(EDITOR'S NOTE: Home-Grown Missions profiles missionaries, both full- and part-time, who grew up in area churches. As part of an on-going series, letters home from those serving on the mission field occasionally also will be published.)
One of the greatest lessons she learned as a child from her parents - unconditional love - Sue Hoxie now shares with others on the mission field.
Hoxie grew up in Jersey Shore where she attended the First United Methodist Church, but the greatest influence was her parents, Pauline and Mendy.
"My parents both have been believers since I was born and I would say their constant love and grace to me - because I really went off the deep end for awhile - and never rejecting me (was important). Their prayers for me to come back to the Lord - they were the biggest influence in my life," she said during a recent visit home.
"I grew up in the church and I would have told you I was a Christian, but when I was 34, in 1990, I recognized I had tried everything, done everything that I thought would make me happy and at that point I was at rock bottom and thought I'm going to go back to church and try that," Hoxie shared.
"I always tried to be good and make people think that I was good. It was important what people thought about me, but I never really understood how I could be good. When I was about 25 I basically turned my back on God intentionally and said I'm sick of the roller-coaster ride of trying to be good and failing and trying to be good and failing and I'm not even going to try anymore so, good-bye. I totally turned my back on God for about nine years," she continued.
NAME: Sue Hoxie
HOME CHURCH: Jersey Shore First United Methodist
HOMETOWN: Jersey Shore
HIGH SCHOOL: Jersey Shore Area High School (1974)
COLLEGE: Penn State University (1977) (degree in animal science), Boston University (1982) (master's degree in business administration)
SENDING ORGANIZATION: Greater Europe Mission, Monument, Colo.
MISSION FIELD: Europe
START DATE: June 2006
BLOG SITES: suznewz.com
"I got to the point where I didn't have anything else to try. I asked myself, 'is this it? What am I going to do with my life? Where is meaning? Where is hope?' I had a lot of depression and despair.
"I started to go back to church and the Gospel message finally grasped me, that God said to me 'I knew that you couldn't be good, that's why I sent Jesus and that's why you need Him to be your Lord and Savior.' Over that period I really gave my life to Him," Hoxie said.
She already had earned a degree in animal science from Penn State and a master's degree in business administration from Boston University. Hoxie also spent a number of years in the U.S. Army as a mental health counselor.
"Because I had lived in Europe for eight years prior to that (1990), and just lived the wild life there, I knew what life was like there without God and I wanted to go back," she said.
Took short-term trips
That resulted in several short-term mission trips over the next few years to Germany, Russia and Belarus.
"God kept increasing the desire in my heart to go and really serve Him full-time in Europe," she said. But it didn't happen overnight.
The crux of her struggle came late in 2003 when she realized she was more concerned with making a good living - not being poor - than fully following God's plan for her.
Convinced after reading a scripture in Isaiah 55, she said, "Yes, Lord, I want you to change my heart."
Interestingly, on the very same day, she was offered a job in which she could make "a lot of money," she also was offered an opportunity to go and serve with Greater Europe Mission (GEM), based in Monument, Colo.
"It was like God laid it out to me and said, 'I have changed your heart. Now, which one are you going to choose?' It was like no contest. The job totally lost its luster. All I wanted to do was go and serve Him in Europe and raise my own support. I felt like if I didn't make that decision, I would have blown the whole purpose for my life. That's how powerful it was when He called me to go," she said.
The application process and orientation took about a year-and-a-half before she hit the mission field full-time in June 2006.
Fluent in speaking German, Hoxie returned there and worked with a department of GEM that develops and shares resources with national partners, such as putting Moody Bible correspondence courses into an online format so Bible schools in Europe can offer online training.
She also worked a lot in the Ukraine, developing courses and programming in native languages, to establish Bible schools there.
Heart for evangelism
"I have a heart for evangelism and discipleship and we created a computer outreach program and I led five teams and worked with a church in the Ukraine setting up a computer center where a lot of non-believers came. We would teach them how to use computers and then also share the Gospel. We had a number of people who would connect with churches there as well as give their lives to Christ," Hoxie said.
Working with her local church and its pastor in Mulheim, Germany, she developed discipleship courses and in the evening taught believers, helping empower them to reach out into their own communities to connect with non-believers.
The greatest challenge Hoxie has faced, she said, "is really to listen to God every day and understanding what His expectations are for me that day. There are so many things we could do. There are so many lost people there. Only about 2 percent of the population is believers and you see needs everywhere. It is so critical to spend time with Him (in prayer) every day, just lay the day out before Him and say 'Father, which are the things that You have planned for me today and please protect me from the things that are just distractions.' "
She counts the relationships she has built with both believers and non-believers as her greatest blessings.
"There is joy in seeing believers really catch the vision for the Great Commission and the other joy is seeing non-believers meet Jesus," Hoxie said.
Spent time at home
For much of the past six months (until March 16), Hoxie was stateside, visiting family here, in Maryland and in Virginia. During that time she also tried to visit more than 60 churches and individuals who support her work while continually seeking others who might want to join in her ministry.
"I try to share a lot of the concepts that we've been learning about discipleship. A lot of people are interested in learning how they can do things differently so they can both follow Jesus and fish for men," she said.
Due to government regulations, Hoxie can't return to Germany until September, so she will spend the next month working in Ireland and then several more months in the Ukraine. In both of those countries she will help organize discipleship training conferences.
When she returns to Germany she will be in Frankfurt, one of the country's larger cities where the immigrant population is about 33 percent, working with the Church for All Nations, among other ministries including one to prostitutes, another to gangs and to those with drug and alcohol problems.
"The churches will be more like house churches, which will be ethnically similar," she said. "We want to help people who are going to lead these groups learn to apply the basic Biblical principles to their culture (Indonesian, Spanish, one English and two German) and twice a month (they) will come together for a multi-cultural worship service," Hoxie said. "Discipleship training takes place in the smaller intimate house groups. Then we come together as all nations to worship God. I'm so excited to get there."
"It is a job that only God can do and we can just be little players as He leads us and guides us and gives us wisdom. If I can do this the rest of my life I'll die really happy," Hoxie said.
Again reflecting on the role her parents have played in her life, she said, "I know how much I needed (unconditional love). The grace my parents showed me is such an example of the grace that Jesus shows us and we need to show others. I think about how patient Jesus was with me for so many years when I rejected Him and it makes me just hurt. He was just sitting there loving me and waiting for me with open arms."
Hoxie now bases her life on Philippians 1:1-8: " 'And we should have the attitude of Christ. He did not consider equality with God something to grasp but humbled Himself to be a servant and appeared in human form and was obedient, even to death on the cross.' That is the example I want to follow in my life," she said.
"We (missionaries) really need prayer. We need people's prayers. We can't do anything without the people here praying for us," she added.
Carpenter is the Sun-Gazette religion editor.