When actress Glenn Close was just seven years old, her father Dr. William Close joined the evangelical anti-war Moral Re-Armament group led by Frank Buchman. Glenn was ripped away from a life she loved, riding her Shetland pony across her grandfather’s ivy-covered Connecticut estate. Dr. Close went to the Democratic Republic of Congo, just recently independent of Belgium, while Glenn and her siblings moved to the group’s headquarters in Switzerland.
“They had a big hotel, a very glamorous, exclusive hotel called Mountain House, which I think is in one of Fitzgerald’s novels. [They] made it into one of their world headquarters, and we stayed there for two years. When the mutiny broke out [Congolese soldiers rebelled in 1960, shortly after the country declared independence from Belgium], we didn’t see our father for a whole year.”
Dr. Close was very busy trying to establish a comprehensive healthcare system in the central African nation. Over his sixteen years there, he renovated existing hospitals and started a maternity hospital and a hospital ship that could move up and down the Congo River to meet patients. He served as the personal physician of President Mobutu Sese Seko, and watched the dictator’s decline into corruption with a breaking heart.
In 1975, Dr. Close was instrumental in combating the first outbreak of the Ebola virus, in small communities along the Ebola River. He used his political influence to persuade the Minister of Health to approve air lifting medics into effected communities, leading to a successful quarantine. When he left MRA and Africa, Dr. Close chose the least populated county in America to live out his days as a family doctor.
During these years of medical service, the Close children rarely saw their father, although they did visit a few times.faThey were raised within the inner circle of members, both devoted to Buchman and generally from wealthy families. In retrospect, Close has difficulty understanding Buchman’s appeal.
“In order to have something like this coalesce, you have to have a leader. You have to have a leader who has some sort of ability to bring people together, and that’s interesting to me because my memory of the man who founded it was this wizened old man with little glasses and a hooked nose, in a wheelchair.”
Continue to part 2