Dr. Marina Hofman, an adjunct professor in the School of Ministry, is in awe of how God has used her testimony in the lives of her students while it was still unfolding.
Hofman and her husband, Larry Willard, were nearly killed in a horrific car crash in 2014 in Ontario, Canada. Though they miraculously survived, the recovery was long and arduous. Hofman had a debilitating fear of driving and had to relearn basic functions. She practiced for her first few classes at PBA in front of the mirror in an attempt not to stutter so hard when she began teaching at a new school in a new country.
“A few weeks in, the Holy Spirit convicted me that I had so many students right there in front of me who were struggling with these things,” such as anxiety and depression, Hofman said.
She decided to step out in faith and share her testimony.
“I was shaking the whole time; I was so nervous. I don’t think I even looked up,” Hofman said. When she finally did, some of her students were in tears. Afterward, others wrote her letters pouring out their hearts.
“That profoundly impacted me,” Hofman said. “My mind was also very aware that God had done this for a reason and not just for myself.”
Still, she struggled with certain tasks, such as dividing up the class into equally-sized groups. Occasionally, she forgot a word while teaching. But instead of dreading these moments, Hofman and her class came to bond over them. Students were eager to volunteer to help.
“Healing came to me because they fully accepted me how I was,” Hofman said. “It humanized me. It totally changed my attitude from shame to ‘This is who I am.’”
Hofman was able to empathize with her students more deeply. One student was a veteran who had experienced trauma. He would arrive on campus and find himself unable to get out of the car. Not wanting to interrupt class when he did finally work up the ability to get out of the car 20 minutes after the scheduled start, he stopped showing up.
Hofman asked him what was preventing him from getting to class, and when he explained, she began meeting him in the parking lot. They walked to class together. He never missed class again.
“That ability to know he wasn’t alone and someone understood his frustrations made a different,” Hofman said. “To me it was small, and it was extremely powerful.”
When she speaks with students, particularly those on the path to chaplaincy, she emphasizes the importance of scripture. She recalled a time when she was recovering in the hospital, desperate for any reading from the Bible. The chaplain who visited her didn’t have or bring a Bible, book of psalms or a New Testament. She dismissed the chaplain.
“I was so desperate,” Hofman said. “You have no idea when a person is at death’s door the words of life that you bring through God’s Word.”
Hofman has also spoken to online nursing students about her ordeal, as well as student athletes. She credits the undefeated men’s soccer team a few years back for helping lift her from depression. After two years of not genuinely smiling, “I couldn’t help but accidentally smile at their games,” Hofman said. “I appreciate the athletes because they helped me overcome the dark clouds that were over me.”
One cloud that lingered was the expectation that the young Hofman could never have children. Eventually, Hofman did get pregnant with her daughter, Willow. In utero, the baby kicked for 18 hours a day, every day. Six months into the pregnancy, Hofman had no scar tissue remaining in her torso, and the pregnancy hormones alleviated her depression. Little Willow brought both physical and emotional healing.
She enjoys being a mom and continues to teach at PBA. She recently published a new book Women in the Bible Small Group Bible Study highlighting the leadership, strength and character of women in the Bible. There is an accompanying video series.
Hofman’s husband’s recovery remains ongoing. He threw himself on top of Hofman to protect her and, in doing so, saved his own life. Police investigators said that if Willard had remained in the driver’s seat, the engine would have crushed him. Every day, they thank God for his life.
Hofman has a word for those who are still amid the struggle.
“God did not deliver me from anxiety and depression over days, over weeks, over months. It took years,” she said. “Keep going day by day, step by step.”
She has a message, too, for the teachers, counselors, chaplains, coaches and physical therapists: “We can be instruments of healing in whatever we do. When someone is in a bad place, it is life-transforming.”
Concluded Hofman: “Sometimes being Christ’s ambassador is as easy as telling our stories about God’s faithfulness.”