RetroRadio – Gladys Staines

RetroRadio is a series of posts of radio interviews from my time working at 98five Sonshine FM covering everything from issues of spirituality to chats with visiting musicians and celebrities.

Hopefully, the interviews spark a few memories and a few thoughts.

Over the past week or two, there’s been a lot in our news about American missionary John Allen Chau, who was killed on the 16th of November while trying to reach an isolated tribe on North Sentinel Island in India. Heโ€™d first read of the tribe as a teen and was determined to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the residents of the small island.

Long before John lost his life, another missionary in India was killed with his two sons but the story didn’t end there.

January the 22nd, 1999, is a day forever etched in the memory of Gladys Staines.

It is the day that her husband Graham, along with their young sons, Timothy and Philip, were burnt alive by a group of by “suspected” Bajrang Dal activists in Orissa, India, where Graham had been working with the poor, especially those with leprosy.

Gladys has an amazing story to tell of how she and her daughter were able to forgive those who killed those they loved. While their forgiveness was offered right away, the healing took a lot longer.

It is truly remarkable to think that Gladys stayed on in India for many years to continue the work that her husband had begun years earlier. Many people have been inspired by her life and her determination to continue serving God in a land far from her home country of Australia.

In 2004, Christianity Today described this woman as “the best-known Christian in India after Mother Teresa.” In 2005, she was awarded the Padma Shri, a civilian award from the Government of India. As a result of the contributions earned from receiving that award, Staines transformed the leper house she served at into a full hospital. In November 2015, Staines was awarded the Mother Teresa Memorial Award for Social Justice and after receiving the award, she stated “I thank God for his help in enabling me to carry out the work in caring for people with leprosy, even after my husband was killed.” – Wiki

I was extremely privileged to speak with Gladys back in February 2008.

If you’d like to hear from someone who found healing in forgiveness just click play on the audio player at the bottom of this post.

[Note: All RetroRadio interviews on RodneyOlsen.net are a snapshot of the time they were recorded. We all grow and change and so the opinions and thoughts of those in the interviews at the time of recording may or may not necessarily be the same as they are today.]

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A Day for Australia and India

It’s a little bit cool in Dehli today. The forecast is for a maximum of 18 degrees and a few thunderstorms. I’d be keen to take that over Perth’s forecast 40 degrees today.

There’s another reason I wouldn’t mind being in India today.

While in Australia millions will be celebrating Australia Day, half a world away India will be celebrating their 68th Republic Day. I like the fact that I get to celebrate two countries that I love on the same day. I don’t know if it will ever happen but one year I’d love to be in India for Republic Day.

Though India became a free nation on August 15, 1947, it declared itself a Sovereign, Democratic and Republic state with the adoption of the Constitution on January 26, 1950.

A salute of 21 guns and the unfurling of the Indian National Flag by Dr. Rajendra Prasad heralded the historic birth of the Indian Republic on that day. Thereafter 26th of January was decreed a national holiday and was recognised as the Republic Day of India.

The Constitution gave the citizens of India the power to choose their own government and paved the way for democracy. Dr. Rajendra Prasad took oath as the first President of India at the Durbar Hall in Government House and this was followed by the Presidential drive along a five-mile route to the Irwin Stadium, where he unfurled the National Flag. – Know India

I’ve had the privilege of visiting India three times over several years. It’s a truly amazing place. While I’ll be celebrating at home today I’ll be thinking of friends in India.

I wrote recently about the first of my three adventures in India. It’s an incredible country and I do hope that one day I’ll get to visit again.

Below is a video of that first trip to India in 2003. I was joined by several locals to ride from Agra, home of the Taj Mahal, to Delhi, as well as cycling around Delhi. I was there as a guest of the Bible Society. It’s just a short video and I hope you enjoy watching it.

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My First Adventure in India


(Click on any of the photos in this post for a better look.)

I really had no idea what to expect. It was February 2003 and I was travelling to India with my friend Mark Simpfendorfer for the first time. We were invited by Richard Kahn, Senior Auxiliary Secretary of NWIA, The Bible Society of India. I was going to ride, Mark was going to capture our adventure on video.

Recently I was looking through some old photos and the memories of that amazing adventure came flooding back. Even though it was around fourteen years ago some memories are as fresh as if it was yesterday. At the time I was working for the Bible Society in Western Australia, coordinating the Bike for Bibles program. The plan was to lend a hand in starting some form of Bike for Bibles in India.

We flew into Delhi feeling apprehensive, but the moment that I walked out into the carpark of the international airport and saw a few cows wandering past I felt relaxed and ready for whatever we were about to experience.

A major part of our trip was a ride from Agra, home of the Taj Mahal, to Delhi. I had my trusty Mountain Bike. There were several young locals who joined me on their Indian bikes. The cycling was a lot of fun but the people we met and friendships we forged made our time there unforgettable.

