Monganga Paul
The Congo Ministry and Martyrdom of Paul Carlson, M.D.

Lois Carlson Bridges

© 1965 by Lois Carlson, © 2004  by Covenant Publications

Covenant Publications — Chicago, Illinois

Used by Permission — All Rights Reserved


1. Carlson, Paul Earle — 1928-1964. 2. Missions — Congo (Democratic Republic)
BV3625.C63 ~ ISBN: 0-910452-93-8 ~ LC: 66011482 ~ 266.92 C284 ~ OCLC: 554908 ~ 181p.

Monganga Paul is presently held by 440 libraries including Harvard University and The University of Louisville

For Wayne and Lynette

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Table of Contents


Foreword . . . . . . . ix

Preface . . . . . . . xiii

Acknowledgments . . . . . . . xv

1. A Call to Tandala . . . . . . . 1

2. A Pattern Forming . . . . . . . 17

3. Operation Doctor . . . . . . . 37

4. So Send I You . . . . . . . 46

5. Arrival in Africa . . . . . . . 54

6. The Forgotten Corner . . . . . . . 68

7. "No One Ever Comes to Wasolo" . . . . . . . 86

8. Threatening Days — and a Wedding . . . . . . . 100

9. The River between Us . . . . . . . 115

10. November . . . . . . . 141

11. Return to the Ubangi . . . . . . . 154

Epilogue . . . . . . . 162

Afterword . . . . . . . 168

Glossary . . . . . . . 173

Maps . . . . . . . 178


  It was November 2003. It was my first visit to Africa, and we were touring a hospital in the northwest part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. As we came to the intensive care ward, Bob Thornbloom firmly pushed me across it and into the room beyond. "Glenn," he said, "I don't want you in there. The smell and the germs could make you sick." The Congolese doctor giving the tour apologized: "We wash it, but we have no soap and no disinfectant. We can't get the smell out." No soap and no disinfectant — in a hospital.

   I cannot forget that smell. I cannot forget the patients lying on grass mats on metal bed frames, with only the light coming in through the windows — there was no electricity, either. I cannot forget the hospital pharmacy, with a few bottles of tablets set out on a table. I cannot forget the children — the sick ones lying still and weak, their parents keeping watch beside them, and the healthy ones outside laughing and running to escort us on our way. I cannot forget — I don't want to.

   That hospital was established to honor Dr. Paul Carlson after his death in 1964. I saw the image of God in the people there — in the faces of the patients and the doctors, the sick children and the healthy ones. And I could understand in my heart and soul how Paul Carlson loved them so much.

Page x

   As this is written, the people of northwest Congo are beginning to rebuild their lives following the destruction of six years of civil war. The four hospitals and seventy-three clinics of the Covenant Church of Congo are continuing to care for people in buildings that were stripped and damaged. One of the hospitals has received international recognition for its role in coordinating humanitarian efforts, especially in the fight against HIV / AIDS. This quality and continuity of care even in the very worst of circumstances, and the trained local medical staff who provide it, are legacies of Paul Carlson and the other missionaries who labored there.

   There is also a church in northwest Congo — a strong vibrant, growing church — and it is also a legacy of Paul Carlson and other faithful missionaries. The Communaute Evangelique de l'Ubangi-Mongala (CEUM) now has 178,000 members. It operates the hospitals and clinics, along with elementary and secondary schools, adult Bible schools, and camps. The faith of the people persevered and grew stronger even as their homes, churches, and schools were looted and burned. Together they have become tough in spirit, renewed in strength, and ever more dependent on and committed to Christ.

   Paul Carlson did not have a long time in Congo. He served for less than two years all together. Yet the impact of h is life and his death upon the Congolese people whom he loved so much was incalculable. He was a true disciple of Jesus Christ — not only believing in him, but following him. Forty years later, people are still being healed — both physically and spiritually — because of him. Even in his home church in North America, the Evangelical Covenant Church, he made a significant impact in the lives and future commitments of many people.

   This book is, first of all, a compelling story about a man so real that those who knew him loved him, and the rest of us wish we had known him. It is also a call to examine how God is working in our own lives. It is a call to be not just believers, but followers of Jesus. Paul Carlson never imagined how far his legacy would extend. He simply went where God wanted him to be and did what God wanted him to do, day by day. That is exactly what God asks of each of us.

   In reprinting this story for a new generation of disciples, we have added

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an afterword, which further explores Paul's legacy as it continues and grows today. Here we lay out some ways interested individuals can share directly in the work he left to us, through the Paul Carlson Partnership and its work of rehabilitation and development in Africa and beyond.

