Today a memorial service is being held at Olivet Baptist Church in Honolulu for Clifford Hoff who passed away on 16 January 2007. Pastor Hoff played an important role in the lives of many in Hawaii, California and beyond. He baptized my wife, Kathy, and married us. He encouraged and guided us in our 20+ years of mission service in Africa and continued to support us after our return to the U.S.A. in 2003. The following is my tribute to Pastor Hoff.
Clifford Hoff will be widely remembered for the great number of church leaders he inspired and discipled and for whom he provided a primary role model. His influence reaches around the world as they teach others as he taught them. I join in honoring him for that aspect of his ministry.
However, for me, the defining memory of Pastor Hoff's ministry occurred one Wednesday night at UABC [University Avenue Baptist Church, Honolulu] when he stood before a small group of exhausted church members struggling to arouse attentiveness for the message of challenge and encouragement they expected. Pastor Hoff looked us over and said, "I see a lot of you are really tired tonight. Don't feel bad if you fall asleep. That will be God's gift to you."
A pastor giving his blessing to those who fall asleep during his message? Unheard of! But Pastor Hoff was more concerned with the needs of his people than with impressing them with the great message he had worked so hard to prepare. That moment defined the ministry of Clifford Hoff for me. He always sought to minister to those in need. I am convinced that his most glorious crown in heaven comes as a reward for the numerous "failures" he never gave up on or rejected. The alcoholic who kept falling off the waggon. The emotionally disturbed person who always came to him with the same problems. Those who wanted to grow as disciples, but somehow seemed never to make progress. The ones so many of us reject as hopeless or as embarrassments to our ministries. Pastor Hoff always continued to encourage and console.
To me, Clifford Hoff is the incarnation of Jesus' words, "Inasmuch as you have done it to one of the least of these, you have done it unto me."
To God be the glory!