I Wanted What My Kids Had Found

Bob Olsen grew up on Long Island, New York, in an Irish Catholic family and spent four years in seminary studying to become a priest. He was serious about God but when his kids got involved in Young Life, Bob encountered Jesus in a new and personal way. Bob and Chris were married in 1974 and were both working as teachers in Brockport, New York. Bob didn’t know it, but his wife had been praying for him to have a stronger relationship with Jesus for over 18 years.
In 1988, some friends asked the couple to be on a committee with area director Rick Rogan to start Young Life in Brockport because they were deeply vested in the students they taught. Bob had reservations. He was invited to a winter weekend camp at Lake Champion. “I thought Young Life was a cult, but after a matter of hours at Lake Champion I discovered it was legit.” The Olsens then got involved in the local committee and were part of starting Young Life in their high school.

Bob and Chris took their two kids, Matt and Laura, to family camp at Saranac Village in 1990 before 350x350C5CEFF3D-0889-45CD-ABF5-817AE3584EAB.jpg
they were old enough to go to high school camp. That’s where the Lord started to get ahold of Bob’s heart. After family camp his kids continued to stay involved in Young Life. Bob remembers the joy of watching Young Life leaders pursue his son and his friends and the delight of watching Matt enjoy reading Bible every day. He said, “I saw the way Young Life impacted my own kids. I didn’t know you could have such a deep personal relationship with Jesus. After my son returned from a week at Saranac Village, I saw a big change in him, and I wanted what he had.” As teachers, the couple consistently witnessed the ways Young Life leaders stepped into the lives of hurting kids and helping them navigate high school. While their kids were in high school, the Olsens hosted club at their house, fed leaders and supported the local committee. 

Fast forward to 2019 and Bob joyfully reflects on the impact Young Life has had on his own life and in the lives of his kids. “Young Life changed my life in many ways,” he said, “People who don’t know what Young Life is about don’t know what they are missing.” Since 2009, Bob and Chris have been adult guest hosts at over 15 weeks of camp, including weeks at Lake Champion, Saranac Village, SharpTop Cove, Windy Gap, Carolina Point and Rockbridge. They lead devotionals and cabin times, and help adults understand how impactful this ministry is in the lives of kids. They’ve helped with childcare at YoungLives camp at Southwind, served at camp work weeks, prayed for leaders and kids, and shared with their local committee about the importance of getting involved as adult guests at camp. 

The Olsens retired to Bluffton, South Carolina, in 2005 and continue to serve the mission through committee work, hosting banquet tables, mission advocacy and mentoring leaders. This spring Bob and Chris are planning to take their daughter, Laura, and her family to family camp at Carolina Point and are delighted for their family to continue building the legacy of Young Life. With hearts full of love for Jesus, this couple is a light for Christ and a witness of the goodness of the Lord to all they meet. They are a reminder that God is using Young Life to impact whole families and communities. 

If you are interested in learning more about attending a Young Life camp as an adult guest, we would love to connect with you! Send us any questions to alumni@sc.younglife.org and check out opportunities to attend camp as an adult!