Posted on Thu, Feb 18, 2016
Mike Hoffman tells his faith story
It was the lowest moment of his life.
In the late 1990s, Michael Hoffman entered a United Methodist church in Powder Springs, Georgia. At the time, he had no money. The only food in his home consisted of two cans of water chestnuts. He was an alcoholic. He needed help, and he knew it.
When he told the church secretary his situation, she suggested he talk to a woman named Carolyn Black. Carolyn gave him money for gas and asked that he return with a receipt for her. It was the first step in Mike’s journey with Methodism. As time passed, the church helped him to walk away from alcoholism. He gave up smoking. He became whole.
That’s how Mike became a United Methodist, so when he moved to Toledo, he naturally began attending other United Methodist churches. He originally belonged to the former Oakdale United Methodist Church, which transformed itself into Unity UMC. Later, when he again found himself looking for a church, he went first to Rossford United Methodist, the next closest United Methodist church to his home.
He remembers that first visit clearly. The sermon – given that day by a visiting preacher – wasn’t the best he had heard. Parts of the church building itself didn’t impress him. He began to wonder if Rossford was the church for him. But then he heard the choir, more than 30 strong at the time, and he knew he had come home. An untrained, yet talented singer, he approached the choir director immediately following the service and asked if he could join.
“We practice on Thursday nights,” she responded.
He showed up, and he has been singing ever since.
“Church is my life,” Mike said. “It’s freedom, consolation, a safe place where I can go. This world will gobble you up. When I go to church, I come in with bites out of me. Then I become whole again.”
Two weeks after that first visit, Mike heard Pastor Bob Ball preach, and he knew he had made the right choice.
“Other churches had pounded the Bible into my head,” Mike said, “but Pastor Bob spoke the gospel on my level.”
Mike soon discovered that the church’s ministry reached far beyond the words spoken by its pastor. When he had back surgery, he received a prayer quilt filled with the good wishes and prayers of members of the church. He also found himself inundated with cards, letters, and e-mails.
“I didn’t even know most of the people,” he said, “but it was like they knew me.
In less than five years, Mike has become a congregational fixture, sitting on the church’s board of trustees and its worship committee. As a trustee he helped to rebuild the church’s bell tower. A leaking roof had allowed water to rot a wooden wheel that was used to ring the bell. It had not rung in 25 years. Mike was able to salvage only one or two pieces of the original wheel, and he used those pieces to create a cardboard template of a whole wheel.
“I had never made a round wheel before,” he said.
He and another member guided a contractor who built a platform where they could place the nearly half-ton bell while they installed the new wheel and new bearings. Now Rossford’s bell proudly announces worship every Sunday.
As a new member of the board of trustees, Mike suggested that the church needed to renovate its Family Life Center. The changes were going to be costly, particularly the cost of special sound-absorbing panels, and trustees worried about that.
“I guess we’ll just have to sell more hot dogs at church fund-raisers,” the church’s kitchen director said.
Using almost all volunteer labor, Mike and others did nearly all the work, including repairing the ceiling, redesigning a stage area, repairing and painting the walls, and installing sound-absorbing panels for about $10,000.
Mike, who is now retired, lives near the church with his wife. He had returned to northern Ohio, to the Tiffin area, when his father became ill, and then moved on to Toledo after he met Gerri, and he married her shortly after that. He has two sons and a daughter, all grown and living independently.
“I know in my very core,” Mike said, “that this journey was orchestrated by my Lord. He led me to Carolyn Black; he led me to Gerry… to the choir at Rossford. I know this because every time I take the wheel, I end up in a thorny ditch. I know he is in charge of my every move and that I am in God’s love and grace.”
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