Redeemed For a Purpose

By Published on May 9, 2023

I first met Arthur and his family in the mid-1970s during my teenage years. Art was serving as an elder at the church our family began attending when we moved to the same area where Art and his family had settled some years before. I will never forget his story. It begins in the late 1920s.

An Early Demise, From a Broken Heart

He was no more than an month old when his mother, Sonja, reached the end of her rope. She was a 26-year-old immigrant to America and the mother of three. Her husband had abandoned her, taking with him their two older children. She was left alone with the infant Arthur.

With no useful language skills and no knowledge of welfare or social services, and poorly clad for the severe weather, she took her baby to a bridge over the Charles River in Lynn, Massuchusetts. Police saw them and, worried that she might be a jumper, they intervened.

She died just four months later. The official cause of death was “consumption.” Years later, while reflecting on his mother’s life and her early demise, Arthur wondered if the true cause may have been a broken heart.

A “State Kid” Puts on a Uniform

Arthur lived his next three years as a “state kid” at an orphanage. He was later taken in by a series of families within the foster care system. The older he got, the less hope there was that he might be adopted. During his teenage years, several farm families he lived with immersed him in very hard work.

“It wasn’t long,” he reflects, “before my lanky frame began to fill out with solid pads of muscle. These were the war years, and I felt guilty about not being in the service. When people looked at me their eyes said, ‘You’re of military age, why aren’t you in the service?’ Six days out of high school, I was in uniform.”

This is not a man who has spent his life cultivating bitter resentments, or considers himself a victim. This is one who is grateful for the life he’s been given.

Art served with the U.S. Eighth Army under General MacArthur. He took part in the invasion of Luzon, Philippines, and, once the war had ended, he was among the first U.S. troops to occupy Japan.

Art later reflected that he was probably among the few who served during WWII without G.I. insurance, as he was told that he had to name a beneficiary who was either a blood relative or “someone who has had parental care over you for a year.” Unable to name anyone, he served without insurance.

“One thing bothered me,” he later commented. “On the field of battle, I’d seen men who had everything to live for fall to a sniper’s bullet, and yet I finished the war practically unscathed. I had no one. If I dropped dead, no one would know or care. Yet here were these men with families: a wife, children and loved ones, and they died.”

Later on, Art’s family would challenge this young soldier’s assessment of his value to the world.

Surrounded by Family

Soon after his return to the States, Art was given a tip on his father’s last address. He checked it out and learned his father had died. There at that address, though, he met for the first time his older brother and sister.

As it occurred to Art at the time, “God is still a God of miracles. Here He had snatched a baby from certain death, protected him halfway around the world, through a war and back, and united him with a brother and sister he had never seen.”

This was a turning point in Art’s life. Henceforth he would surround himself with an ever-growing family of his own.

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It was at Bethel College in Saint Paul, Minnesota, where Art met his wife Gloria. Together they raised four children, who are my contemporaries.

Over time Art and Gloria’s four children added 10 grandchildren to their extended family ranks. They in turn gave them 20 great-grandchildren, none of whom have been left to find their way in this world alone.

Sadly, Gloria died in 2017. Art and I still occasionally meet with a mutual friend over breakfast. When greeted with “How are you?” he’ll most often reply, “Better than I deserve.” This is not a man who has spent his life cultivating bitter resentments, or considers himself a victim. This is one who is grateful for the life he’s been given.

A Positive Example for Our Time

Art always sought to instill this sense of gratitude in his children, his grandchildren, and his great-grandchildren in turn. And he brings it to us who have had the pleasure of knowing him through church and community.

A positive example for our time, Art’s example of fatherly devotion and leadership within the Church is one to follow. In raising his family as he has, and in contributing now to several new generations of U.S. citizens, his example offers a constructive response to a challenge of our time.

Within my lifetime our country has, through legalized abortion, allowed for the killing of over 65 million unborn babies. Our national leaders are now seeking to replace some of those lost souls through illegal immigration, both for cheap labor and for potential future votes for the party currently wielding power.

Rather than continuing on this course, perhaps our leaders should work to shore up support for families, aiming to rebuild our lost numbers through legal means (including legal immigration) with an eye toward helping to rescue true refugees and orphans, not those recruited and led to us by human-trafficking cartels.

In the meantime, I salute my great friend Art for his service to our country, and thank him for his positive example of faithful trust in Christ through all the challenges he’s faced over his 97 years of life. He raised his family with humble means, yet with grace and a heart of gratitude. Amid the challenges of our current time, his example serves as a beacon of light toward a positive path forward.


Jim Kenaston graduated from Messiah College with a B.A. in History (1983) and from Miami University with an M.En. in International Environmental Affairs (1990).

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