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It Was Hard to Get Mad at This Leader

By Bill Mial
Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe, Global, Middle East, Bonaire, Cyprus, France, Morocco, CE Europe
13 July 2022

When TWR veteran missionary Dick Olson passed away in Cary, North Carolina, on July 2, 2022, we turned to Bill Mial for a few musings about his colleague. Mial, a great storyteller and TWR’s walking organizational memory, joined the fledgling ministry in 1957, and Olson came aboard in 1960. We hope you’ll enjoy this tribute from one TWR pioneer to another.




The one thing that shaped the impact made by Dick and Jeanne Olson from Day One was their attitude toward the ministry and their reaction to change. It set the stage for their lives to be filled with adventures as they embarked on the journey with this fledgling organization then known as The Voice of Tangier.

That’s right, when the Olsons signed up for service, they thought they would be going to North Africa. Instead they got caught up in the transition from Tangier, Morocco, to southern France and found themselves serving with ministry now called Trans World Radio! Their ability to make such a dramatic and emotional transition with relative ease, truly paved the way for them to become strong candidates for early transfer from the station in Monte Carlo to a brand-new initiative on the island of Bonaire in the Caribbean.

In fact, Dick’s mannerisms and quiet spirit caused the administration to take a hard look at him. The decision was made to have him come alongside me as a kind of assistant during preparation for the building of the Bonaire station.

Dick soon found himself embroiled in the important and complicated technical discussions addressing questions such as: “On which frequency should TWR Bonaire’s new AM transmitter broadcast to Latin America?” His technical background obtained at DeVry Technical Institute hardly covered high-power transmitters. Still, Dick was given the challenge of bringing together the diverse opinions of more-qualified engineers. But he did it with grace and humility, resulting in harmony. It was difficult for collaborators to get mad at Dick Olson!

His sweet temperament was expressed with a beautiful bass voice, and shortly after his arrival on Bonaire, Dick found himself behind the microphone, recording the English station announcements for the evening ahead before heading out to the transmitter. Many times, the scripts were not ready for Dick to record when he arrived at the studios. So he patiently waited for them to be available – which ultimately made him late for his next assignment. Yet Dick remained calm and composed.

His job at the transmitter site was to be one of three engineers/technicians monitoring the transmitters and diesel generators while making mechanical changes to the antenna systems as the broadcast evening progressed. All this brought Dick home well after midnight.

Here again, in my capacity as station manager, I leaned heavily on Dick to maintain proper protocol at the transmitter site and set a positive tone for those working long shifts during those early years when there were staff shortages and doubling up was required. His calm spirit came in very handy as early “teething challenges” were fairly regular in those early days. There was never a negative word from Dick, however, and his positive attitude rubbed off on the rest of the team.

During their time on Bonaire, Dick also got involved in musical groups and participated in pulpit supply for the Sunday services in English provided by TWR for the staff and visiting friends.

Meanwhile, as our ministry in Monte Carlo continued to grow, it seemed like the moment had come to try to establish a presence for TWR in the Middle East. Dick and Jean Olson packed their belongings and made the next of many international moves to Beirut, where Dick cautiously developed a rapport with both government authorities as well as other internationals, which included Armenians, Egyptians, Turks and expatriates. Studios and offices were built, and under Dick’s leadership, programs were produced in several Middle East languages for airing from Monte Carlo and Cyprus. During those years, one could readily see develop in the Olsons a true love for the listeners in the Middle East.

As the situation changed in Beirut, the Olsons were transferred to Monte Carlo and then became involved in a major project for southern Africa. Dick was ultimately put in charge of the new TWR station in Swaziland, where they lived for many years. Once again, his gifted style of leadership proved to be a very important equation for the ever-changing environment in that part of the world.

Dick Olson’s commitment to the Lord and willingness to be used by God whenever and wherever he was required were the pillars on which he built his life and ministry. I count it an honor to have served with this colleague, brother and friend.



The TWR Career of Richard "Dick" Olson

Sept. 8, 1933: Born in Chicago, Illinois, to Anton and Amy Johnson Olson.

1959: Graduates from Bethel College after serving in the Army 1954-1956.

June 28, 1958: Married Jeanne Schenkel. daughter Carol Joy born in 1959.

1959: Completed a first class radio and telephone license at DeVry Technical Institute; commissioned by Addison Street Baptist Church to preach.

1960: The Olsons are accepted as missionaries with Trans World Radio and begin serving in southern France the following year. Son Robert Allan is born the same year.

1963: Transfer to the Caribbean island of Bonaire, where Dick helped build TWR’s superpower radio station. Daughter Nancy Elizabeth is born on the island in 1965.

1966: The Olsons move to Beirut, Lebanon, where Dick builds a recording studio for Arabic and Armenian programming and records the first Christian broadcast in Turkish.

1971: The Olsons transfer to South Africa, where Dick, as field director, negotiates with governments to build a TWR radio station.

1973: The family moves to Swaziland (now Eswatini), where Dick helps built a major radio station.

1985: The Olsons relocate to the Netherlands, where Dick is involved in developing a broadcaster training center, and then to Monte Carlo, where he serves as station director.

1998: After serving 38 years outside the U.S., Dick and Jeanne move to North Carolina, where he is TWR’s manager of broadcast relations.

2002: Dick steps down from full-time service and volunteers to develop TWR’s archives of historical materials.

2013: Dick and Jeanne retire after 53 years of serving the Lord with TWR’s media missions.



Images: (top right) Dick and Jeanne Olson served the Lord with TWR more than half a century, (middle, left) In 1961, TWR missionaries Dick Olson and Dave Carlson record programs in Monte Carlo, (bottom, right) Bill Mial, left, and Dick Olson look on as the Swaziland prime minister launches TWR’s new transmitter in 1981, (timeline, right) Dick Olson, left, chats with TWR founder Paul Freed and his wife, Betty Jane, at a 1983 conference in Amsterdam.  

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