A Tribute to DG's Forerunners

This week Olive Nelson passed away at age 94. Olive and her husband, Arnie, were members of Bethlehem for decades until 1994. From 1978 to 1994 (16 years), Arnie and Olive faithfully operated Bethlehem’s tape ministry as volunteers. They diligently ran a tape library for BBCers and they managed a tape subscription service that began to grow significantly during Pastor John’s first 14 years.

Arnie would come in every week and duplicate tapes. I can still see him. He was tall and slim and dignified and had a head of thick, silver hair. He was soft-spoken, and I loved to listen to him. Olive was bright, assertive, and organized. She managed the tape ministry administration by hand-typing all the tape labels (for probably 150-200 tapes per week), and hand-typing all the mailing labels, and she and Arnie would package and mail the tapes. Olive’s database was a black notebook where she meticulously hand-recorded every transaction for every person.

It was the Nelsons' decision to retire in 1994 that prompted John to pop into my office and say, “We need to do something with the tape ministry. I’d like you to make it happen.” The birth of Desiring God as we know it has its genesis in that statement.

Arnie and Olive were the forerunners of DG. Olive’s notebook was the basis for our first electronic database. I modeled our first labels after hers. And our whole electronic audio distribution of John’s sermons grew out of the tape ministry that the Nelsons nurtured and grew.

Thank you, God, for the lives and faithful labors of Arnold and Olive Nelson. It is an honor to remember them this week.

Olive and Arnie Nelson

Jon Bloom (@Bloom_Jon) is the author of Not by Sight: A Fresh Look at Old Stories of Walking by Faith and serves as the President of Desiring God, which he and John Piper launched together in 1994. He lives in the Twin Cities with his wife, Pam, their five children, and one naughty dog.