Posted on May 4, 2023 Dr. Keith R. Dahlberg ABFMS – Burma & Thailand alumnus, called home

Dr. Keith Ramel Dahlberg, American Baptist Foreign Mission Society (ABFMS) alumnus, passed away in Kellogg, Idaho at the age of 94, on April 27, 2023.  Keith was born April 2, 1929, in Buffalo, New York, the son of Edwin Theodore Dahlberg and Emilie Loeffler Dahlberg.

The Dahlberg family, including Keith and his older brother and sister, lived in St Paul, Minnesota from 1931 to 1939, and then in Syracuse, New York from 1939 to 1954.

Keith graduated from Syracuse University with a BA in chemistry in 1950, then a MD degree from SUNY’s Upstate Medical Center in 1954. Keith and Lois Coleman, a nurse, were married in 1953 and moved the following year to Denver, Colorado where he served a year of internship and one year of residency, each in surgery and obstetrics.

Keith’s family had daily worship together. At age 9 he was given a Bible which he read each night, a habit that he tried to maintain. At the age of 11 he formally accepted Christ in baptism and the youth fellowship gave him the opportunity to grow. He was a leader in the local church group and one of several young people in deputation teams whose purpose was to help establish new youth groups and revitalize old ones. He later became state deputation chairman, going on to be state treasurer, and then finally state president of BYF (Baptist Youth Fellowship). During med school Keith taught a senior high Sunday school class for two years. Keith spent several summers on the Young Adult Staff at the American Baptist Assembly Green Lake, Wisconsin.

In 1954, Keith and Lois applied to be missionaries with the American Baptist Foreign Mission Society (ABFMS).  In Keith’s application he wrote: “My decision to become a missionary was at a quite definite time at age 15. For about a month previously, I had been aware of unrest in my prayer life, conscious that God was asking me to serve Him.  One night, at prayer, I decided I would, and the unrest in my spirit cleared immediately.  The decision to enter medicine came a year later, after exploring my other interests (geology, chemistry, etc.) and finding opportunities in the mission field limited. I have never regretted either choice. My present missionary aim is this: Whatever my potentialities as an evangelist will prove to be, I can by my ministry of healing prepare the way for others better able to save souls. I propose to bring Christian love and aid in whatever way I can to those who might otherwise have no doctor; and, God helping, to lead them to Christ as well.”

Keith and Lois were appointed missionaries with ABFMS on March 21, 1955. In March of 1957 Keith and Lois, along with their two young daughters, sailed for Burma.  After studying the Burmese language for several months at Thonze, the family moved to Kengtung. It was here that Keith and Lois worked to help rebuild and reopen the war damaged hospital. Buildings were repaired, new medical equipment along with an electrical system and generator were installed. Keith served as the medical superintendent of the Kengtung Christian Hospital.  His medical service was tremendous, with 1700 patient visits to the dispensary in two months.

The family returned to the United States in 1962 for furlough, and after a military coup that same year, the Burmese Government refused re-entry into Burma and the family was redesignated to Thailand. The Dahlberg family moved to Maesariang only twenty miles from the Burma border. There were very little medical facilities available serving the area of 40,000 people. Keith began with a small dispensary as he sought to bring a ministry of healing to the hill people who had no understanding of western medicine. The Dahlbergs, along with their fellow workers, gained the confidence of the people and they were able to inaugurate training programs in sanitation, nutrition, and maternity care. Eventually they were able to construct a twenty-bed “clinic hospital,” and were soon treating several hundred patients a month.

The Dahlberg family returned to the USA in 1967, where Keith joined a medical practice in Kellogg, Idaho.  He then went into solo practice in Wallace, ID in 1974. Keith and Lois returned to serve again with ABFMS in Maesariang, Thailand from 1977-1981. In 1981 Keith returned to Idaho to practice in Pinehurst, ID, until his retirement in 1993.

Keith did part-time locum tenens medical work in nine states in the USA, and in Burma, Thailand, and Papua, New Guinea, before turning in his medical license in 2005 because of gradually increasing physical disabilities. He authored six books, served on the executive board of the American Baptist Churches USA, the board of International Ministries (ABFMS), and the board of the American Baptist Home Mission Societies.  He also held various positions at the Community Baptist Church of Osborn, ID. He and Lois were among the first medical responders to the Sunshine Mine fire in 1972, and the Cambodian refugee crisis of 1979.

Keith is survived by his wife, Lois Dahlberg of Kellogg, ID; 4 children: Susan Dahlberg (Cleve Ashcraft) of Kingston, ID, Patricia (David) Cordier of Olympia, WA, John Dahlberg (Ho, Duan Meng) of Singapore, and Nancy Dahlberg of Kennewick, WA, nine grandchildren, three great grandchildren and numerous nephews and nieces.

A memorial service for Keith took place on Monday, May 1, 2023 at the Mountain View Congregational Church in Kellogg, ID. Memorials may be sent to “One Great Hour of Sharing” to assist with emergency needs in disaster areas throughout the world.