Jarrod Olsen is the President of the Lansing Chapter of Sleep in Heavenly Peace. SHP is a non-profit organization that addresses child bedlessness by building and delivering beds, mattresses, bedding, and pillows to children that don’t have their own bed to sleep in. Click here to learn more about Sleep in Heavenly Peace.
Jarrod enjoyed his childhood with a great family in Haslett. He grew up surrounded by a village of loving friends and family. Jarrod has one brother that’s almost a year older than him and a younger brother that’s a year and a half younger. Growing up with his brothers and getting into trouble with them was a blast. The Olsen boys, inspired by their father’s work ethic, worked hard delivering papers in their neighborhood and became entrepreneurs together when they started a lawn mowing business. Jarrod also has a younger sister and a younger brother who was born when Jarrod was seventeen.
This hardworking servant is thankful for his parents. They were good role models and taught him valuable lessons that have carried over into the way he lives his life and raises his children. Jarrod’s mom worked from home as a property manager. This work-arrangement gave her the opportunity to be an attentive and nurturing full-time mother. Jarrod looks back fondly on his collage of an education. He started out in public school in East Lansing. He went to a private Christian school on the westside of Lansing for a couple years. After that, he was homeschooled by his mom for a couple years. The next step was homeschool/public school hybrid followed by graduating from Haslett High School.
Providing for a family of seven developed the work ethic and determination of Jarrod’s father. He worked 60+ hours most weeks. Jarrod’s parents instilled their work ethic into their children by teaching them to distinguish between needs and wants. Needs were always provided for and wants were honored only after some work had been accomplished. At five years old, Jarrod painted apartments at the properties his mom managed. The Olsen boys typically painted apartments during the summer. As a reward for their hard work, they would receive something special like a BB gun or a dirt bike.
Jarrod attended consistently attended church with his family as a youngster. He fondly remembers attending Sunday school and Vacation Bible School. Jarrod’s relationship with God became deeper in the mid-90’s when he attended Acquire the Fire summits. These sold-out, multi-day events in arenas like the Breslin Center created the atmosphere of an exciting revival for teenagers. The teens would meet together for music and exciting testimonies punctuated with pyrotechnics and lights. They were each given a booklet to work through and attended Bible studies. They also participated in prayer groups and equipping exercises. Once they had “acquired the fire,” teens were encouraged to go on an international mission trip.
At age fourteen, Jarrod traveled to a small town in central Mexico called Nuevo Casas Grandes. The name is ironic since it means “new big houses,” yet there were no new or big houses. It was a rural community stricken with poverty. Jarrod’s group ministered at a juvenile prison and a medical clinic. They used plays to convey the message of the Gospel. Jarrod and his friends prayed for many people. He remembers praying for a pre-teen in a wheelchair. After that, she walked. They also prayed for a young blind boy. Later that night, a doctor called and informed his group that the boy could see! Jarrod was shocked. His belief and faith in God became more substantive. Seeing the Bible come to life and experiencing God as a miracle worker sparked a fire and changed his life.
Jarrod was close to his grandmother on his mom’s side. She helped him grow spiritually and taught him how to be kind and considerate of others. She was diagnosed with cancer and passed away when the spirited young man was seventeen. Jarrod’s grief manifested in bitterness and anger towards God. Jarrod didn’t trust God’s timing for her death; he thought it was too soon. Jarrod turned away from God as his pain sparked a rebellion.
At seventeen, the spirited young man didn’t believe he was being afforded the freedoms he deserved in his parents’ home. He moved out on his own before he graduated from high school. He worked three jobs to pay rent and take care of himself. Determined to ensure that Jarrod graduated, the principal of his school stopped by frequently to check on him. Despite his rebellious spirit, Jarrod worked hard to finish high school and he graduated with his class. The rebellion lasted until he was 21. Having fun by living a reckless lifestyle was Jarrod’s top priority. He drank and spent a lot of time partying and hanging out. He lived for a thrill and risked his life with some of his choices, including death defying tricks on his motorcycle.
