Skip Olson, A Friend Forever

July 7, 2020

When Wilbur the Pig (in Charlotte’s Web) wondered why Charlotte the Spider had worked so hard to save his life, Charlotte replied with these words: “You have been my friend. That in itself is a tremendous thing.”

I thought about that when I heard Skip Olson died yesterday. He was our friend, and that was a tremendous thing.

We first met when Marlene and I moved to Oak Park 31 years ago. Early on we noticed him because he seemed to always have a smile on his face when he sang in the choir. Years later, when I asked for some testimonies of modern-day miracles, Skip wrote this note describing how God met him as a young man when he was at the end of his rope:

One day I got down on my knees and told God to either change me or take me home because I didn’t want to live another minute if my life was going to be the same as it had been. That’s when I started to hear the faint sounds of hammering and sawing inside.

To jump to the end of the story, God has created a whole new person inside this one. That’s not visible to most folks. It wasn’t in the twinkling of an eye, but it is a miracle! It is spectacular! And it isn’t over yet!  What God has done in my life is more miraculous than if He had grown a new arm or leg to replace an amputated one – because He has grown a whole new person. He still does miracles! They are spectacular! They are in His time!

To God Be The Glory!!

That was Skip all the way. He never got over the miracle God worked in his life, and he never tired of sharing the Good News of Jesus with others. He smiled a lot because he knew what God had done for him.

Marlene and I benefited so much from his friendship, his love, and his laughter, but most of all we benefited from his prayers. Whenever we talked on the phone, Skip ended the conversation by praying for us. Prayer for him was like breathing.

For years I asked him to serve on the elder board at the church, but he never said yes. That became a yearly thing between us. I would ask him, he would say, “Let me pray about it,” and then he would beg off, saying he didn’t think he was ready. But when I asked him to join the board of Keep Believing Ministries, he said yes.

What a difference he made.

Every ministry needs a Skip Olson because he knew how to get things done. That’s why he headed up our China ministry. Today people across China know about our Mandarin outreach because of Skip. Without him, it doesn’t happen.

Oh, about that picture. I have a ton of photos of Skip that I could use. We took this one in 2007 when Skip drove from Chicago to Tupelo, MS, to spend a couple of days with us. That included meeting Dudley, our fine basset hound. They became fast friends.

I said prayer for him was like breathing. That’s an apt illustration in more ways than one. A few years ago a serious complication developed in his lungs that threatened to take his life. That’s when he had a single-lung transplant. Things seemed to improve for a while. But then further complications developed, and he was hospitalized. The last year in particular was difficult. When we saw him for the last time in October, he was just hanging on. In January he seemed to be doing better, and he hoped he could get out of the hospital soon.

But it was not to be.

Yesterday he went home to be with the Lord. We prayed and prayed that God might heal him, but our prayers were not answered, at least not in the way we prayed them. God answered by taking Skip home to heaven.

He often said to me, “Pastor Ray, the best is yet to come.” I am comforted by that thought this morning because his death is a heavy blow to us and to our ministry. It would be easy for me to say that we “lost” Skip, because that’s how I feel right now. We have lost a dear friend who was like a rock to us. He can never be replaced.

But I know what Skip would say: “Don’t worry about me, Pastor Ray. I’m with Jesus.” I do not doubt that for a moment, but we have lost his smile and his encouragement, and we have lost the sound of his prayers.

I am glad his battle with sickness is over.

No more pain.
No more hospitals.
No more surgery.

All of that is in the past. Skip now lives in the light of heaven’s glory. The “hammering and sawing” on the inside has stopped forever. He  has seen the Lord.

The battle is over, the victory won.

Jesus said,  “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, yet shall he live.  And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25-26). When Skip died yesterday (and he did), he didn’t die at all (also true!). He closed his eyes on earth and opened them in heaven. He is more alive today than he was yesterday.

Skip has not “lost” anything. He has gained everything.
We who loved him have “lost” his smile, but he lives on in our hearts forever.

I thank God for the privilege of knowing such a fine man. I am glad that heaven is a real place and that Skip has gone there. Of that I have no doubt.

As Wilbur said to Charlotte, to be a friend is a tremendous thing. Skip Olson was a friend forever.

And so we bid farewell to our friend and colleague. C. S. Lewis remarked that Christians don’t say goodbye; we say, “See you later.”

Rest well, Skip. We will see you again.

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