People who know Hollas and Nelda Hoffman from their pastoral work at Eastside Baptist Church know that the couple are a great team who are dedicated to the ministry of others.
But when they felt the calling to leave Eastside and venture into ministering for oilfield workers and their families, they might have become an even greater team.
The Baptist General Convention of Texas recently endorsed the Hoffmans as Texas Baptists’ first oil patch chaplains to meet the pastoral care needs of the oilfield folks, a move that has broadened the Hoffman’s ministerial spectrum and opened their eyes to a future they never imagined.
And now that the Hollas and Nelda are “settled in,” they are spreading the good word to everyone they meet as they wear their faith, hope and love on their sleeves.
They were with Eastside for almost eight years, and have been ministering in the oil patch for almost six months.
“It’s absolutely wonderful,” Hollas says of his and Nelda’s new endeavor. “We didn’t know what to expect. Some people thought I had some background in the oilfield, but I didn’t. We know people, and we know Jesus, and what we’re trying to do is bridge the gap between them.”
The Hoffmans say they felt a definite call to the oilfield, but at first didn’t know how to go about it.
“We just went out and strived to build relationships,” Hollas says. “The task was to find out what people’s needs were, then plug in and try to help them.”
“Basically we just want to extend care, concern and compassion,” Nelda says. “That’s how you connect with someone and build a relationship. We had a company that needed truck drivers, so we had a group prayer for them, and two days later they had six drivers.”
During their first week of ministry, Hollas and Nelda met a man on a saltwater site whose wife was bringing him some lunch one day.
“She was about eight-and-a-half months pregnant, and we met with her for about 30 minutes,” Hollas recalls. “When the baby was born, we were there at her bedside.”
When the Gillette explosion occurred, the Hoffmans visited the injured worker at the hospital. And when one oilfield worker’s wife suffered a stroke, they visited her at the hospital as well.
“We prayed for her, and have stayed in touch with her ever since,” Nelda says. “We were able to take food to her, and get meals she could freeze so her husband could prepare them as she wasn’t able to cook at that time. But she’s gotten better as time’s gone on.”
While the Hoffmans enjoy ministering in the oil patch, they stress the vantage point that they don’t see their job as taking the place of local churches.
“We definitely don’t look at it in that regard,” Hollas says. “But we make every effort to minister to these folks. We find out what their desires and denominations are, and try to connect them with a church so they can do a follow-up.”
Another early episode included the Hoffmans driving up on an oilfield company and noticing the security gate was open.
“We drove right on in,” Nelda remembers. “A lady came up and asked us how we got in, and we told her.”
“She said she was surprised because the gate is never open,” Hollas continues. “I told her, ‘Well - it’s open today!’ We then asked her if we could meet her safety manager, and we got to do that. They just so happened to be having a safety meeting in the next 20 minutes, so we joined in the meeting and got to tell them what we do.”
Above all, Hollas and Nelda strive to make themselves available to a wide array of human needs, whether its an accident, death, marriage problems or financial needs.
“If its beyond our area of expertise, we’ll try to find someone who can help them,” Hollas says.
When the Hoffmans were about to leave the site, they discovered the gate was locked, and had to have someone come up to let them out.
“The Good Lord opened the door for us, but he made us work our way out!” Nelda says with a chuckle.
Hollas, who just turned 70, says he and Nelda knew they wanted to continue to minister, but weren’t sure they wanted to continue to pastor at Eastside.
“So as we began to pray about this, the opportunity to do oil patch ministry opened up for us,” Hollas says. “There’s nothing against Eastside - in fact, it’s probably the most wonderful church I’ve ever pastored for.”
Word spread quickly that the Hoffmans were going out to the oil patch, and when their director of missions mentioned it to a gentleman named Fred Ater, Ater invited the two to dinner a few nights later.
“We met with him, and he said he’d been praying for three years for someone to minister in the oil patch because of all the things he had seen going on in the area,” Nelda recalls. “So that confirmed that we had left the church and that God had a hand in it.”
The Hoffmans are recruiting others to join them in oil patch ministry - a task they are finding to be quite fruitful as they learn what a lot of oilfield people are really like.
“At this time we have eight chaplains, and are interviewing two more tonight - a couple,” Hollas explains. “We like to work with couples a lot. It seems like it works so much better with them. And we all have heard how rough the oilfield was, but they all greet us with open arms. It’s a very community-like atmosphere.”
To be sure, Hollas and Nelda are thrilled to be living in the moment, and it seems their new approach to ministry is showing promise for a bright future; not just for them, but for anyone in the oil patch who’s willing to lend an ear.
“It’s such a daily thing,” Hollas says. “Every time we turn around - every morning we wake up - it’s something different. We’re very pleased to be a part of God’s plan at this point in our lives. I want to finish strong.