Skip to site content

Never Too Late to Be Baptized

Picture this: Three men, of an age indicating wisdom. One, in a hot pink shirt and dark glasses, is driving a three-wheeled cart.

A golfing trio enjoying a Sunday morning on the greens?

Not at all. In fact, two of the men, Arthur and John Driedger, were accompanying the third, Marvin Hagenmaier, up the aisle of Trinity Mennonite Church at Glendale, Ariz., for his baptism.

Hagenmaier, who is in his mid-80s, made a decision for Christ because his life seemed without purpose.
“I needed something,” he said. “I wasn’t going anywhere the way it was.”

After he accepted Christ, he wanted to take the next step – baptism. The Driedger brothers helped him do that.
Arthur Driedger of Winnipeg, Man., and John Driedger of Listowel, Ont., were participating in a short-term mission program, Service Opportunities for Older People, when they met Hagenmaier.

SOOP is jointly sponsored and administered by Mennonite Association of Retired Persons, Mennonite Central Committee Canada and Mennonite Mission Network.

As part of their SOOP assignment, the Driedger brothers volunteered at Glencroft Friendship
Retirement Corp., a senior community in Glendale. Phyllis Harsh, Glencroft chaplain, suggested names of residents who would appreciate a visit from the Driedgers. Hagenmaier was on the list.

“Marvin’s past religious experiences stood in the way of a personal relationship with Jesus,” Harsh said. “He wanted to love the Lord, but he didn’t know how.

Once Marvin prayed the sinners’ prayer, he wanted to know more about God and the Bible. The Mennonite gentlemen came at just the right time. They were Marvin’s mentors.”

When Hagenmaier met the Driedgers, “you could tell he was excited about something,” John Driedger said. “He had received the Lord a month or two before we met him and wanted to be baptized.”

During the three weeks of their SOOP assignment, the brothers and their wives – Kathleen is married to Arthur, and Shirley is married to John – attended Trinity Mennonite Church.

When the Driedgers presented Hagenmaier’s request to Stan Shantz, one of Trinity’s pastors, Shantz gave a crash course on the meaning of baptism.

Hagenmaier’s baptism took place on the Driedgers’ last Sunday in Glendale, enabling Arthur and John to assist in the sign of God’s work.

“I was worried about how much water they would pour on me,” Hagenmaier said. “But it was just a sprinkle, so I didn’t get too wet. I was a very happy person that day.”

Hagenmaier said he wanted to be baptized in a Mennonite church because he liked the Mennonites he met. His Glencroft roommate, Paul Hershberger, is a Mennonite.

“I like Mr. Hershberger,” Hagenmaier said. “[The Driedgers] were so nice, too. I figured a church with such good people must be a good church.”

The friendship that began with the Driedgers and Hagenmaier has expanded to include others in the congregation.

Two of Hagenmaier’s weekly visitors from Trinity are a mother and her 3-year-old son, J.T. Hagenmaier, remembering his days driving a produce truck, brightens up when J.T. walks in the door with his toy trucks.
Another Glencroft resident, Marie Kleinsasser, reads the Bible with Hagenmaier. Although Hagenmaier is an eager student, Kleinsasser has learned not to try to have Bible studies when the Arizona Diamondbacks, Hagenmaier’s favorite baseball team, are playing.

The SOOP program is booming at Glendale. Some nights, all the guest rooms at Peter and Rheta Mae Wiebe’s residence are filled to overflowing with short-term volunteers. The Wiebes can accommodate five couples. When numbers exceed this, other members offer their homes.

Shantz said Trinity Mennonite Church sees SOOP and other short-term ministries as an important part of the congregation’s involvement in the community.

“We are grateful for the extra hands,” Shantz said. “Trinity provides the connection to the community through its long-term presence. Those involved in short-term mission assignments come with big hearts and encourage our own people.”

This column was reprinted with permission from the Mennonite Weekly Review