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Esther Hoffman

Retired Missionary to Burundi
"Healing Lives and Fixing Problems"
By Joey Nunez, Intern, August 2014

Born to missionary parents serving in Agana, Guam, Esther felt called into missionary service at an early age. “I knew God loved those people as much as He loved us, and I knew the needs were great.” As an adult, she pursued higher education in the United States, graduating first from Evansville College (Indiana). She then earned her master’s degree in nursing from Yale School of Nursing (Connecticut) and her master’s degree in religious education from Asbury Theological Seminary (Kentucky).

In 1952, after applying with the National Holiness Missionary Society, now World Gospel Mission, Esther was appointed to the field of Urundi, now Burundi, as a missionary nurse. After a year’s study of French and tropical medicines in Belgium, she moved to Burundi in 1953.

Esther worked with a doctor for one year and then was mostly on her own, having only occasional contact with a doctor via radio transmission. “I loved the freedom we had to witness to the patients, and we had a service at the dispensary six days a week.”

Her first two terms of service were at Murore. In 1963, she was put in charge of the Murehe dispensary and supervised the Kayero dispensary for several months. Esther worked primarily with African dispensers to diagnose and treat illnesses, serving the Hutu and Tutsi tribes.

One day, she needed someone to accompany her to take patients to a government hospital. Her fellow missionary colleague Phil Hoffman offered to go with her, and he began regularly accompanying Esther on these trips and helped by holding a flashlight while she treated patients. Although not the most romantic of settings, that’s how they fell in love! Phil and Esther were married in 1976 and continued to serve as missionaries together in Burundi.

Born in Peoria, Illinois, Phil grew up in a Christian home, and he accepted Jesus at the age of 12. Before graduating from Vennard College (Iowa), he accepted God’s challenge to offer himself up for missionary service. After pastoring churches for 12 years, he acted on this challenge by meeting WGM’s need for a builder to serve in Burundi; he moved there in 1966.

While in Burundi, Phil’s work included construction on church buildings, missionary homes, and medical facilities. He also received frequent requests to repair generators, water plants, and other equipment. Esther recalled that during business meetings, Mildred Newman, another missionary to Burundi, would say, “We need to get Phil Hoffman out here, because he knows how to fix things.”

Apart from his work in construction and repairs, Phil also directed Vacation Bible School programs, taught Sunday School, preached in churches, and served as a counselor. Toward the end of his ministry, he served as the field director.

After 35 years of combined service in Burundi with WGM, Phil and Esther retired in 1987 and moved to Marion, Indiana, but they didn’t stop being missionaries. For 20 years, the Hoffmans hosted a Child Evangelism Fellowship Good News Club in their home and on their lawn during the school year and summer seasons. Phil also served as pastor of Back Creek Friends Church in Fairmount, Indiana. He passed away on August 9, 2014, and Esther passed away on November 22, 2019.

“I am just so thankful that salvation is for the whole world, that anyone can accept Christ if they’re willing,” said Esther before she passed. “It was a privilege to serve God in Africa.”

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