How Did We Get Here?
You may be one of our friends or family or you may be considering missions work yourself and wondering how we got to this point. As we've stated before, we never thought we'd be "missionaries". In fact, for many years we had little interest in missions at all and knew very little about it.
So, let me start from the beginning. On August 13, 1978 Byron was born at...okay, maybe not THAT far back.
Byron and I both grew up in the Christian church and were raised by Christian families. We both accepted Christ into our lives and became Christians when we were children. However, in high school and the few years after, Byron started to drift away from Christ and did not have a strong relationship with God. He still believed in God and would have labelled himself a Christian, but that's all it was, a label. He wasn't making God the focus of his life. He put him on the back burner. On the other hand, Marion was on fire for Christ in High School and early college. She was baptized at 19 years old in Eugene, Oregon and was considering becoming a Campus Life Missionary serving on college campuses. However, the idea of support raising made her nervous because she hated asking people for money. She also didn't feel an overwhelming calling at the time, just an interest and curiosity.
Byron and Marion met online in Marion's first year of college (after a year of college Byron went on to the working world in IT support). She was 19 and he was 21 (1999). Byron lived in San Francisco at the time and was moving back to Oregon. He created a personal ad stating he was looking for a driven CHRISTIAN woman who knew what she wanted out of life. Looking back, Byron didn't know what compelled him to write the ad in that way, especially considering he wasn't making God the focus of his life. Marion read the ad in detail and felt it described her perfectly so she responded. Just a month later when Byron brought a load of furniture up, they met for the first time. Marion and Byron immediately fell in love. They dated for a year and a half and were married in March 2001. It was very important to Marion that they be married in a church. However, shortly after meeting Byron, Marion quit focusing on God and focused her time and energy on Byron. She replaced her love and passion for Christ with her love and passion for Byron. Byron again, proclaimed Christ as his Savior but had little interest in attending church. Marion tried to suggest it or bring it up on a few occasions and they attended a church a couple times. But Byron was never enthusiastic about it. Shortly after Byron proposed, they found a church through a friend and went through premarital counseling and were married in that church. However, they did not continue to attend after they were married. They never made God the focus or foundation of their marriage.
Several years went by and on a couple of occasions they tried a church now and then but never could find one they felt was a good fit. They both established their careers and in 2004 decided to try for their first child. They had a beautiful baby girl born February 14, 2005. A couple more years passed and in 2007 they started to face trouble in their marriage. They rarely ever fought and were still best friends. But, Marion felt something was missing and lost all attraction to her husband. She felt like he was simply a friend or roommate and that they had no future together. She felt like they married too young and had outgrown each other. This went on for a couple years until 2009 when Marion decided she was done and they would remain friends but there was no use in staying married. Byron however, fought for Marion all along and wasn't ready to quit. Unbeknownst to Marion, several Christian friends had been sending him articles and videos about marriage and God. Byron finally asked Marion, "Is it me you are missing or is it God". Marion burst into tears as the words that she felt in her heart were finally spoken. She immediately said it was in fact the lack of God in their lives and their marriage. That next weekend they found a local church to attend and of course, the service was entirely about marriage (Ephesians 5:25). After that, everything in their marriage and life changed for the better. It was as if the lights had been turned on with the flip of a switch. They obviously had a lot of learning and growing to do in the months and years after that moment but it was overwhelming just how much our God is a God of restoration. He can move mountains when we let him!
They kept attending that same church, Oregon City Evangelical Church, and still do. They quickly got involved in the church as the church had a need for their skill set in many areas and they were thirsty for God. Before they knew it Byron was on the technology committee and in charge of re-developing and maintaining the website. They both began working on the ACTS community outreach board, and Marion started serving on the missions committee. This was after just a couple months of attending. God started growing them immensely and it felt like they had attended there for a decade. Byron was then baptized there in 2011.
Now, how does missions play into this? In July 2011, they were introduced to Bruce and Jan Benson, missionaries for Wycliffe Bible Translators. They attended the same church as the Olsens and were in need of a new trade show booth design. This is when the Olsens first started learning more about missions, missions opportunities and that there might be a need for their skills in missions. The seed was planted and took root. About six months later the Bensons and Olsens connected for dinner as this whole idea of missions was still on the mind of the Olsens. By the end of dinner the Olsens went home and sent in their resumes to Wycliffe (early Dec 2011). Wycliffe management contacted them regarding performing web design and marketing services at their corporate offices in Florida. Several discussions went on between various people at Wycliffe, the Olsens, the Olsen's pastor, etc on a weekly basis during the month of December. By the end of December it was clear that while the Olsens felt called to missions and felt Wycliffe would be a good fit, the debt the Olsens had was too high for Wycliffe standards and the Olsens were not feeling called to move to Florida. So, instead the Olsens decided to take a missions course called "Perspectives on the World Christian Movement" and focus the rest of their time on serving in their local church and community. Taking Perspectives however didn't help how they were feeling. It only made it worse. They now felt "Ruined for the Ordinary". Their perspective had been completely changed (every pun intended). They were on fire for missions but feeling "lost" on how it could ever happen and when. So they prayed and waited.
Another six months passes and Marion is offered a one year contract opportunity in San Diego, CA. While most Oregonians would love to move to San Diego, CA, the Olsens really didn't want to. They prayed a lot, consulted friends and family and still weren't clear. So, they performed a fast and by the end of it were clear moving was what they had to do, whether they wanted to or not. So, they moved. They got involved in a church in San Diego right away. But it was nothing like their home church. They tried to enjoy the area and treat it as an adventure but it was a very challenging time for them and they felt little spiritual growth. After nine months of being in San Diego, their Oregon pastor encouraged them to participate in the 21 Day Daniel fast that their home church was participating in. For three days in a row around day 15 they felt an overwhelming urgency to move back to Oregon. This was more than a feeling or a desire, it was an overwhelming and emotional spiritual push. So, while it wasn't clear how it could happen and the year wasn't up yet, they leaped out in faith again and began their move. God made everything fall into place over the next six weeks. I
n April 2012 they were back home in Oregon. It wasn't and still isn't entirely clear to them why they moved to San Diego - other than they felt called and did their best to be obedient. They have now been back in Oregon almost a year and are again very actively involved in their church. In October they participated in Wycliffe's Race to 2025 Adventure Race and thoroughly enjoyed it. But it still wasn't clear when it would be "their turn" to serve. Today, they feel the call more than ever and feel like God has used the past (almost) three years since they were in conversations with Wycliffe to really grow and prepare them for missions work.
In February 2013 they were contacted by Brad Benson from an organization called MissionNext. They had been praying for a new web developer and marketing director. They spoke with one of their partner organizations, Wycliffe, who told them about the Olsens. They then had a booth at MissionConnexion, right next to Bruce Benson (their missionary friends) who said, "Oh you should talk to the Olsens". After many meetings, prayer, and soul searching, the Olsen's accepted the positions with MissionNext.