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Collection 402 Papers of Debbie Dortzbach

Identifier: CN 402

Scope and Contents

Audio recordings, including an oral history interview, diary, and several letters, relating to the career and ministry of Debbie Dortzbach, missionary to Kenya and Eritrea with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and later the Reformed Presbyterian Church from 1973 to 1988.

Series: Audio Tapes

One oral history interview with Debbie Dortzbach in which she describes her describes her childhood, education at Wheaton College, and missionary work in Ethiopia and Kenya. Other topics discussed include: raising and educating children on the mission field, maintaining a marital relationship on the mission field, furloughs, intercultural communication, conflict among missionaries, medical missions and community health programs, impact of the Urbana '70 missionary convention, women's roles, community development, assessment of American church attitudes about social needs and awareness of mission realities, and her kidnapping by the Eritrean Liberation Front. The time period covered by the interview is 1949 to 1988.

Debbie Dortzbach was interviewed by Paul Ericksen at the Dortzbach's residence in Decatur, Georgia on September 27, 1988.

A fourth audio tape is a recording of a 1989 worship service at a church in the Wheaton, IL area, in which Dortzbach gave a message describing her captivity, recent mission experience, and God's concern for the poor, homeless and AIDS victims.

Series: Paper Records (Box List)

Includes two faded letters written by the executive committee of the Eritrean Liberation Front during Dortzbach’s kidnapping, a letter from her husband Karl while she was captive, and a small notebook she kept during that experience (consists of Scripture, hymn titles and lyrics, prayers and poems, and notes on activities and observations).

Note: because of the fragile condition of the notebook mentioned above, researchers must used a photocopy made by the Archives staff.


  • Created: 1974-1989

Conditions Governing Access

The notebook in folder 2 may not be used by researchers because of its fragile condition.

Biographical Information

Full Name: Deborah Ann Mull Dortzbach

Birth Date: September 7, 1949, in Pasadena, California


Parents: William Walter Mull, Jr., Baptist pastor, Wheaton graduate (1945), Athalda Lucille Mc Clintock, teacher, Wheaton graduate (1946)

Siblings: twin brother, three younger brothers, four younger sisters

Marital Status: married to Karl Gray Dortzbach on August 27, 1971

Children: Joshua (1974), Hannah (1976), Jesse (1980)

Conversion: Date unknown, significant spiritual events occured in her life in 1952, 1955, 1960


1967-1969 Wheaton College (pre-med program)

1969-1971 Columbia University School of Nursing, New York City)

1990 Emory University School of Nursing, MN

Emory University School of Public Health, MPH


1973-1974 Internship as short-term missionary nurse in Ghinda, Ethiopia, with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC); Karl was working as a short-term teacher there

1974 Kidnaped while pregnant on May 27 by Eritrean Liberation Front rebels and held twenty-six days; demanded ransom was never paid and she was released on June 22. Anna, Dutch fellow nurse was killed by the rebels

1974-1976 Speaking with Karl throughout the US about her kidnaping experience

1976-1980 With Karl as he held a pastorate in Mundelein, Illinois

1980 Joined World Presbyterian Mission, mission arm of the Reformed Presbyterian Church (RPC was later merged into Presbyterian Church in America or PCA, whose mission arm was called Mission to the World)

1981-1982 Stationed in Nairobi

1982-1983 Stationed in a rural Kenyan village, working part-time as a community health nurse

1983-1984 Furlough

1984-1988 Stationed in Nairobi as community health trainer in urban poor setting; Karl was simultaneously part of a team establishing a church in the same community


Co-authored Kidnapped with Karl (published by Harper & Row, 1975)

Other significant background:

Grew up in rural New Jersey, Pennsylvania, eastern Canada


1 Folder

4 Audio Tapes

Language of Materials


Accruals and Additions

The materials in this collection were given to the Billy Graham Center Archives by Debbie Dortzbach in September 1988, March 1990, August 1992, and April 1997.

Accession 88-112, 89-129, 92-103, 97-31

April 23, 1997

Paul A. Ericksen

S. Henning

Collection 402 Papers of Debbie Dortzbach
Paul Ericksen
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Evangelism & Missions Archives Repository

501 College Avenue
Wheaton IL 60187 US