Carlson Family Visits Former Home in Wasolo

Post a Comment » Written on November 21st, 2004     
Filed under: News
By Don Meyer

WASOLO, CONGO (November 21, 2004) – Following a two-hour delay due to fog, the 11-member delegation from the Evangelical Covenant Church (ECC) touched down in a Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) plane at Wasolo on Saturday where they were greeted by an estimated 2,000 residents.

The delegation traveled from Karawa, where they had spent three days with leaders of the Covenant Church of Congo (CEUM) and residents of the Karawa area, visiting many places where Dr. Paul and Lois Carlson ministered while serving as ECC medical missionaries. Paul Carlson was killed by rebel soldiers in November 1964. This trip commemorates the 40th anniversary of his death and is the first time that Lois Carlson Bridges has been in Congo since her last trip in 1968.

Crowd Welcomes Family MembersIn addition to Lois, members of the delegation include the Carlson’s son, Wayne, and his wife, Rebecca, and their son, Paul; Carlson’s brother, Dwight; Rick Carlson (unrelated) who was the producer of the new documentary Mongangaunveiled at this year’s Covenant Annual Meeting in Minneapolis; Bob and Jan Thornbloom, well-known Covenant missionaries to Congo for many years who continue to work with various Covenant ministries; Curt Peterson, executive minister of the Department of World Mission; Jim Sundholm, director of Covenant World Relief and the Paul Carlson Partnership; and Pete Ekstrand, regional coordinator for Africa who also is serving on this trip as a special correspondent for Covenant News Service.

Traveling with the American delegation are CEUM President Mossai Sanguma and Vice President Mawe Sema, as well as Keith and Florence Gustafson, Congo coordinators for Covenant World Mission, and Covenant missionary Nancy Jo Hoover. Also participating at Wasolo were all the local pastors, leaders and Christians from Wasolo and surrounding villages. “Some walked several miles to be here,” Ekstrand noted. (The top photo shows the crowd awaiting the delegation’s arrival. The lower photo shows members of the Carlson family greeting well-wishers. To view additional photos, please see Wasolo.)

The MAF plane made two flights Saturday to ferry members of the delegation as well as CEUM leaders. The welcome at the airport included a greeting in English for Lois and the other family members (a portion of that greeting letter is included in the accompanying photo page). Following the official welcome, the delegation was honored during a mid-afternoon luncheon and then proceeded to the former Carlson home, where members of the Carlson family are staying during their time in Wasolo. Son Wayne, who was part of the family while living in Wasolo, stayed in his former room. The family that now occupies the home temporarily relocated so that the Carlson family could enjoy their time together in that house.

“Lots has changed and lots is similar from when I was last here 40 years ago,” said Wayne Carlson who has not been back in Congo since the family was evacuated in 1964. “And then, some things are the same as 40 years ago – I remember the friendliness of the people.”

“It’s a feeling of disbelief,” he continued. “It’s hard to believe that I’m here. In a sense it feels like home, although we didn’t live here real long. There are lots of remembrances of what life was like – where we walked and played, where furniture was in the house. It is fun for me to come back and see how much I remember.”

“I am overwhelmed by actually being in this place,” said Rick Carlson, producer of the documentary. “I found myself putting together pictures that I’ve seen into real life, and all that has happened since. Paul is not a legend to me anymore.”

“I’ve seen the pictures from outside of the house, and now to see it in real life and put the two together and contrast the two images, it brings up emotions, seeing where Paul walked and worked and lived.”

Surveying the house and no doubt reliving many of the memories of years ago, Lois pondered aloud, “You wonder – Paul was only here for one year. How or why did he become so important?”

Family Greeted Upon ArrivalBrother Dwight recalled the news of that time (1964), telling of Paul’s capture by rebel soldiers after he decided to remain for a time (following the evacuation of other missionaries) to care for critically ill patients. “Everyone heard about Paul on the news on almost a daily basis,” Dwight noted. The son of Wanzi, who served as hospital administrator when Paul was seized, recalled seeing the rebels take Carlson away in a truck. “That he chose to stay meant a lot to them (the people of Congo),” Dwight said in response to Lois’ question.

Today (Sunday), the group was scheduled to participate in a large worship service at Wasolo where the Carlson documentary “Monganga” was to be shown in the evening. The group also planned to tour the hospital and the schools.

Earlier, in Karawa, the Carlson delegation toured Karawa hospital, the dental and ophthalmology clinics and the nursing school, as well as the Zulu hydroelectric dam and three schools (primary and secondary. They also were treated to a choir concert by a local church choir.

“The hospital and services looked better than I expected,” said one family member, expressing sadness over the rundown condition of some buildings. “Yet, people here have done a tremendous job of keeping things going despite the terrible circumstances,” Wayne observed. “Some simple things could be done for the schools, which would make a lot of difference,” Rick Carlson noted, adding, “I am amazed at the ingenuity of the teachers, the kids’ attitudes and that of the teachers and administration – it is really amazing.”

Tomorrow (Monday), the group is scheduled to travel to the mission station at Loko. Updated information will be posted to this online Covenant news report as it becomes available.

To read Friday’s report on the delegation’s arrival in Karawa, please see Covenant Delegation Warmly Welcomed in Karawa.


Copyright © 2011 The Evangelical Covenant Church.


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