Faithful Heroes: Betty Olsen, unselfish even in persecution

Often we think of heroes of the faith as living a long time ago, but there are many examples of heroes of the faith living in recent times.

Betty Olsen

One of these is Betty Ann Olsen.

She was born to Walter and Elizabeh Olsen, missionaries, on October 22, 1934 in Bouake, Côte d’Ivoire, Africa.

While attending high school 800 miles away from her parents she decided to follow in her parents footsteps and dedicate her life to missionary service.

She graduated from Nyack Missionary College, following her nurse’s training in 1962. During that last semester she began to doubt her calling and receiving little help, she wrote that she told the Lord “if this is all there is to Christian life, I don’t want it.”

After her parents returned to the mission field and she’d graduated, she drove from Seattle to Chicago. After several cousneling sessions, she surrendered her struggles to the Lord. She said, “It took a long time before I learned my lesson and surrendered to the Lord the problem that was absorbing my whole life… I had to really want the Lord’s will and His best and truly repent and seek Him with my whole heart before He would help me.”

POW Camp where Betty Olsen served

Her desire was rekindled to become a missionary and she was assigned to Vietnam, a dangerious assignment, where she would work with leporsy. She wrote in her testimony, “Most of the people that I have told about going to Vietnam are greatly concerned, and I appreciate this; however, I am not concerned, and I am very much at peace. I know that I may never come back, but I know that I am in the center of the Lord’s will and Vietnam is the place for me.”

She arrived in Vietnam on December 13, 1964. She stated in an interview the following year that she was happy being a single woman in a war zone.

On January 28, 1968, the Vietcong overran the compound where she worked and killed six missionaries. Betty and missionary linguist, Henry “Hank” Blood were taken captive while attempting to save a wounded coworker.

The rest of what happened to Betty Olsen comes from a fellow prisoner, Michael D. Benge, an agricultural aid worker.

Betty Olsen

Betty was chained to Hank and Mike and they were forced to walk through mountainous jungles for as much as fourteen hours a day to reach the prison camp.

The three of them suffered infections, skin sored, ulcers and exposure during rainstorms. The jungles were infested with leeches. This led to fever and paralyzing bouts of dysentery. Eventually their hair turned gray and teeth began to fall out due to malnutrition.

“Mike said that Betty was the most unselfish person he had ever known. She would give most of her meager rations to the new, indigenous Christian prisoners. Mike said that Betty saved his life when he had meningitis, coaxing him out of his delirium to eat. He described her as “a Katherine Hepburn type—only with more grit.””

In June 1968, Hank died from pneumonia.

Mike recalled Betty’s spiritual strength stating “she prayed twice a day for me”.

Betty slowly grew weaker. She died in late 1968 or early 1969 {every source has a different date} from disease and abuse from her captors.

Mike Benge concluded, “She never showed any bitterness or resentment. To the end, she loved the ones who mistreated her.”

 

 

 

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