Partners on the Journey: A Special 50th Anniversary Blog Series, Part 3, By Mike Hertenstein
With independence in the Congo in 1960, the Belgian government abandoned a newly-built hospital at Loko, originally intended as a sanitarium for lepers and tuberculosis patients. On his arrival to take charge of the Wasolo station in the Ubangi region in 1963, Dr. Paul Carlson learned of the facility and dreamed of opening it up. He suggested the idea to Dr. Arden Almquist, who Carlson had replaced at Wasolo, now head of ECC World Missions.
Exactly one year after Paul Carlson was taken hostage and killed during the Simba Rebellion, Lois Carlson launched a foundation named for her husband, organized by Almquist. The foundation was able to obtain the deed to the Loko hospital for free from the new Congolese government. Lois traveled, speaking and raising funds for the project. The foundation sent hundreds of thousands of dollars of medicines and supplies to ECC-established hospitals and clinics, now under Covenant-affiliated Congolese churches. Dr. Wallace Thornbloom oversaw reconstruction of the facility, and in early 1968 opened the new hospital.
Latter known as the Institut Medical Evangélique de Loko, the facility was also a launching pad for several satellite clinics. With Dr. Almquist as director, IMELOKO combined health care with agricultural and other projects, from raising crops and livestock to a fish farm, helping lift the standard of living for many. Dr. Theodora Johnson and Nurse Gerda Wahrgren launched a mobile medical unit, living in Ubangi villages for weeks at a time, ultimately treating 18,000 children.
Today the Paul Carlson Partnership carries on this legacy, supporting a wide range of health-care and development endeavors, including a medical network serving 800,000 people. The indigenous CEUM church runs a medical system of five hospitals and 108 clinics. At Loko, the largest of these, it’s still printed over the entrance: “En Memoire de Docteur Paul Carlson.”