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6:14 AM Wed, Nov. 14th

Family business owner turned hospice chaplain finds purpose in faith-inspired service

Dan Olsen walks the talk of being a real man. (Nanci Hutson/Courier)

Dan Olsen walks the talk of being a real man. (Nanci Hutson/Courier)

Saturday, Sept. 22 from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Yavapai College Performing Arts Center

• Events will start with a free breakfast at 8:30 a.m. and a free lunch at 12:30 p.m. The event will include interactive outdoor activities to include such things as a tomahawk toss, archery, and corn hole; demonstrations such as those with police canines and chainsaw operation; and a 200-vehicle car show. There will be vendors of all types of “boy’s toys” and booths from some 20 participating churches. The guest speaker this year will be Chad Robichaux, a decorated military veteran, mixed martial arts champion and author who will talk about how his faith saved him from post-traumatic stress disorder, suicide and infidelity. Get Real will also have a worship service with the MC of that event to be The Heights pastor Ron Merrill.

• The title sponsor this year is Lamb Chevrolet with some 17 other local businesses involved. Since February, Olsen has worked with a team of about eight other community leaders to organize and coordinate the all-volunteer run event.

From a family with roots in the region, Dan Olsen’s life journey is one with twists and turns he sees as evidence of a divine force that filled his soul so as to go in directions he would never have gone on his own.

The 62-year-old chuckles when he says he believes it was a God-inspired plan to get him fired from his job in Houston back in the early 1980s where he was engineering skyscrapers, some of them still standing to this day.

A tall, humble man with a soft voice known for his big heart for others, Olsen said in those days he could never have imagined a day when he would be holding the hands with the dying as a hospice chaplain. As of November, though, Olsen is a member of the Kindred Hospice chaplaincy team where he weekly comforts men and women and families as they prepare for their final earthly months and days.

He describes this ministry that evolved from work with a men’s fellowship group, Crossfire, at American Lutheran Church as an extraordinary, spiritually-enriching experience.

For those with a particular faith or religious background, Olsen will pray and share scripture. For those without such a belief system, Olsen said he is there to “just love them and help them finish well.”

“Every patient is different, but I celebrate their lives. It just fills me up,” said Olsen, who together with his wife of 23 years, Barbara, has three adult children — Kristi, Kari “Scoob” and Jeff, and granddaughter Ally. “My heart is so full of joy.”

Always a churchgoer, Olsen said it was not until later in his adult life that he started to actually act on his faith, or even subscribe to the notion that there was some type of divine purpose for his life. When he was approached about considering chaplaincy, the Prescott native who earned his college degree in industrial construction management said he was resistant to getting paid to do ministry. Yet, he was convinced to do so by friends and family who suggested he had the right “gifts” for such a role.

After losing his job in Houston, Olsen was a bit at loose ends about his next step. Family encouraged him to return home; he started building homes for some of his relatives. About the same time, the family’s Olsen's Grain business started in Chino Valley in 1979 was in an expansion mode, and he went from working for his brother in the Prescott location to operating a location in Dewey. Olsen said he and his wife managed that operation between 1995 and 2005; he still is invested in the business but is no longer a part of the day-to-day operations.

Part of that occurred because of health issues.

In 2005, Olsen was diagnosed with hepatitis, and unlike some who recover quickly he ended up in a Phoenix Hospital where doctors did not expect him to survive the night.

When he defied all odds — he returned home within four days without a wheelchair or cognitive impairment — Olsen knew a power greater than he was directing his life. He immersed himself in studying the Bible and exploring ways to be in volunteer ministry. In 2009, he was confronted with yet another health scare — a routine colonoscopy led to a pacemaker and defibrillator for a damaged heart.

“God intervened again,” Olsen said.

As he recuperated, Olsen was asked to revive the church’s men’s ministry. He answered the call, and today the weekly fellowship and study is attended by about 60 men.

Then in 2012, Olsen and a group of the men from that ministry attended a Young Life Man Camp in Williams. Upon his return, Olsen was compelled to launch what became the first Get Real Men’s Expo, a free half-day non-denominational, spiritual fellowship event for men of all ages.

The 2018, still-no-cost fourth annual expo is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 22 at Yavapai College.

American Lutheran Director of Administration Kate Howell said Olsen has long proved a “mainstay of the community” along with the rest of his family. At the church, Olsen is one of the most active volunteer ministry leaders, she said.

“He’s very genuine,” she said.

The church administrative assistant, Donna Jackson, said Olsen is always the first one to step up to help.

“He loves the Lord so dearly, and the joy of his faith just exudes in everything he does. He’s just one of my favorite people on the planet,” Jackson concluded.

Follow Nanci Hutson on Twitter @HutsonNanci. Reach her at 298-445-3333 ext. 2041.