Every Monday night, Irene Blumhagen, 86, looks forward to the hugs from her “boys.” These men, parolees in a Christian rehabilitation program, join Blumhagen’s neighbors for a Bible study she leads at the senior living facility where she lives. This night, Blumhagen is pulled aside by one man who tells her how much the weekly Bible study has changed his life, inspiring him to make better decisions than the ones that landed him in prison.
Hers is a life devoted to ministry—one that bears fruit out of her many years of struggle. When she tells people about Jesus, it’s in the spirit of her late husband, Dale, who was a pastor and evangelist. For eight years they ministered side by side, leading many people to Christ. But in 1971, at the age of 43, Dale suffered a heart attack and died. She never remarried.
A few years after Dale’s death, Blumhagen was driving a group of teens to a party when a deer ran into the side of the car, sending it off the road. Though everyone survived the wreck, doctors had to amputate one of Blumhagen’s arms. Ever since, she’s had to type out her Bible study notes with one hand.
For inspiration and teaching ideas, Blumhagen turns to Dr. Stanley, whom she’s watched for decades. One of his most recent books, Wisdom from Above, has comforted her on sleepless nights and provided rich material for a study she developed on Proverbs. “Charles Stanley has been my mentor for many, many years,” she said.
Blumhagen spends hours preparing notes for each study attendee. Later she will slide leftover copies under the doors of residents who’ve shown a spiritual interest in the past. She considers the senior living facility her mission field— 650 residents, many of whom aren’t Christians. One day in the elevator, she struck up a conversation with a Jewish man who struggles with suicidal thoughts. Blumhagen asked if she could give him the weekly study, and he agreed, later telling her the material touched him deeply.
For a decade she taught in a women’s prison, but for health reasons, she had to equip two female leaders to take over. Considering them spiritual daughters, she mentors them as they continue the program. Blumhagen hopes her investment in creating Bible studies over the years will continue to be used to disciple others. “One of these days the Lord will call me home, but my legacy is what I put in print.”