Harold and Bonnie Jo (Adelsman) Adolph have been married for more than 50 years; their shared devotion to medical missions dates from the very beginning of their years together. As the son of a missionary surgeon (Dr. Paul Adolph) with the China Island Mission, Harold has medical missions in his blood but – you might say that Bonnie Jo received the transfusion and never looked back.
Born in China, Harold attended Chefoo Mission School and Shanghai American School before coming to American shores and Wheaton College, where he was completing his bachelor’s degree – and met Bonnie Jo, who was studying education and home economics. They were married after their graduation and while Harold was studying for his medical degree at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Bonnie Jo supported the family with teaching and by managing a school cafeteria.
During a lifetime that saw him repeatedly saved from death, Harold came to see himself as what he’s called “being on assignment from God”. His achievements seem to bear out the interpretation. Following two years as chief of surgery for the U.S. Navy in Taipei, Taiwan, he spent four years at the Serving in Mission (SIM) Soddo Hospital in Ethiopia. After further surgical studies in the United States, he returned to Soddo for another four years. When political instability in Ethiopia forced him and his family to return to the United States, he practiced for 12 years in general surgery at Central DuPage Hospital outside Chicago while serving in medical missions in Africa, Asia and South America.
The pull of international patients in need was strong, however, and he returned to Africa to serve as chief of surgery at SIM/ELWA Hospital in Monrovia, Liberia. From 1988 until his retirement in 1996, he was chief of surgery at the SIM Galmi Hospital in a region of Niger most affected by AIDS/HIV. He was active in establishing the Pan African College of Christian Surgeons for the training of African Christian physicians in African mission hospitals.
All the while, Bonnie Jo’s support was crucial. She did the bookkeeping for the SIM Soddo Hospital, taught Sunday school, Bible and sewing classes and kept the family a cohesive, loving whole. She home-schooled their two children, David and Carolyn, during the family’s service in Taiwan and Ethiopia (the Adolph children have dedicated their lives to missions and today serve in Africa, David as a veterinary doctor in Kenya and Carolyn as a bush clinic nurse in Ethiopia) and continues to travel with Harold as they present seminars that include “Surgical Challenges of West Africa,” “Plastic Surgery in the Tropics” and “Secret Scourge of African Women – Childbirth Fistula Repair.”
Both Harold and Bonnie Jo, who make their home in Wisconsin, also travel the United States – despite Harold’s recent major surgeries and diminished eyesight – to raise the millions of dollars necessary for the construction of Soddo Christian Hospital in Ethiopia which serves the poorest and most heavily populated area in that African nation. The 120-bed facility opened in January 2005 and has been approved as a surgical training program post for the Pan-African Academy of Christian Surgeons. More than 90 employees and a visiting expatriate staff provide service.
Dr. Adolph’s honors include the Governor’s Award for distinguished service and dedication to Central DuPage Hospital and developing countries. He and Bonnie Jo received the Servant of Christ Award from Christian Medical Dental Association (CMDA). In 2004, CMDA honored the Adolphs with the Stewart Memorial Lectureship and the same year, they shared honors from Wheaton College and the Alumni for Distinguished Service to Society.The author of Today’s Decision, Tomorrow’s Destiny and Holyistic Attitudes: God’s Prescription for Your Good Health, Dr. Adolph also works closely with Project MedSend, a Christian agency that helps new doctors in debt get into the mission field. As in his other endeavors, he and Bonnie Jo are a team that plays to win – not for themselves, but for those in need.