Meet Amer Olson
My father was an artist and our house was filled with the scents of linseed oil and turpentine, charcoal and kneaded erasers. I was born on the birthday of the great Dutch Master, Rembrandt, who soon became my childhood hero. And I always knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up: a great artist. As I peered into books full of Rembrandt paintings, I was struck with a deep hope that my own paintings and drawings might someday inspire children to paint as I had been inspired.
I never wanted to be famous for the sake of getting rich or popular and figured that my artwork might never be seen until years after I was gone. I wanted to create enduring works of beauty which would last far beyond my own lifetime to enrich someone else’s life.
From Minneapolis, I went away to art school in Philadelphia and developed my abilities at the Academy of Fine Arts. From there, I often visited my Jewish relatives in New York and New Jersey. During that time, something took hold of me; particularly when I visited my grandparents and my aunt during the Jewish holidays. I developed an insatiable thirst for my Jewish heritage.
You see, I wasn’t brought up with much knowledge of my Jewishness. When my mother left Brooklyn for Minnesota, she left behind much of her Jewish lifestyle, especially after marrying my dad, the nice Gentile artist. So there I was, receiving the most Jewish exposure I had ever had, and I couldn’t get enough. I learned how to read Hebrew. I visited the synagogue. I even bought myself a copy of the Jewish Scriptures in Hebrew and English.
Now I should mention that by the time I was five, I knew that Jesus loves me.” My neighbors were strong Christians, who often invited me along when they went to church. And by the time I was in junior high school, I was involved in a friend’s youth group and had made a decision to follow Jesus.
However, I never had much of a relationship with other Christians during high school and college. So, although I believed in Jesus, my understanding of Him was very underdeveloped. And as I began to delve into my Jewishness, well-meaning friends told me in no uncertain terms that I could not be Jewish and believe in Jesus.
When I returned home to Minnesota, my father and I tuned into a program on cable access TV. We watched a Jewish man, reading from the Tenach (Old Testament) and the B’rit Hadashah (New Testament), explain the relationship and how Jewish the New Testament was! This was it! It all came together for me. I started attending Bible studies and my hunger to know God’s word and to share it with others grew. Soon I was in touch with Jews for Jesus, and they invited me to sing on The Liberated Wailing Wall, their musical evangelistic team. A year and a half later, I returned home. I thought about continuing in ministry, but Moishe Rosen strongly encouraged me to try my hand at painting, and for a while I did. But I found myself in a dilemma. Apply myself as an artist or work in the harvest field? I had always felt called to be an artist. But I also felt called by Jesus Himself. As He said in Matthew 9:37-38, “The harvest is truly plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” Since you are reading this in the Jews for Jesus Newsletter, I guess you know what I chose to do!
I’ll always be an artist, but sharing the love of the Lord, knowing He forgives sin and gives new life brings me even more joy than art.
Last year I married Paige, a fellow artist. We have served side-by-side with Jews for Jesus in the past on a Summer Witnessing Campaign. We trust God will use our art and our lives to glorify Him.
Missionary, NYC Leadership Team
Amer Olson is a senior missionary at the New York branch of Jews for Jesus. In addition to studying at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Amer received his theological training at All Nations Christian College. Amer’s wife, Paige, is also an artist. They have five children: Josiah, Abigail, Zechariah, Samantha and Benjamin.