|Dr. Wallace Swanson with Dr. Sandra Gray, president of Asbury University.|
Each year the award goes to three or four “worthy alumni who have achieved distinction professionally and demonstrated loyalty to the university.” This year similar awards also went to a pharmaceutical compliance consultant, a worker with International Outreach Missions, and an Emmy Award-winning television director and producer.
“It was good to meet some of my classmates again,” Wally related. “I brought along my yearbook so I could look up people’s names. It was wonderful to see the school again. That’s also where I met [my late wife] Char who graduated from Asbury as well.”
This is the second award that Wally has received since retiring from HCJB Global nearly two decades ago. In 2005 the Christian Medical and Dental Society honored him with the Missionary of the Year Award.
While Wally officially retired in 1993, he continues to be active with the mission, limiting his involvement in recent years to helping lead “spiritual cardiology” Bibles studies with 25 to 30 interns and residents at Hospital Vozandes-Quito (HVQ).
|Wally Swanson's senior picture in the 1952 Asburianith.|
After two years at sea and abroad in China, Wally returned home, eager to begin preparation for the missionary work to which he was now convinced God had called him. His pastor, Paul Rees, directed him to Asbury College where he immersed himself in premedical and biblical studies—his tuition financed by the GI Bill.
At Asbury he met Charlotte Dillon, and they were married after college graduation in June 1952. They moved to Winston-Salem where Char taught school and Wally plodded through medical school. A doctor at last, Wally began inquiring about medical missions around the world. He had thought God might call him back to China, but that country was now closed to missionaries.
He learned about many other places where doctors were needed, and he began to wonder how he would find the place he had always dreamed of—the place of service for which he felt God had so long prepared him. And then one night as he was praying, Wally heard an extraordinary but somehow familiar voice that he recognized as God calling him to Ecuador. For the rest of his life, he would insist that his call was unmistakably of divine origin.
|Members of the "Rocket Class" of 1952
60 years later.
Char began homeschooling their children during their first term in the Ecuadorian jungle town of Shell. In August 1964 she also began teaching other missionary children in her home. Char was the first teacher at Nate Saint Memorial School in Shell that was dedicated on Jan. 8, 1966, on the 10th anniversary of the death of missionary martyr Nate Saint.
After retirement, the couple continued to minister in Ecuador by teaching a Bible study called Camino de la Luz, or “Path of Light,” which was developed by Char and continues to reach hundreds of new Ecuadorian believers, helping them grow in their faith.
Besides serving as an attending physician, Wally was called upon for leadership duties, including work as director of the mission’s Healthcare Division and administering the mission’s hospitals in both Shell and Quito.
Char died in 2001 after a long battle cancer, and about two years later Wally remarried Helen Broach, a longtime HCJB Global missionary who had also been widowed. In 2010 she too succumbed to cancer.
“I feel so privileged and honored to have been with HCJB Global and do this medical work,” Wally concluded. “At this stage of life I look back and think there is nothing else I would rather have done. A wonderful, wonderful experience!”
Sources: HCJB Global; Echoes of the Call: Identity and Ideology Among American Missionaries in Ecuador (Oxford University Press, 1995) by Jeff Swanson