At the appointed hour, I find myself sitting in a bustling café in the centre of Olympic Village patiently waiting to interview missionary, Dave Olson. After our chat via email, I felt as though I had a good idea of Dave’s character, only to realize I have no idea what he looks like.
I shift around in my seat, look down at my notebook, and hear a cheerful and upbeat voice. “Kirsten?” I look up and standing before me is a man with happy eyes, a toque pulled down tightly over his head and a bearded smile: Dave Olson.
INTEGRATING FAITH AND SPORT
Introductions aside, we sit down and enjoy a very nice chat. Dave is a missionary here in Vancouver with Athletes in Action. More specifically, he is the Director of the Sports Specific division, which hosts athletics-themed camps, tours, and missional opportunities for athletes to take steps of faith. The AIA ministry began its Canadian division back in 1973 with a goal of reaching professional athletes across Canada. Today, AIA includes several campus ministries serving varsity athletes participating in soccer, hockey, volleyball, wrestling, running, basketball, football—you name it! Athletes in Action has Spiritually Multiplying Disciples (SMDs) in every athletic department on campus.
AIA doesn’t only reach out to professional and varsity athletes. Youths as young as five-years-old are attending soccer and basketball camps. AIA reaches those youths who know Christ and encourages them to mentor their peers. Additionally, AIA integrates faith and sport through their coaches, who inspire young people and teach them how to be transformational from a biblical viewpoint. There are a lot of pieces to this puzzle called AIA, and Dave’s primary role within his division is to help focus these pieces and encourage a common vision across AIA sports ministries in Canada.
A REVOLUTIONARY MOMENT
Dave has not always been focused on missions. Raised in a loving Christian family, Dave’s initial aspirations were very different. He graduated from Trinity Western with a Business Degree and was intent on running a company, sitting on a board as CEO. But in 2008, Dave’s plans got shaken up when he lost his job and decided to visit friends in Hawaii to find his bearings.
“I didn’t feel good enough for God. I always thought I had to earn God’s love,” Dave says earnestly. “In Hawaii, I had a revolutionary moment, when I experienced God’s love and it went from my head and filled my heart. I then knew I had to find my place to do God’s work.”
Dave returned from his travels and embraced missions work. With Westside, he went overseas twice to Africa on short-term missions with the intent of doing long-term missionary work. Dave prayed further and found God had a different plan. While attending a gala in Vancouver, David ran into long-time friend, Paul Ballard, and started to discuss mission work for Athletes in Action. Dave fondly remembers Paul stating, “If I am recruiting my boss, I might as well recruit someone I like.”
A CALL TO SERVE
“God was calling me to ministry. He was preparing me for a new role,” Dave recollects. “I expected a profound God moment; instead, I kept following the path God laid before me, and it just made sense to keep walking forward with open hands.”
Next, Dave found himself in a position he never expected, fundraising his salary; a very daunting task, one that he could not have accomplished had it not been for God. After a Power to Change eight-day training session, Dave was ready to begin his journey with Athletes in Action in faith that God was calling him to it.
Dave’s days are filled with what you would expect from someone in ministry: praying, meetings, vision-setting, and accountability. When asked about his fears, Dave is quick to share honestly and openly. “Looking incompetent, not being it, just looking it. Not making a difference and not trying to earn God’s love, remembering to rest in my sonship.” Asking about joy and success Dave doesn’t hold back either, “My greatest definition of success is team wins, teamwork, team sports, a common goal, and to succeed as a team.” And most importantly, Dave knows success has to mean either a first-time or a growing relationship with our heavenly Father through Christ. That’s the ultimate definition of eternal success.
When I asked Dave for a favourite quote he offered these wise words from C.S. Lewis, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”
Dave’s involvement with AIA goes way back. It wasn’t until recently that he realized AIA played a role in his childhood as well. Dave’s father saved news clippings from Dave’s participation in Athletes in Action as a child. His involvement with AIA has come full-circle. If AIA reached Dave as a child many years ago, imagine how many it continues to touch today. Let’s pray for Dave’s continued impact, success, and mentorship. May God continue to use us all to do his work and may we all walk forth with open hearts and hands.
If you are interested in supporting Dave financially, you can do that on his personal giving page with AIA.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to join Dave’s mailing list and to keep up to date with what he’s doing.
View more info about Dave on our Local Missionaries page.