   Thank God for Paul Carlson, for Lois and their family, and for each and every one of the other missionaries who have given, and continue to give, their full lives for the sake of Christ's love for the Congolese people. May Paul's story, recorded here in this book, enlarge his legacy through each person who reads it and senses in a new way God's unique call upon his or her own life.

The Evangelical Covenant Church  

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  I remember President Kennedy's death — how the details came to us in Africa, how we didn't really know what had happened until a copy of Time magazine reached us. Jody LeVahn, the mission nurse, and I were driving back to Wasolo after getting the mail at Yakoma. As Jody drove, I read the magazine account aloud, and I cried as I learned the details for the first time. I recall putting myself in Mrs. Kennedy's shoes and thinking how hard it must be for her.

   Now, as I look back at my husband's death — it came just a year and two days after President Kennedy's — I have a difficult time realizing that it has been my story. All the publicity, the pictures, the questions, and the letters of condolence and expressions of good will hardly seem real. Has all this happened to me, to our family? Of course it has, and when I come back to this realization the way seems hardest.

   I tell myself what the widows of the five missionaries killed by the Auca Indians in South America told themselves: "Self-pity is the rot of the soul." I tell myself that the ministry of service that Paul Carlson believed in and died for need not end.

   I hope that his story, told without sentimentality — which is how I have

Page xiv

tried to tell it — may inspire others to carry on with the work he undertook and may help to give enduring life through the Christian gospel in places it might not otherwise have reached. Paul sometimes saw as many as 300 patients a day in our jungle hospital at Wasolo. Though he is gone, their needs continue. It is my hope, and the hope of the Carlson family, that through this book people may become deeply aware of the spiritual side of life, with its responsibilities, and will think through their personal relationship to Christ.


Torrance, California
November 1965

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   I am greatly indebted to many who have encouraged and stood by me through these months. Above all to Edward Ziegler whose constant encouragement buoyed my spirits on countless occasions. To Lisa McGaw in the days of revising and editing. To Melvin Arnold, Marie Cantlon, Beverly Lancaster, Eleanor Jordan, Dorothy Pennachio, and many others at Harper & Row who have had a part in the makings of this book.

   To Dr. Arden Almquist, executive secretary of world missions, and to the World Missions Board of the Evangelical Covenant Church of America for their encouragement that this book should be written. To Carl Philip Anderson, editor of Covenant Publications, for his valuable advice, counsel, and encouragement. To my pastor, Robert Honnette, for his encouragement.

   To Smith, Kline & French Pharmaceuticals for the use of pictures.

   To several who were with Paul while hostages who have written letters and allowed me to share them. To Congolese friends who have written to tell of events of the capture at Wasolo. To Kathryn Sundstrand for translating many letters. To our many friends and relatives who have reminisced and shared letters.

   Then to our families who have been a constant source of help and encouragement.

 Page xvi

To my family who made the summer months happy ones for the children so that I was free for work on this book.

   Finally, to all who have upheld us in prayer. I am forever grateful.


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Here is the electrifying story of Christian heroism that caught the world's imagination when first published in 1965 — the story of a California surgeon who took his family into the jungle of Congo to care for the sick and needy, only to be gunned down after being falsely accused of being a spy.

The horror of Dr. Paul Carlson's death on November 24, 1964, during a rescue attempt in Kisangani (then Stanleyville), evoked shocked reactions around the world. Lois Carlson Bridges, Paul's widow, traces the impact of his faith as he sought direction for his life, and the struggle the couple faced in choosing a life of hardship over the alluring comforts of a wealthy suburban medical practice.

The sights and sounds of daily life at the Wasolo hospital — in the forgotten corner of the Ubangi region — spring from these pages, as do the tales of love that bonded the Carlsons and their Congolese brothers and sisters. The reader will sense the pain of separation as Paul Carlson bids farewell to his family and returns to care for sick patients, only to be arrested and held hostage. Monganga Paul captures the deep faith and quiet heroism of this man who inspired those around him — and millions around the world — with his witness for Christ and selfless sacrifice on behalf of those he was called to serve.

"All of us need to have rekindled in our minds and hearts the true meaning of missions today," wrote Billy Graham about Paul Carlson in 1965. "His life as a prisoner and death as a hero . . . combine to thrill the soul and bring praise to God for his greatness, goodness, and love."

"The impact of Paul Carlson's life and death on the Congolese people was incalculable," notes Evangelical Covenant Church President Glenn R. Palmberg. "Forty years later, people are still being healed — both physically and spiritually — because of him. Paul Carlson went where God wanted him to be and did what God wanted him to do. That is exactly what God asks of each one of us."

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About the Cover: This photo appeared on the cover of LIFE magazine's December 1964 issue. Congolese often referred to Dr. Carlson as Monganga Paul — "Dr. Paul." Photo by Smith Kline & French Laboratories.

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