Continuing Education

By Janett Miller
By Isaac Harris
By Charlyn Valencia
By Chad Golden
By Bruce Riley
By Jonathan Cortina
By Kuruvilla (K.O.) Oommen
By John Dyer
By Abe Paul
By Jennifer Durrett
By Penny Jones
By Amy Owen
By Jill Asibelua
By Madi McGraw
By Jared Barnett
By Paul Martin
By Jeremy Varnell
By Norm Headlam
By Kristi Herring
By Alban Snider
By Sissy Mathew
By Oscar Camacho, Jr
By Shannon Pugh
By Al Palamara
By Don Robb
By Mike Pope
By Melanie Mechsner
By Kyla Mikusek
By Michelle Garza
By Armando Galvan
By Jeremiah Betron
By Camille Holland
By Rod Myers
By Shannon Lewis
By Chase Studdard
By Crystal Elwell
By Darcy Peterson
By Jason Elwell
By Amy Aupperlee
By Tiffany Stein
By Barry Jones
By Erin Hargrave
By Bryan Eck
By Tricia Kinsman
By Jason Stein
By Nat Pugh
By Sarah Kemper
By Dana Myers
By Craig Pierce
By Jim Woodward
By Lindsey Sobolik
By Scott McClellan
By Andy McQuitty
By Pete Hyndman
By Kevin Dial
By Sherene Joseph
By Earl Davidson
By Rebecca Perry
By Joe Padilla
By Christian Melendez
By Bruce Riley
By Isaac Harris
By Amy Leadabrand
By Ben Haile
By Shaun Robinson
By Natalie Franks
By Cathy Barnett
By Ryan Sanders
By Casey Pruet, The Grace Alliance
By Sharon Arrington
By Lauren Chapin
By Betsy Paul
By Alberto Negron
By Kelly Jarrell
By Michelle Mayes
By Jenn Wright
By Jill Jackson
By Terri Moore
By Robyn Wise
By Katherine Holloway
By Richard Ray
By Kurtlery Knight
By Bruce Hebel
By Neil Tomba
By Tony Bridwell
By Grayson McGovern
By Luke Donohoo
By Kathy Whitthorne
By Mike Moore
By Wade Raper
By Mike Gwartney
By Jo Saxton
By Dieula Previlon
By Jonathan Cude
By Ken Lawrence
By Jay Hohfeler
By Barb Haesecke
By Lindsay Casillas
By JoAnn Hummel
By Shawn Small
By Alice McQuitty
By Jonathan Murphy
By Peggy Norton
By Brent McKinney
By Irving Bible Church
By Irving Bible Church
By Ashley Tieperman
By Betsy Nichols
By Trey Grant
By Debbie Lucien
By Sue Edwards
By Suzie Robinson
By Paul Smith

Jay Hohfeler is not an impressive figure. He’s 5'5" and slight. He dresses conservatively and smiles affably. But when he talks about suffering — about 130 days in a hospital bed — about a bone marrow transplant, one of the most painful treatments available — about the doctors who gave him a five percent chance of survival — he seems to embody strength. 

Jay is 59, married to Beth, and father to three daughters in their teens and twenties. They have attended IBC for nine years. In 2009, he retired from an executive position at Verizon and took a job as the director of a community school serving a low-income area of West Dallas. Everything seemed to be working for him. He had a beautiful family and a successful career that allowed him to retire early and give his second half to charitable causes. 

And then he almost lost it all. 

“My doctor still uses my scans to show his students,” Jay says, pointing to imaginary medical imaging on the wall at CUPPA. “Now, THAT’s lymphoma.” 

It was Stage Four, the worst his doctor had ever seen. Jay’s body was riddled with tumors. For the next three years, Jay would fight the cancer trying to kill him, then fight the treatment that nearly killed him, then fight God who was killing his idols. In the first year, he underwent chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. The second year Jay’s system rejected the transplant, which meant that his immune system was attacking his own body. His digestive system started to shut down. The lining in his intestines was stripped away. He developed cataracts and diabetes. He couldn’t eat or drink by mouth for six weeks. The doctors responded by giving him huge doses of steroids, which led to other problems. He broke six vertebrae and two ribs. He broke bones just by getting dressed.

