A long time friend of ours died a week ago. Pastor Merv Olson was a man who lived life with gusto, a man who had a heart for the people of God and the Gospel. He was 77 years old and leaves behind his wife Joyce, and three children and their families.
In 1978, after two years of seminary Joel needed to go on Internship, spending his third of four years "out in the field" learning the skills of a pastor. We were a big family and there were only three places that could support a family of six. Malta Montana is the one we chose. Malta Parish consisted of 4 churches in 4 towns, plus summer worship in a hot springs resort area and services in the small mining village of Zortman located in the Little Rockies. We have never regretted the decision to sell our home and step out in faith, heading West. Our year in Malta shaped our lives in so many ways and so did Merv and his family. We still talk about the adventures we experienced, where we participated in cattle drives, branding cattle, rodeos, services in the little Rockies, and long drives to worship in the small northern Montana churches Joel was assigned. Often on those drives we would never meet another car, but only encounter eagles, antelope, and the best of nature. We can add to those adventures eight funerals in a little over 2 weeks, of which three were victims of crime when some evil men drove through the state trying to escape to Canada and murdered three people who lived in one of the very small towns Joel served. Joel had been preaching and teaching in churches over the years long before he was ordained, but he had never officiated at a funeral. He learned quickly during those two weeks.
Merv gave Joel the guidance and support he needed, while letting him know he trusted his abilities, and he never said no when Joel needed advice late at night while writing a sermon. He played a major role in Joel's seminary education and he even came to Minnesota to be a part of Joel's ordination service in 1980. We have remained friends with Merv and his family as we moved on and life took over. He even came to Minnesota to be a part of Joel's ordination service in 1980. There are people who impact our lives in a big way, and Merv was one.
Reflecting on Merv's death, we could not help but give thanks for this man and what he brought into our lives and the lives of countless others during his 50 years of ministry. We could not help but look back and remember all that we learned during our year in Malta Mt~~the people we met, the state we grew to love, the experiences that shaped our world. We count it all joy!