Story by Tess Wahlmeier
(SNR) - In April 2013, Nicole Olson sat in her high school gym, listening to Justin Fatica, director of Hard as Nails Ministries, speak to her and the rest of the student body at Pius X High School in Lincoln, unaware of the impact that day would leave on the rest of her life.
Now, less than three years later, Olson is finishing up her training as a missionary and preparing to travel the country with Hard as Nails Ministries (HANM).
At first, Olson admitted, she didn’t really think about becoming a missionary, but she stayed in contact with Hard as Nails Ministries.
“That event completely changed my life,” Olson said. Later, she was invited to Pennsylvania as a part of the missionary team for a week. There, Olson said, she was able to experience Hard as Nails from the inside.
“It made me realize this is something that I really wanted to do, just to give at least a year of my life back to Christ and go out and do what the past missionaries did for me and help save lives – save souls.”
Hard as Nails Ministries is a Catholic evangelization group with the mission: “to awaken youth and young adults to the power of God’s love.” They travel the country in a bus, serving at high schools, universities, communities, men’s conferences, diocesan youth conferences, Christian music festivals, confirmation programs, youth groups, summer camps, and international outreaches. HANM also has a public school outreach, partnering with the Virtue First Foundation. Through this outreach, students in public schools can continue learning about a different virtue every week, even after the HANM event has passed.
Before the missionaries begin their travels, they go through four weeks of training at the HANM office in New York, Olson said. Training revolves around important elements of the Church – the Ten Commandments, the spiritual and corporal works of mercy, the beatitudes, the theological and cardinal virtues, the gifts of the Holy Spirit – and allows the missionaries to grow as a community in leadership and evangelization. Through prayer and discipline, the missionaries prepare and train for their year ahead.
As a Catholic organization, everything the missionaries do is structured around prayer. Every day, they go to Mass and spend an hour in Adoration. Olson said they also pray a daily rosary, and at 3 p.m. they stop everything and pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet. They also do ‘prayer workouts’ several times a week, in which they will offer up a physical workout and the suffering from that workout for prayer intentions that people have given them.
“When we’re on the road, we’re on the road for about 10 days, and then we come back to the office,” Olson said. At the office, the missionaries do follow-ups with the teenagers they encountered at the various events, encouraging them, helping them overcome obstacles, and teaching them to bring Christ to others in the same ways.
Olson said that the people who have inspired her most along this journey haven’t even been a part of HANM.
“I talk about it to my best friend,” she said, “and having her support, and my spiritual director’s support, and my mom’s support, having all that kept me going and opening my eyes to see that this is what God wants for me.”
As Olson travels the country, serving as the disciples served, those of us in Lincoln can still be a part of her mission by praying for her and the rest of the Hard as Nails Ministries Team.
To learn more about HANM, Olson said a new EWTN series, which began Sept. 3, will cover a range of topics on the missionary program and HANM events.
To support Olson financially, go to http://hanm.org/follow-up/donor and select “Nicole” as the recipient of your donation from the drop-down menu.