/AIDS in Botswana, bloody internal warfare in Liberia, and yellowcake uranium from Niger have all appeared on television newscasts and the front pages of newspapers. The overall impression of many Americans is that Africa is a continent of coups and contagion. But in the midst of such tragedy (by no means new to that continent) stands hope—in the form of Christian medical missions.
The modern-day marriage of health-care and Christian evangelism has a relatively unknown history of success. It has saved the lives of individuals, families, and villages, and introduced traditional societies to the transforming power of the gospel and Christian community. It is one reason why an estimated 380 million Christians dwell in Africa's 56 nations.
A historical—and living—example of this marriage is Harold Paul Adolph, a retired missionary surgeon and the son of a missionary surgeon. During his career, Adolph performed 25,000 operations, mostly overseas, beginning after he completed his m.d. in 1958 at the University of Pennsylvania. Adolph practiced in Ethiopia, Niger, and Panama's Canal Zone, as well as suburban Chicago. In 1997, the Christian Medical and Dental Society named Adolph as its Missionary of the Year.
But Adolph and his wife Bonnie Jo have not been content to spend their retirement years resting on their laurels at their home in Wisconsin. This year, they have been traveling the United States, raising $1 million to build a new 200-bed missionary hospital in rural south central Ethiopia, a remote region subject to drought, famine, and disease. Although the Adolphs don't have all the funding in place (they're about $300,000 ...1