For 43 years, Australian couple Ken and Jocelyn Elliott built their hospital, brick by brick, bed by bed, a white surgery stark against the red dust of Burkina Faso in western Africa.
Their toil was a daily grind against the economic realities of their adopted home: no X-rays, no doctors, a few canvas stretchers on bare concrete floors.
Inside Ken and Jocelyn Elliot's hospital in Djibo
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Inside Ken and Jocelyn Elliot's hospital in Djibo
The hospital that the kidnapped couple set up now has room for 120 patients and is the only reliable surgical service for up to 2 million people. Credit: Global Business Solutions Inc.
The 80-year-old Dr Elliott, from Perth, was the only surgeon for two million people in the area.
At 4am on Saturday, al-Qaeda linked extremists stormed the couple's house near Baraboule, dragged them from their beds, kidnapped them and put them on their way to the border with Mali, according to Agence France-Presse.
Dr Elliott left his glasses behind, a close friend told The Independent.
On Monday morning a spokesman said the Department of Foreign Affairs was still working with local authorities to locate the couple.
In a statement released on Sunday, a spokesman for the family of the Elliotts said: "Recent news from the country indicates an alleged abduction of Ken and Jocelyn on Friday night, however no reason is yet given for this and their whereabouts is still unknown. Their family is in Western Australia and wish to maintain their privacy."
As DFAT scrambles diplomats to negotiations in the area from 1100 kilometres away in Ghana, the couple find themselves in the middle of a pan-African-Middle Eastern power play.
A spokesman for Malian militant group Ansar Dine, Hamadou Ag Khallini, told AFP the couple were being held by jihadists from the al-Qaeda linked "Emirate of the Sahara", which operates in northern Mali as a branch of the al-Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb (AQIM).
Rivals to Islamic State through their al-Qaeda affiliation, AQIM specialises in kidnappings, trafficking arms and drugs. All three help fund their terrorist activities, according to the US Department of State.
"AQIM's aggressive efforts to turn a profit by kidnapping, smuggling, and other criminal activities set it apart from other al-Qaeda affiliates," a report from the US International Security and Defence Policy Centre found last year.
As Islamic State's visibility has increased, so has AQIM's desire to spread their own violent campaigns on new frontiers.
On Saturday they hit two targets at once. Hours before they took Ken and Jocelyn Elliott, they claimed responsibility for killing at least 27 people from 18 different nationalities on the same night in Burkina Faso's capital Ouagadougou.
Into this melee, somewhere in the barren west-African desert on their way to Mali is the octogenarian couple from Perth, European intelligence sources told AFP.
They have left behind a community visibly devastated by the loss of their medical and spiritual guides of more than 40 years.
"What are these kidnappers thinking?!" wrote one of their supporters, Abdoulaye Dicko. "Dr Elliott is not a tourist but a saviour of life and that of the poor."
"This is the life of a man who has denied inevitable disease for millions of people," said former patient Roger Bemahoun.
The journey of the devoutly Christian couple started seven decades ago on a Western Australian farm. At 15, Dr Elliott dropped out of school and went to work on the land, skills that would enable him and his wife to survive in the harsh Burkina Faso climate.
By 21 he had been accepted to medical school. Stints with Fremantle hospital, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and flights over the Kalgoorlie desert with the Royal Flying Doctor Service would follow.
But it was in another red landscape that Dr Elliott and Mrs Elliott would find their calling.
"We were very impressed by the isolation, both spiritually and medically," Dr Elliott said in an interview with The Friends of Burkina Faso charity. "When we first came, we came with nothing. I would make the worst business man in the world because I was in no way prepared to do what has been done.
"In the early days one of the challenges was to keep things running and pay the wages."
They would stay for 43 years. From one bed to 120, from one surgery a month to 150 without ever once appealing for money as a matter of policy.
"They have dedicated their lives to providing medical relief to people in the remote northern area of Burkina Faso," said the family's statement on Sunday.
"Their commitment to the local people is reflected in the fact that they have continued there with only a few holidays since 1972," it said. "They are held in high esteem by the local people."
The centre they established continues to be run as frugally as possible. A staff shortage means the family members of patients have to act as de facto nurses, watching and monitoring patients, according to the Christian Medical and Dental Fellowship.
"I suppose one of our biggest challenges is staff," said Dr Elliott. "Getting trained national [Burkina Faso] staff is an impossibility."
The couple launched an appeal in 2010 for someone to take over their hospital when their ageing bodies could no longer handle the demands of running a surgery.
"We are really getting on a bit in years; we'd like people to make it their work," Dr Elliott said at the time.
The couple did not want to leave their patients behind and only returned to Australia once every five years to renew their Medicare entitlements.
"We're meeting a need physically, but our ultimate aim is to show the love of God. The goodness and power of true medicine," said Dr Elliott.
Their abduction means that those 120 beds and patients now lie alone, in a white house in a red desert, with not a single surgeon to treat them.