Declaring God’s Strength To The Next Generation

O God, You have taught me from my youth,
And I still declare Your wondrous deeds.
And even when I am old and gray, O God, do not forsake me,
Until I declare Your strength to this generation,
Your power to all who are to come.

Psalm 71:17 & 18
Ula and my daughter Megan

At the church where I grew up (and still attend) there are many, many lives who have been touched in a wonderful way by a woman named Ula Hoffer. God took Ula home with Him quite a few years ago now (when she was at the ripe old age of 98) but her name still comes up regularly in conversations. She has long been one of my role models and I thought it would be fun to tell you about her and share some things I think we can all learn from her.

One of Ula’s life theme verses was Psalm 71:17 & 18 (quoted above) and she lived it out. She was all about pointing the next generation to Jesus. Our church didn’t have an official youth group leader when I was a teen. We have often joked that it was Ula. But that isn’t really a joke, in so many ways she was. She mentored us, encouraged us, planned parties and campouts, challenged us to grow in our knowledge of the Bible and showed us what is was to really love others. And all this while she was a widow in her 70’s, 80’s and beyond.

To Influence Others, First Work on Your Own Relationship with Jesus

If we want others to know about the great God with have and the good news of Jesus then we need to be well acquainted with it ourselves. A dry tree cannot bear fruit. We need to be connected to the source of living water. Here was Ula’s example in this:

  • Ula read the Bible daily. Her habit was to read through it twice in a year. She was paying attention to what God was saying to her.
  • Ula spent time in prayer daily. She liked to write in her prayer journal every day. She also took the time to pray with others.
  • Ula memorized God’s word. This was something she also worked on daily and had large amount of verses memorized.
  • Ula made church attendance a priority and spending time with other Christians.

To Influence Others, Love Them Like Jesus Loves Them

I think for so many of us “kids” (in our 20’s to 50’s now) that grew up under Ula’s influence it was that knowledge that she really, really cared about us that was so influential in our life. Here are just a few ways she showed that love:

  • Remembering our birthdays. My whole life, until Ula’s death, I got a birthday card from her. When I was small there was a pair of fancy homemade underwear in it which yes, we have laughed about when we remember but still that was something she was good at making and we were remembered. As we got older it was a $2 bill or 2 coins worth $1 each. Ula was far from rich but made the effort to remember our birthday in a special way.
  • Acting so happy whenever she saw us – whether we greeted her at church or came to her home – she would give us the biggest smile.
  • Listening to us. She wanted to know what was going on in our lives.
  • Being incredibly generous. She was always looking to share what she had with others. It might be food, it might be fresh fruit or veggies from her farm, it might be a plant or a book or some other treasure that she found at her place. They weren’t expensive things but things that let us know that she was thinking about us.

To Influence Others, Practice Hospitality

Ula’s home was a mobile home on a basement with a little entry way. It was not fancy. She did keep it clean and I always felt incredibly welcomed. Ula was great at hospitality…

  • When I was a kid Ula would host campouts for all the kids from church. She was in her 70s but she would sleep in a tent in her yard just like all of us kids. She also cooked potato soup and cinnamon rolls for those campouts. She would also play “baseball” with us. I love, love, love how she didn’t consider herself too old to do those things.
  • She would invite us over to watch election returns with her and of course feed us.
  • She would have us over to play games (and eat!).
  • She would host a big Hay Ride party every fall to which all of us from church and as many friends as we could invite would come and roast hotdogs and marshmallows and ride on a haywagon while singing out through her fields.
  • She let one of my friends live with her several months.
  • She took in well over 100 foster kids.

To Influence Others, Live Joyfully

Though the fig tree may not blossom,

Nor fruit be on the vines;

Though the labor of the olive may fail,

And the fields yield no food;

Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,

And there be no herd in the stalls—

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord,

I will joy in the God of my salvation.

The Lord God is my strength;

He will make my feet like deer’s feet,

And He will make me walk on my high hills.

Habakkuk 3:17-19

This was another of “Ula’s Verses”. (One she had a personalized version to as well). She lived this out. Ula gave big smiles and just lived joyfully. Even when my kids and I went to visit her when she was dying in the hospital she still took the energy to joke around with my kids and try to spread some joy. I believe she was such a big influence on so many of our lives in part because of her joyful spirit.

It was a huge blessing to have had such a role model in my life. I hope you also will be blessed by learning a little about her. If you would like to read more you can check out my tribute to her following her death in 2012.


  1. Beautiful! Thank you for sharing.

  2. Carolyn Sheridan

    Thankyou, Abbi. Here in Elmira, there was a Christian who sounds like your Ula. Dorcas was a retired school teacher and she was a great influence on me as a young, single mother. I am so thankful for the Ula’s and Dorcas’s in the church. I’m so glad you shared your memories; it helped me reflect on my sweet friend Dorcas, who also went to be with the Lord quite a few years ago.

  3. What an amazing lady, Ula was, and what an impact she had on you young people. I love reading about her. Thanks for sharing about her devotion to the Scripture and prayer, and how she spread joy with her smile and thoughtful cards and small gifts. What an inspiring lady, thanks for giving us a great example as we age.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *