By Paula Schlueter Ross (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The Rev. Clint and Lalita Hoff feel like their lives have come full circle. The couple — he, from Alberta, Canada, and she, from Southern California — met on a mission trip to the Czech Republic, Ukraine and Slovakia some 22 years ago.
Today the Hoffs — along with their growing family (their eighth child is due in June) — are preparing to return to the Czech Republic as long-term LCMS missionaries. As Lalita puts it: “We’re a missionary team of soon-to-be 10” in a country that’s more than 80 percent atheist.
The Hoffs will join a handful of LCMS missionaries in Prague, where Clint will be pastor of the English congregation at St. Michael Lutheran Church. It’s a ministry to which he “absolutely, no doubt about it” feels God has called him, particularly because he did not seek it. Although Hoff, pastor of a dual parish in northern Wisconsin, believes in the value of overseas missions, he “thought our family size prohibited us from doing it.”
But God works in mysterious ways. Without telling him, a missionary friend gave Hoff’s name to Synod mission recruiters who called the surprised pastor last year during Holy Week, planting the seed.
“That started the conversation and the excitement,” he recalls, as well as the soul-searching: “Is this something God wants us to do?” And when the call to serve overseas came in October, Hoff was ready to say yes.
“I think this is a golden age for Lutheran mission work right now,” he told Reporter, and he is excited to be part of it. (To read more about the Hoffs, click here.)
Blessed for service
The Hoffs were among 10 new missionaries, their seven spouses and 19 children who completed a two-week orientation in St. Louis that culminated with a “Service of Sending” March 11 in the International Center chapel.View Photo Gallery
In his sermon based on John 6:1-15, which relates Jesus’ miracle of the loaves and fishes, the Rev. James Krikava, LCMS regional director for Eurasia, recalled seeing a sculpture of a pelican in a 1,000-year-old church in England and its significance to early Christians, who saw the birds pressing their bills into their chests to empty the fish from their pouches while feeding their young and mistakenly thought they were stabbing themselves to provide their own flesh and blood to their offspring.
They were wrong about the pelicans, “but their theology was right on,” said Krikava, observing that “Jesus feeds His church with His presence.”
Addressing the missionaries, Krikava said, “On this most joyous day, as you are being sent into the world to bring the precious Gospel to the lost, let your witness be as bold as your Lutheran confession. Let your mercy and compassion flow in and out of your witness. And may these two grow into the new life together with those drawn to the Savior with you, in the communion of the saints, miraculously fed by the Good Pelican, Jesus Christ, Our Lord.”
LCMS Chief Mission Officer Rev. Kevin Robson brought greetings on behalf of Synod President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, who could not attend the service because he was traveling. Robson urged the missionaries to remember, as they depart St. Louis for far-flung locations worldwide, “as part of the one body of Christ, you are taking a ‘piece’ of us with you. And in that ‘peace,’ know that our hopes and our dreams and our love and our prayers accompany you.”
At the orientation, held twice a year, new missionaries learn about such things as staying healthy on the field, adapting to an unfamiliar culture, missiology, church relations, communications and developing a network of support.
Missionaries are, notes the Rev. John Fale, an indispensable part of the Synod.
“The LCMS is a mission church body. It has been this way since our humble beginnings,” explains Fale, executive director of the Synod’s Office of International Mission (OIM). “The sending of missionaries and telling the story of what our Lord Jesus continues to do in His church and in the world through their service is a healthy reminder to us of why we exist and what should be our priority for strategy, operations and budget.”
‘We go with full support’
Missionary Rev. Brian Gauthier, who will be serving alongside the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Panama to provide theological education to pastors, seminarians and deaconesses, said the OIM did a good job of “theologically equipping us for mission, but also helping us deal with some of the more practical things, like culture shock [and] showing that there is care for missionaries.”
Gauthier — who will be the only LCMS missionary in Panama — said it’s comforting to know that there are staff in St. Louis and in the Latin America and Caribbean Region who are just a phone call away with help and support.
“It’s good to know that we go … with full support of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod as we share the Word of God and give God’s people Jesus’ gifts.”
Accompanying him in Panama will be his wife, Amanda, and son, Ezra, 10 months, who is “excited” about the move “we think,” jokes Gauthier. “But he’s excited about everything.” (To read more about the Gauthiers, click here.)
‘A lifelong dream’
Krista Young, a director of Christian education (DCE) for 22 years, said she is excited to finally be fulfilling a lifelong dream of becoming a missionary. Young, who lived in Papua New Guinea with her missionary parents (Richard and Loretta Adler) until age 12, never thought she would stay in the States after her DCE training at Concordia University, St. Paul, Minn. But those plans were sidelined when she met and married Joel Young, a teacher.
Now the couple and their two teenage daughters are relocating to Ethiopia, where Krista will serve as a volunteer coordinator in partnership with the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY), Africa’s largest and fastest-growing Lutheran church, with some 7 million members.
Young’s 14-year-old daughter, Grace, said she thinks “it’s really cool” that her mom “finally gets to do that, and we can be a part of that with her.”
Krista Young will coordinate travel for LCMS pastors providing theological education to EECMY church workers, and will help the church body’s pastors identify their needs so that she can match those needs with short-term volunteers from LCMS congregations in the U.S.
She’s also looking forward to experiencing the “relational” culture in Ethiopia: “That fits my gifts really well,” Young said, “and we’re looking forward to building those relationships.”
She encourages Synod congregations to consider short-term mission opportunities or partnering with a missionary to enhance their mission programs. (To read more about the Youngs, click here.)
‘You can always tell about Jesus’
Fifteen-year-old Violette, the eldest of the seven Hoff children, believes “missionary work is definitely a good thing.
“But for those families who are not missionaries,” she adds, “just remember that you’re a missionary wherever you are because you can always tell people about Jesus.”
For more information about LCMS missionaries and opportunities to serve, click here.
Watch a video on mission support, “Miracles in the Middle of Nowhere,” about Mission Central, a mission support center of the LCMS, under Mission Advancement and operated in a 20-year partnership with the Synod’s Iowa West and Nebraska Districts.
Posted March 15, 2016 / Updated March 16, 2016