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Global Vision - Fall 2009

View more articles in the Fall 2009 issue.

Stephanie Olson Lives Out Passion for Global Mission through Service in Slovakia

by Kari Aanestad, M.Div. Middler

Stephanie Olson in Slovakia

Her passion for language, history and culture has led Stephanie Olson, '08, to find herself in an indefinite tenure of global service. After completing her undergraduate degree with a double major in history and German in 2005, Olson applied for and was accepted into the Young Adults in Global Mission program through the ELCA.
The program, which aims to engage young adults ages 18 to 30 in worldwide mission, assigned Olson to a German facility, Hangweide, a campus for adults with mental handicaps. Olson said that she learned a lot during her time in Germany. "It was difficult at times, emotionally and physically, but it was a great experience."

After returning from Germany, Olson enrolled at Luther Seminary in the Master of Arts in Mission and World Christianity concentration. Orientation began just three weeks after her return to the United States. 

"I quickly realized that I was deep in reverse culture shock when I had trouble understanding what [Dean of Students] Patricia Lull was saying, because it was in English and not German," she said.

While at seminary, Olson worked with the international student community as an international student facilitator. In this role she helped with tasks such as greeting new international students at the airport, giving them rides to appointments or errands and helping them adjust to life in the U.S.

After completing her M.A. degree, Olson began looking at other opportunities to serve abroad. Through ELCA Global Mission, she applied to be a missionary and was offered a job as an English conversation teacher in Slovakiathe day after interviewing.

During her first year in Slovakia, Olson attended a church service in Bratislava, the capitol city, and surprised Ivana Sabansova, M.S.M., '07 (who was the organist that morning) and is an international alum of Luther Seminary.

Olson is now preparing to return to Slovakia for her second year of service, where she will return to a high school in a town in the north central part of Slovakia. As an English conversation teacher, Olson works with students ages 14 to 21 throughout their five or eight years of study, which is dependent on the program they choose.

"I am at a point where I am still trying to figure out what my role in life and the world will be," Olson said. "Right now I am an English conversation teacher in Slovakia. I never thought I would be a teacher, but this seemed like a good opportunity and it has proven to be [such] ... There are many ways to minister to people and I am fortunate enough right now to be ministering to people in a way that is a lot of fun for me too."

To read more about Olson's service in Slovakia, visit her blog

Learn more about the ELCA Young Adults in Global Mission