Saturday, July 15, 2006

She loved the ones who mistreated her (Betty Olsen)

Betty Ann Olsen, the daughter of a missionary-couple in Africa, arrived in war-torn Vietnam in 1964 as a missionary nurse at the age of thirty. She entered the country carrying with her only her medical kit. She worked in a leprosarium ran by Chirstian and Mission Alliance Missionaries in Banmethuot, South Vietnam. Despite their humanitarian works, the mission was always harassed by the Viet Cong. Some missionaries have already been kidnapped, but the missionary work never ceased.

During the Tet (Vietnamese New Year) in January, 1968, the mission compounds were attacked and bombarded by the Viet Cong. Six missionaries died in the three-day attack. During the attacks, Betty Olsen tried to start her car in order to bring a wounded missionary to the hospital. But she was cornered by the Viet Cong and taken as a captive with a fellow missionary, Henry Blood. They were last seen being marched into the forest.

They were hostaged together with Mike Benge, an American journalist, in Darlac POW Camp. They were placed in cages and were fed only with boiled tapioca. The Vietnamese kept moving their prisoners, hiking through the jungles and mountains. Benge once saw an American plane flying above the camp. The pilot only waved at them and left them alone.

For months Olsen, Blood and Benge were chained together and moved north from one encampment to another, moving over 200 miles through the mountainous jungles. The trip was grueling and took its toll on the prisoners. They were physically depleted, sick from dysentery and malnutrition; beset by fungus, infection, leeches and ulcerated sores. Blood died because of the following sicknesses. Benge could also have died, if not only Betty took care of him.

The Viet Cong and their captives kept moving. Just before crossing the border into Cambodia, Olsen weakened to the point that she could no longer move. The Vietnamese began to kick and drag her to keep her moving. Benge, trying to defend her, was beaten with rifle butts. They were not allowed any food, except for bamboo shoots. Betty died on September 28, 1967 and was buried by Benge.

When Benge was released, he met with Olsen’s family in America. He told them, “She suffered terribly. She died from starvation and dysentery two days before her thirty-fifth birthday. She never showed any bitterness or resentment. To the end, she loved the ones who mistreated her.”


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