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Collection 401 Oral History Interview with Karl G. Dortzbach

Identifier: CN 401

Scope and Contents

Oral history interviews with Karl G. Dortzbach in which he describes his childhood and youth, influence of his family, education at Wheaton College and Westminster Theological Seminary, and missionary experience in Ethiopia (short term with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church) and in Kenya. Subjects covered include missiology, conversion, raising children on the mission field, marital relationships on the mission field, church life in a Nairobi congregation, proliferation of parachurch groups and need for church planting women's role in missions his wife's kidnapping in Ethiopia, furloughs, language in missionary work training Kenyan church leaders, intercultural communication, conflict among missionaries on the mission field, personal spiritual development, experience of an integrated congregation during his youth, his wife Debbie, evaluation of short term missions, theological educa- tion, call to ministry, church planting in Chicago and Nairobi, congregation in Nairobi among Kikuyu, contextualization, comparison of African and American churches, and the impact of Urbana '70. The time period covered by the interviews is 1949-1988.

Karl Dortzbach was interviewed by Paul A. Ericksen on September 27, 1988 at Dortzbach's residence in Decatur, Georgia and on April 21, 1989 and at the Billy Graham Center Archives at Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois.


  • Created: 1988-1989

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.

Biographical Information

Full Name: Karl Gray Dortzbach

Birth Date: September 12, 1949, in Bellefontaine, Ohio


Parents: Elmer M. Dortzbach, Orthodox Presbyterian minister (Wheaton '46) and Marjorie Norton Dortzbach (at Wheaton one year)

Siblings: Two sisters (one older, one younger) Marital Status: Married to Deborah Mull on August 27, 1971

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

Conversion: Public profession of faith at age twelve

Call to Ministry: During senior year of high school


1967-1969 Wheaton College

1969-1971 Georgia State University

1971-1973 Westminster Theological Seminary

(intervening short-term mission internship in Ethiopia)

1974-1975 Westminster Theological Seminary, DMin


1973-1974 Internship as short-term missionary teacher in Ghinda, Ethiopia, with the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC)

1974-1976 Speaking about kidnaping experience

1976-1979 Organizing pastor of Hope OPC in Mundelein, Illinois

1977 Ordained as an evangelist by the OPC

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 Church planting assignment in Nairobi

1982-1983 Assigned to establish Bible school in rural area in Kenya

1983-1984 Furlough

1984-1988 Planting indigenous congregation (African Evangelical Presbyterian Church) in Nairobi

Other Significant Information:

Wife kidnaped and held twenty-six days by Eritrean Liberation Front in Ethiopia in 1974. Later co-authored Kidnapped with wife Debbie.


7.00 Audio Tapes

290 Minutes

Language of Materials


Accruals and Additions

The materials in this collection were given to the Billy Graham Center Archives by Karl Dortzbach in September 1988 and April 1989.

Accession: 88-111, 89-40

March 10, 1997

Paul A. Ericksen

S. Henning

Collection 401 Oral History Interview with Karl G. Dortzbach
Paul Ericksen
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Repository Details

Part of the Evangelism & Missions Archives Repository

501 College Avenue
Wheaton IL 60187 US