But suffering is a maturing agent, and half an hour with Jay unveils sage wisdom. It seems appropriate that Jay had been the headmaster of a school when his suffering started; it frames his lessons with an academic character. 

Here are the lessons of the Hohfeler School of Holy Suffering.

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Chapter 1:

It’s God’s fault. And that’s OK.

“God ordains suffering,” Jay says with an ironic smile. “That’s the first thing I learned. God either sent this to me or allowed it to be sent. It’s not like he wished it could have been different but couldn’t stop it. And so I thought, ‘If God ordained this, he is going to do something good.’ That didn’t mean that I knew that I would live. I didn’t know that. It meant he was going to make sense out of it. That settled me down. That got me through the hardest part of the cancer.” 

That may seem like the wrong kind of news to settle someone down, but Jay is at peace with paradox.

“One of my favorite scriptures is Isaiah 45:3:
‘I will give you the treasures of darkness
And hidden wealth of secret places,
So that you may know that it is I,
The Lord, the God of Israel,
who calls you by your name.’

Things that we run from and never want — he will give us treasures in that darkness.” 

Chapter 2:

Our loved ones need us, not our abundance.

“My first reaction when I heard I had cancer was to think of my life insurance policy,” Jay says. “I thought, ‘Beth and the kids will be set for life and I’ll go be with Jesus. This is a great plan!’ But what that revealed was that I had made an idol of money. I thought my highest value was in providing. I was the rich fool storing up grain in his barns.” 

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Chapter 3:

Our worth is not dependent on performance.

“I had this hole in my heart from childhood,” Jay says readily. He doesn’t shilly-shally over matters of faith or medicine. He’s past being modest about embarrassing topics, be they catheters or his sin nature. 

“My parents were emotionally distant. Over time, I always wondered if they loved me. I had a hole in my heart. When I got married, I thought that was going to fix this hole I had been carrying around. But, as it turned out, the pain was the same. I had to wonder, ‘Does she love me? Does she think about me?’ She did, of course, but I couldn’t receive it.

“Then at one point, when I had no hair, had lost 30 pounds, my mind was addled to the point where I couldn’t carry on a conversation. I was no longer the provider, no longer the funny guy. When I was at that point there was this day when she said, ‘I love you so much. You’re the bravest man I know.’ She said those things when I had nothing to offer. I would have paid a million bucks for that. The hole in my heart finally got fixed.”

Chapter 4:

God is not absent. 

“When I was in the hospital and didn’t think I would get out, I forgot what God was like. I had been a Christian for 40 years at this point. But I kind of got to thinking in the fog of all this, ‘Does God want to intervene, or is it some deist kind of thing where he’s not really engaged?’ 

So I thought, ‘This is what I’ll do: I’ll go to the scriptures and read one chapter a day and get my red pen out and underline every place where God intervened in someone’s life. Pretty soon, my Bible was filled with red. I saw that he’s good in these ways, he takes action in these ways. He gave Job this experience. He did this for David. And I realized who he is again.”

Chapter 5:

Suffering is not the ultimate evil. 

“I would do this again,” he says. “I was really changed. The hole in my heart got fixed. I reattached with my family. I learned how to walk in excruciating suffering. Wouldn’t you do that?

I’m not a spiritual giant; I’m only saying what anyone would say. If anyone had been through what I have been through and had been changed like I have, they would absolutely say, ‘I would do it again.’” 

Jay is quick to point out that his story might have ended differently. These chapters in his journey are, in fact, equally as important to someone about to die as someone about to be rescued from death. For much of his battle with lymphoma, Jay didn’t know which ending his story would have. 

These days, the institutions where Jay has invested move along without his service. Verizon is still selling phones. The West Dallas Community School is still graduating students in an area of great need. And IBC has rumbled along with its ministry. But there may be something in Jay’s unofficial course of study that all three could learn from. The most profound lessons in life may be those learned through the most profound pain. And the greatest sages among us may present in people we would never expect. 

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