When we rode into Delhi there was a huge ceremony at India Gate.

There were hundreds of school children among the crowd there to enjoy a number of performances from dancers and even Bollywood singer turned gospel performer, Vijay Benedict.



We were welcomed by many dignitaries and church leaders including the Chief Minister of Delhi at the time, Sheila Dickshit.

There was also a large media contingent waiting for our arrival.

The event was widely reported with articles such as the one below from the Hindustan Times.

Biking For The Bible, Olsen Has The Right Spirit
Meeta Mishra (Hindustan Times – February 2003)

Cycling down from Agra to Delhi threw a lot of surprises at Rodney Olsen, and traffic was not one of them. โ€œRiding here is similar to that in Australia. We ride on the same side of the road. The highway between the two cities is wonderful. It took us three days to reach Delhi but it is a lot of fun because at every kilometre there is something different to see. What is striking about the people here is that they are so giving,โ€ says the Western Australia coordinator of Bike For Bibles.

On his first visit to India, Olsen was here to lead the bicycle rally organised by The Bible Society of India, North-West India Auxiliary, to mark its Golden Jubilee celebrations. The rally was organised to promote peace and prosperity. Olsen and Mark Simpfendorfer, a video cameraman accompanying him, were felicitated at India Gate by chief minister Sheila Dikshit on February 8. The funds raised from the rally will go into spreading literacy in India. โ€œThis is also a way to strengthen the ties between Australia and India,โ€ said the 39-year-old cyclist.

This is not the first time that Olsen has cycled down such a long distance, he has been part of Bike for Bibles Fund Raising since โ€™87 when he covered the ride from Perth to Canberra.

Olsen has also worked at Perthโ€™s Christian Radio Station. As he packed to leave for his home country, the cyclist says the predictable: โ€œIโ€™d like to return and explore other parts of India.โ€ He is, of course, welcome.

There were many other articles written about our ride. More than 15 newspapers carried stories on the event as well as a lot of attention from both radio and television.



That first visit gave me a real love for India and its people. I’ve had the opportunity to return a couple of times since then and I certainly hope I’ll make it back there again some time. It’s an amazing country.

As I mentioned, my great friend, Mark Simpfendorfer joined me on that trip and captured the trip on video and produced this short clip. Here’s the clip to give you a quick idea of the two weeks of that trip.

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Big Week for Australia and India

Australian-and-Indian-flags

While in Australia millions will be celebrating Australia Day this Tuesday, half a world away India will be celebrating Republic Day. I like the fact that I get to celebrate two countries that I love on the same day. I don’t know if it will ever happen but one year I’d love to be in India for Republic Day.

Though India became a free nation on August 15, 1947, it declared itself a Sovereign, Democratic and Republic state with the adoption of the Constitution on January 26, 1950.

A salute of 21 guns and the unfurling of the Indian National Flag by Dr. Rajendra Prasad heralded the historic birth of the Indian Republic on that day. Thereafter 26th of January was decreed a national holiday and was recognised as the Republic Day of India.

The Constitution gave the citizens of India the power to choose their own government and paved the way for democracy. Dr. Rajendra Prasad took oath as the first President of India at the Durbar Hall in Government House and this was followed by the Presidential drive along a five-mile route to the Irwin Stadium, where he unfurled the National Flag. – Know India

I’ve had the privilege of visiting India three times over several years. It’s a truly amazing place. While I’ll be celebrating in my home country on Tuesday I’ll be thinking of friends in India.

Below is a video of my first trip to India in 2003. I was joined by several locals to ride from Agra, home of the Taj Mahal, to Delhi, as well as cycling around Delhi. I was there as a guest of the Bible Society. It’s just a short video and I hope you enjoy watching it.

Do you think some of your friends would enjoy reading Big Week for Australia and India? Please use the buttons below to share the post. Thanks. ๐Ÿ™‚

Where Have You Been?

Where Have You Been?

This year is almost at an end and as with most years it’s had it’s ups and downs. One of the big ‘ups’ is that I had my first ever overseas holiday. Together with my family I visited Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia.

I’ve been overseas a number of times in the past but it’s always been for work or for some other cause. This time it was all about enjoyment. That’s not to say that I haven’t enjoyed all my other trips but there’s something different about travelling purely for enjoyment and especially travelling with people you love.

Including my home country of Australia, I’ve actually been in 17 countries so far. I’ve been able to spend significant time in some countries with others only visited while in transit or for a very short time. The places I’ve been include Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, USA, Canada, India, Haiti, Dominican Republic, PNG, Bangladesh, Indonesia, South Africa, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Thailand, Myanmar and Hong Kong. You can see them all plotted out on the map below.


I wonder how many countries you’ve visited? Let me know your favourite (and maybe not so favourite) places in this wonderful world of ours.

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