Ed ’68 and Carol Yonkers Bos ’68 and their staff spend much of their time traveling to exotic-sounding locales — such as Afghanistan, Armenia and Zimbabwe — to do very, very practical work. Ed and Carol supply the laboratories of mission hospitals and clinics in emerging countries with equipment, supplies, training and methodology consulting.
“People think of what we do as travel. But that’s only 10 percent of what we do,” Ed said.
“It’s not glitzy, believe me,” added Carol. “We’re really committed to being there to walk alongside the mission hospitals, no matter what they need — whether it’s new equipment and training or repair of old equipment or the supplies that they constantly need.”
In 2004, Worldwide Lab Improvement (WWLAB), a nonprofit ministry founded by the Bos’, assisted 153 missions in 59 countries. And WWLAB has aided nearly 300 missions in 88 countries since 1995.
That’s the year Ed quit his job as a medical technologist at Bronson Medical Center in Kalamazoo, Mich., where he had worked for 25 years as a laboratory manager. During those years, Ed and Carol, who is also trained as a medical technologist, had joined missions groups in short trips to emerging countries and saw in the hospitals and clinics of those places the obvious shortage of lab equipment and staff trained to do crucial medical tests.
I believe now that as you trust God in bigger areas of your life, he grows more real to you. — Ed Bos
“I saw the same problem every place I went. They did maybe 30 to 35 tests,” Ed said. “They had nobody to get stuff for them and nobody to train them or deliver any new equipment. And physicians in these mission hospitals were doing without simple, simple lab tests.”
The couple had been waiting for God’s direction for many years, and Carol was challenged at a conference to pray specifically. “In 1994, she started to pray that I would start to do this before I died. It was always something that I was going to do. And then she got convicted that she would do it too,” Ed said.
And for 10 years, the couple has brought a world of medical technology — enabling missionary physicians to diagnose such things as hepatitis, HIV, diabetes and malaria — to a world that is still developing. Occasionally this means that WWLAB representatives must fly into miniscule airports in single engine planes. (In one remote village in the Congo, which had received no visitors since 1991, the residents had to cut down the grass and trees that had grown on and alongside the airstrip to allow Ed’s plane to land.) Carol usually — though not always — coordinates staff operations in the Kalamazoo facility, ordering supplies, tracking equipment, developing projects and answering questions from the field.
“It’s not measurable,” Ed says of Carol’s contribution to the ministry. “She understands what we do, so there’s never a conflict with my time away. I fall down at her feet and call her blessed.”
Over the years WWLAB has grown to its present staff of 11, four of them medical technologists and all of them either volunteers or missionaries who raise their own support. In addition to the professional staff with more than 90 years of collective experience in laboratory administration, mission field service and research, God has assembled a staff with varied backgrounds such as business, pharmacology, government relations and equipment repair — even volunteers who come each week to clean the facility.
“Theirs is a life of faith,” said Calvin biology professor Dr. David DeHeer in his nomination of Ed and Carol Bos for the Calvin College Distinguished Alumni Award: “Will they receive the equipment they need? Will they receive the funds to restore, service and ship the equipment? How can scores of boxes be shipped to a distant, rural location? Can Ed or someone from Worldwide Lab safely get to the distant location? Will they remain healthy, especially working in areas of the world where almost every communicable disease known to man exists? Will foreign governments support their work? The list goes on and on.”
“I trust God more,” says Ed about the effect of his mission work on his life. “In the Bible it talks about great faith — people with great faith. That was always vague to me. I believe now that as you trust God in bigger areas of your life, he grows more real to you.”
And Carol talked about the rewards of the work: “A doctor we talked to in Papua, New Guinea, said, ‘We pray for you guys all the time.’ I was so moved. I said, ‘You do?’ And he said, ‘Yes, if you are broken, I am broken. And if I am broken, people die.’ That provided the motivation to keep going.”
While they enjoy spending time with their two sons, Steven and Jeffrey, and 10 grandchildren, the couple has no plans for a conventional retirement. “There’s no retirement in the Bible,” Ed maintains.
“They are strong Christians and stellar examples of alumni who have seen a need, dedicated their lives to meeting that need, and, in so doing, are God’s agents of grace and renewal throughout the world,” DeHeer said.
Giving to Calvin
Majors & Minors
People at Calvin