Arlene Jankens struggled with many adversities in her 87 years of life, but her faith in God and regular attendance at her Lutheran church sustained her through them all. Polio at 17 months left her with a deformed foot and a bad limp. She battled cancer for ten years, and as a result, lost a portion of her face, lost her hair permanently, and underwent 15 surgeries. Her husband, Erhard, was legally blind for 44 years during which she was both his chauffeur and his eyes. Then she broke her hip in October 2002, and almost died after the surgery. She also became legally blind due to wet macular degeneration. Sadly, after 64 years of marriage, Erhard died of congestive heart failure. At this point, one might imagine that Arlene must have felt like she was enduring the trials of Job!
Meanwhile, her son, Tom, and his wife, Maxine, had been on a spiritual quest. They had both been raised in the Lutheran faith, but Maxine had puzzled many years over questions about the Sabbath, what happens after death, and the book of Revelation. She questioned why God had put a book in the Bible if it wasn’t meant to be understood.
One day after earnestly pleading with the Lord, she received a booklet in the mail. It was a condensed version of Ellen White’s The Great Controversy. Many years went by, and Maxine’s spiritual hunger continued to grow. Convinced of the need to worship on Sabbath, she and her husband began looking for a Sabbath-keeping church. They even looked up information on the beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists in their local library. When they finally began attending their local church, it wasn’t long before they felt the Lord leading them to be baptized, and on November 25, 2000, they began their new life with Christ.
Before his death, Tom’s father had undergone a tremendous character change after watching his son’s videotapes of Evangelist Kenneth Cox. At his invitation, Erhard and Arlene were just starting to participate in a local evangelistic series at their son’s church when he took a turn for the worse and he was unable to attend anymore. “I know that my father believed what he learned,” Tom says, “and I am sure that we will see him again when Jesus returns!”
After her husband died, Arlene found it increasingly difficult to live alone, and Tom invited her to move in with his family. Arlene soon found that she needed something to do with her time, so he bought her a dish to watch Three Angels Broadcasting Network. The center of her vision was gone by now, but by turning her head she could see quite a bit with the aid of her big screen TV she had brought to her new home.
Then one day, after watching Pastor Doug Batchelor’s presentation on baptism, her daughter-in-law, Maxine, asked her, “Do you think you would like to be baptized?” “Yes,” she said, “but I have some concerns.”
Arlene wondered if she could wear her wig into the water, and also if she would be able to handle the steps into the baptismal tank. Tom, whose job of engineering had prepared him for problem-solving, had the perfect solution. He took his mother to the church while the tank was still empty. Together they tried out the steps, with him holding her on one side, and Arlene holding the rail on the other.
“I think I can do this,” she said.
Tom, now an elder in his church, was in the tank with his mother when she was baptized on September 10, 2004 — just six months after she began watching 3ABN!
“I have learned so much about Jesus,” Arlene beams. “I pray to Him every day, and it won’t be long before He comes back. I look forward to His coming, and I am learning more about Jesus everyday on 3ABN! Before I began watching I just went to church. I wasn’t learning about stories in the Bible. I understand things now which were never taught to me regarding baptism and what happens when you die. It all makes sense.”
Arlene maintained her faith through all her struggles by putting herself in the Lord’s hands. She says, “He was with me through everything.” Tom sees his mother more at peace now, especially since she studied about what happens after death. To me, Arlene is a powerful example of how the Lord reaches out to the hearts of His children, young and old, and how He longs to give us peace in this life and the hope of eternal life.
Arlene reads today using a 20-inch TV screen that is hooked up to a camera. Reading material is put on an X/Y axis table under the camera, which takes a picture of a few words, and magnifies them 50 or 60 times! “It takes a while to read when you are only looking at a couple of words at a time,” Tom says, “but my mother uses this machine each day to read her Bible and study her Sabbath School lessons.”