Andrew and Olive Karsgaard weren’t sure what to do with their brand new car.
It was early 1946, less than a year after World War II had ended, and the automotive industry was once again manufacturing civilian vehicles after a four-year hiatus. While Andrew practiced medicine in a remote area of Vancouver Island, he and Olive knew God was preparing them for overseas medical mission work with TEAM. But with the world still recovering from conflict, no one could be sure when they’d leave. A car would be especially helpful in the isolated area where they lived, so Andrew put his name on the waiting list.
Then, just as it became clear that the Karsgaards could begin to plan their departure to British India, they were approved to receive one of the first six cars available in Vancouver. Andrew and Olive were a little puzzled.
“Lord, what’s going on?” Andrew prayed. “What are we supposed to do with this car?”
They decided to move forward in faith. They parked the car in Andrew’s father’s garage, Andrew left his practice, and they began to raise support.
The Karsgaards also met with leaders from the mission hospital where they were assigned, who gave them a list of medical supplies that would travel with them when they sailed. Last on the list was a car. The mission leaders had no idea how to procure one when so few were available — but Andrew and Olive did.
That car became a valuable asset on the mission field for many years. And it was a reminder to Andrew and Olive of God’s faithful direction and provision.
New Nation, New Hospital
The Karsgaards arrived in Karachi on Thanksgiving Day, 1946, and spent their first term in Taxila, where Andrew found himself performing hundreds of cataract surgeries. Because he’d taught Olive to administer anesthesia during their time in Vancouver, she was able to assist him.
Less than a year after the Karsgaards' arrival, their new hometown became part of a new country, as the dissolving of the British Raj gave way to the nation of Pakistan and its neighbor India. Despite the risks during the tense and violent months that followed, Andrew and other missionaries provided essential medical care to thousands of wounded and suffering refugees.
By the early 1950s, it became apparent that there was a great need for medical mission work farther north. Andrew and his medical team set up a clinic in Mansehra, Pakistan, in the front room of a little house, seeing up to 100 patients a day. One fall morning in 1953, Andrew and Olive were suddenly awakened by a loud voice shouting outside their home, “Wake up!” It was a local chief, inviting the missionaries to build a hospital near his village. The location, near a major crossroads, proved to be ideal. Bach Christian Hospital began running in 1956 and continues to this day.
In the summer of 1961, God’s guidance was once again very clear, though unexpected. Olive had been struggling with ill health for a while, but she could no longer hide it from her husband. Andrew realized his wife could not remain on the mission field. And there was no question in his mind that he would be by her side.
“We were a unit,” he said. “We lived and worked together.” The Karsgaards (now a family of seven) left Pakistan in the spring of 1962, having served more than 16 years.
A Guiding Force
Andrew, Olive and their children settled in Winnipeg, where Andrew performed surgeries at nearby hospitals and earned his board certification in ophthalmology. By 1967, he began serving as TEAM’s medical director, allowing him to visit various mission fields in his spare time, review TEAM medical facilities and advise on missionary health.
God continued to lead in this season of the Karsgaards’ missionary service, just as he had before. On one visit to TEAM’s Karanda Hospital in Zimbabwe, Andrew noticed a newborn baby whose eyes were swollen shut from infection. He reviewed the baby’s case and adjusted the treatment just in time.
“If I hadn’t walked by at that moment, that child would have been blind for life,” Andrew remembered. “You see things happen, and you feel that there had to be a guiding force behind [them].”
Andrew’s experience on the mission field also enabled him to provide perspective as a TEAM board member, both for Canada and the United States.
‘Step by Step’
For Andrew and Olive, the highlight of their missionary career was the absolute faithfulness of the God they loved and followed. It enabled them to step out into the unknown and to serve without holding back. It supplied them with abundant grace when Olive passed away in May 2001 after a long decline with Alzheimer’s. Just a few months before his own death in June 2016, at the age of 98, Andrew emphasized the theme of their lives once again:
“We felt the Lord had led us clearly, step by step.”