In 1991, Betty and Gordon Olson were leaving home for Thanksgiving eve services at Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Minneapolis, when their pastor called with tragic news.
Their 24-year-old son Tim, an aspiring architect and recent graduate of St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minn., had been murdered by bandits in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic (The Lutheran, December 1993, page 12). Tim was there as a volunteer supervisor for the construction of a Lutheran church.
The tragedy could have destroyed the couple's faith. Instead, their support for the church's mission grew stronger.
The Olsons helped found Lutheran Partners in Global Ministry, which since 1995 has promoted a variety of foreign mission work. One of the ministry's most successful developments has been Project Education India, which provides education, food, shelter and medical care for 1,200 children living in four boarding homes in India.
The advocacy group also has supported Lutheran churches in Argentina, Slovakia, Madagascar, Tanzania and even in the Central African Republic, where Tim was killed. To honor his memory, the congregation where he was volunteering named its new church St. Timothy.
Now retired, the Olsons devote much of their time to the ministry, visiting congregations and encouraging effective outreach. "There's no pressure to be successful, just to help," Gordon Olson said.
"I marvel at Betty and Gordon," said Christopher Nelson, a pastor of Bethlehem. "They have channeled the grief of their son's death into doing God's work across the world. They provide an incredibly powerful personal witness and example."
For information about Lutheran Partners in Global Ministry, call (612) 823-5058 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2014 Augsburg Fortress, Publishers