At age 21, Jarrod’s first son was born. A sobering experience when the new baby was just 3 months old changed Jarrod’s direction in life. He was riding a motorcycle at 70 mph and crashed into a telephone pole. Jarrod wondered what might have happened if he hit the pole with his head instead of his legs. He could have been severely incapacitated for the rest of his life or even died. That would leave his son without a father to teach him the lessons he learned as a child and his son would never know him. Jarrod turned back to God and started to turn his life around. He felt like God wasn’t there but realized that God never left. Jarrod turned his back, not God.
After his wake-up call, Jarrod learned that he had to let go of the grudge he was holding against God. As he grew closer to God, he started to accept God’s plan and goodness, even if it was hard to understand at times. He’s let go of the bitterness and gotten back to praying and reading God’s word daily. He’s gotten better at trusting God and no longer feels compelled to try to do everything himself. Throughout the last ten years, Jarrod has been reading God’s word everyday and he’s seen his investment pay off. Jarrod believes that his obedience and commitment to faith have opened doors for him to serve God and his community in a significant way. Jarrod believes that people can strive to be good but they can’t be their best without God. Jarrod would not have stepped into what he does without faith but he understands that it won’t save him, he does it as an overflow of faith.
One night in February of 2018, Jarrod was up late watching TV and hanging out on the couch. As he was scrolling Facebook, he came across a show starring Mike Row from Dirty Jobs. (Click here to watch the show Jarrod watched!)
The story he watched captured the hardworking servant’s heart. A in Utah man started a non-profit that builds bunkbeds for children that don’t have their own beds to sleep in. Jarrod knew he could do this also. The beds he was building for his daughters were in the garage, almost finished. As a mentor and a coach, Jarrod has a soft spot for children and he knew God was calling to put his knowledge and skills to work. It hurt and convicted him to realize that there are so many children without beds. The faithful father of three couldn’t wait to let children in his community know that there are good people in the world that care about them. He started to think about how he could gather volunteers and materials, and get started building beds.
The next morning before church, Jarrod sat with his wife, Lex, and watched the show again. He told his wife, “We’re doing this!” Lex didn’t know quite how Jarrod was going to make it happen with his busy work schedule and their children’s activities, but Jarrod was determined and confident that God would work it out. He registered for the training and established the Lansing Chapter of Sleep in Heavenly Peace. Before long, he was attending training and meeting other chapter presidents. One of Jarrod’s favorite things about SHP is the teamwork aspect. The Lansing chapter partners with a lot of other chapters in Michigan. If one chapter runs out of specific supplies, another chapter shares theirs. He’s received a lot of help on the organizational side of things also. The Lansing chapter has received help with grants and finance from people associated with Sleep in Heavenly Peace from many states across the country.
Sometimes, managing his family responsibilities, work responsibilities, and SHP can start to feel overwhelming. During his training the instructors referred to the process as “Building a plane while it’s in flight.” Throughout his life, Jarrod has been good at not worrying. That skill is carrying over into his work with Sleep in Heavenly Peace. He’s comforted by 2 Chronicles 20:17. This scripture reminds him that the battle is God’s and the war is already won. It increases his confidence.
The Lansing Chapter of Sleep in Heavenly Peace plans to bulild and deliver 300–600 beds in 2021. On June 12, they will join SHP chapters from across the nation for their Bunks Across America event. They plan to build 100 beds in the parking lot at Lowe’s on the south side of Lansing. SHP is always looking for enthusiastic new volunteers! Click here for more information about “Bunks Across America.” Click here to read about SHP receiving “3-Degree Guarantee” check from Fox 47. Click here to see Jarrod’s recent interview with Bob Hoffman of ePIFanyNow.org. Click here to listen to another recent interview with Jarrod. Click here to check out the national website for Sleep in Heavenly Peace.