Getting to Know the Ollings
December 01, 2008 | Harvesters
By Jesse Newman
For our first issue, we will be highlighting the person who has served the most consecutive years at one NICS location. Brian and Tami Olling are currently serving their 20th year at International Christian School (the first NICS school) in Uijongbu, Korea.
Before we hear from Brian, Tami, and their daughter, Moriah, here is a brief family history:
Brian was raised in Michigan while Tami grew up in Virginia. They met and began dating during their college years at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. Brian and Tami’s paths frequently crossed with NICS President Joe Hale as he came to Liberty each year to report on his growing mission work in Korea. After both receiving education degrees from Liberty University (Brian in 1987, and Tami in 1989), the couple went to Korea to serve at Liberty Christian School (now ICS-Uijongbu). The Ollings have one daughter named Moriah MiAye. Moriah is Korean, and Brian and Tami adopted her in 1995 when she was only 6 weeks old.
CORE: It’s no secret that teachers in international schools are often involved in much more than classroom teaching. Can you tell us the different “hats” you have worn over the years?
Brian: I have taught middle school and high school Social Sciences and P.E., and have coached cross country and basketball, and served as Athletic Director. Outside of school life, I have served as a deacon at the Uijongbu Community Church.
Tami: I have taught first and second grades, been a substitute teacher, librarian, and general volunteer at the school. I also serve as the Bookstore Manager at our local church.
CORE: With busy work and family schedules, what hobbies do you have?
Brian: As a family, we like to travel, play sports, and stay busy with church and school activities! Personally, I enjoy athletics--especially running.
Tami: I enjoy making crafts, baking, and bargain hunting.
Moriah: I love to play soccer and hang out with friends.
Mom: (Adding to Moriah’s response) She’s a good cheerleader, too!
CORE: Twenty years is a long time in one place overseas. Have you ever thought about serving at another NICS/Oasis school?
Brian: We considered Austria years ago when we thought the Lord was finished with us in Korea. We were thinking a bit about the Far East a couple of years ago and even noticed that they needed an Athletic Director, but Uijongbu has become our home. I think our [school] kids need to see stable teachers as many of their lives are so unstable.
CORE: What has kept you at Uijongbu for such a long time?
Brian: The Lord has absolutely put Korea in our hearts. My mother and father were missionaries with the American Missionary Fellowship for about 45 years. They just retired about 2 years ago. They were from the old school of missionaries where you go to a field and serve there your whole life. We also pray that God will make it very clear when or if He wants us elsewhere. We also like to be here for Moriah’s sake so that she is raised in her own culture. We are a family of TCK/TCA’s (Third Culture Kids/Third Culture Adults) since we have been here so long. We don’t totally fit in with either culture!
CORE: What inspired you to become a teacher?
Brian: My favorite teacher in high school was my cross country coach, Coach G. He was also my history teacher. He was not a Christian but had an awesome influence on the students. I always thought about what it would be like if he was a Christian. He would have been able to influence so many kids for Christ. He was the motivation that led me to teach as well as to run.
CORE: What advice would you give to new teachers (or teachers preparing to go overseas)?
Brian: First of all, you have to love teaching and pray for God’s help to be flexible. Secondly, make sure it is God leading you and not some desire for an adventure overseas. Our kids need more than teachers in the classroom. They need people who will spend time with them outside of school whether in sports, youth groups, discipleship, mission trips, etc. Thirdly, be teachable and make the MOST of your opportunity to minister in the land where God puts you as you learn to love and respect your host nation. Finally, remember that your rewards are eternal.
CORE: What stands out as your fondest memory so far at Uijongbu?
Brian: There have been many great memories--coaching for almost 20 years and seeing some of my students like Min Lee come to Christ at practice, having the opportunity to disciple my students, seeing God bless the school with new facilities, watching God bless our church in missions outreach, seeing unsaved family members come to the Lord (God showed us that He does work in their lives even though we aren’t physically present with them!), but the fondest memory would have to be God blessing us with Moriah. I remember the adoption agency worker putting Moriah in my arms. The connection was instant, and the love was as strong then as it is now.
CORE: Living overseas definitely presents unique challenges. Can you tell us about the most challenging thing you have faced as you serve overseas?
Brian: The hardest thing was leaving unsaved family members behind, and being away from family, especially when they are facing death, and we cannot be there to help.
CORE: On the other hand, living overseas does provide some unique blessings. What would you say is the greatest blessing you have received by serving God overseas?
Brian: It has been a tremendous blessing to see God work in so many kids’ lives at ICS and then seeing and hearing from them years later about what God is doing in and through their lives.
CORE: Any interesting story or event that you would like to share with our readers?
Tami: I remember my first year teaching second grade in Korea. I was teaching the Bible lesson about Gideon being instructed by the Lord to destroy the idol that the people worshipped. After destroying the idol, Gideon was to replace it with an altar to the Lord. Little Eugene must have been listening intently because he came to school on Monday morning with a beaming testimony of his weekend. He and a friend noticed that a neighbor lady had some idols in her house that she prayed to each day. While the lady was on her roof doing something, Eugene and his friend went into her house and bravely broke all her idols! (As he told the story, I stood there with wide eyes and my mouth gaping open in shock!) Eugene continued his story by saying that later he and his friend found the lady and told her that she needed to stop worshipping idols, and that she needed to get saved. They told her about Jesus, and the lady accepted the Lord as her savior! Wow! “A little child shall lead them.” Although I had not told the kids to go out and break up idols, they took the story to heart, and as a result, that lady prayed to accept Jesus.
CORE: After serving such a long time at Uijongbu, leaving a legacy there may be on your mind. How do you want to be remembered by your students?
Brian: We simply want to be remembered as people who were faithful, consistent, joyful, and really cared about the kids and the staff.
We want to thank the Olling family for opening their lives to us in this interview, and letting us hear their story and feel their heartbeat for missions and service with NICS. Pray for them as they look forward to the next 20 years!
Jesse Newman is the Director of Human Resources at the NICS Home Office.