Betty Ann Olsen
By rstavila1

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 2 Corinthians 4:16

Betty Ann Olsen was the daughter of an American missionary couple in Africa who herself felt called to the mission field. She trained as a nurse and in 1964, aged 30, went to war-torn Vietnam to work in a leprosy hospital. This was a dangerous assignment; the mission was frequently harassed by the Viet Cong and three missionaries had already been abducted. But Betty was not afraid; she said:

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 centre of the Lord’s will and Vietnam is the place for me.

In January 1968, six missionaries were killed when the mission compound was attacked by the Viet Cong for three days. Betty and Henry (Hank) Blood, a Bible translator, were taken captive while trying to save a wounded co-worker. Betty was chained to Hank and a fellow prisoner, Mike D Benge. For several months they were forced to march 12-14 hours a day through mountainous jungles to a succession of prison camps. They were malnourished and physically depleted, sick from dysentery and dengue fever, and suffered constantly from infections, leeches and ulcerated sores.

Mike was the only one of the three to survive the ordeal. He said that Betty was the most unselfish person he had ever known; she nursed Mike when he was sick and would give most of her meagre rations to the indigenous Christian prisoners. He said that her spiritual strength got him through but sadly, as the long treks took their toll, Betty became physically weaker by the day. The Viet Cong began to kick and drag Betty to keep her moving. She finally succumbed to death at the end of September 1968. Mike paid this tribute to his fellow captive, “She never showed any bitterness or resentment. To the end, she loved the ones who mistreated her.”

Our vision is so limited we can hardly imagine a love that does not show itself in protection from suffering… The love of God did not protect His own Son… He will not necessarily protect us – not from anything it takes to make us like His Son. A lot of hammering and chiselling and purifying by fire will have to go into the process.

Elisabeth Elliot (born 1926)

Dr Patrick Sookhdeo is the International Director of Barnabas Fund and the Executive Director of the Oxford Centre for Religion and Public Life.