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“How could I make a difference? That’s what I was always asking” – Estaffan Hoffmann on his search for meaning in life, work and ministry

At 18 years old, Estaffan Hoffmann didn’t know what to do with his life. 

Then one day, while sitting behind his father as they rode their motorcycle through Petaling Jaya’s streets, the teenager looked up. 

“I saw an aeroplane making its way across the sky, and decided I wanted to be a pilot,” he said. 

This pivotal moment marked the genesis of Estaffan’s passion for aviation.

And perhaps, there was a deeper desire to find purpose beyond mere existence and a longing for freedom from life’s burdens.  

A difficult and lonely childhood

Estaffan was born in Kuala Lumpur of mixed heritage to an Eurasian father and a Chinese mother. 

His parents ran a business and were hardly at home, so he was raised by his helper until he was six years old. Life at home was not stable either. 

“My father was an abusive man and arguments at home would usually result in things tossed everywhere. When I was seven, he was arrested and went to lock-up,” Estaffan, now 36, recalled.

All he remembers is hiding in the back rooms of the house sobbing, missing his father and harbouring unanswered questions.

His family did not have much money so Estaffan grew up fixated on getting a good job that would help to pay the bills and support his siblings. 

Understandably, going into full-time ministry was never in the plan. 

Estaffan, 36, shares of God’s faithfulness in his life.

The genesis of his walk with God

Estaffan first stepped into a church when he was nine years old. His mother had been a staunch Taoist but once, in a desperate situation, sought a temple priest for answers only to be disappointed. 

That weekend, she brought the entire family to church. 

“We all got ‘saved’ that week,” Estaffan says with a chuckle. 

However, it was only when he was 12 years old that he personally accepted Jesus into his heart and began a relationship with his Lord and Saviour.

Since then, it has been a journey of mountains and valleys, but God never forsook him. 

Aviation career, Bible school or both?

After high school, Estaffan’s heart was set on taking to the skies. 

“I wanted to be a pilot, make money, support my siblings, get a home for my mum,” he said. His parents had eventually divorced when Estaffan was 18 years old.

“But in 2008 I met a couple who persuaded me to enter Bible college. They said, “Why not do theological studies first and then become a pilot so you can fly for Jesus?””

Not a bad idea, he thought. Wasting no time, he enrolled into a four-year Bible school programme. 

His time in Bible school was challenging and it caused him to question his future. He remembers giving up his dream of flying, feeling lost and confused. 

“I knew I didn’t want to be a pastor, missionary or in full-time ministry. So after working in church for a while, I pursued aircraft engineering and then worked in the aviation industry,” he said. 

On the side, he also worked with children with special needs and later, the refugee community. 

Those early years were a season of wandering, Estaffan said upon reflection. 

On a particular day when he was feeling hopeless and lost, he googled ‘missionary flying’ and Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) popped up. Wow, he thought.

“Although it was only three years later that I joined MAF, that was the start of God transforming my heart for missions,” he said. 

For a time, Estaffan worked in aviation — until God called him to something bigger.

A season of preparation for ministry

In 2018, Estaffan made a big shift. 

Embarking on a journey to discover God more, he left the aviation industry. Soon, he realised that a burden and love for missions was being birthed within.

In response to this prompting, he started exploring opportunities along this line and in 2019 began working as a house parent with an NGO serving refugees in Selangor. It was a life-changing experience for him. 

“I began working with the marginalised and displaced, those who had been left out of society. Drawing from my own life experiences and family background, I was able to connect with those under my care,” he said.

As a house parent, he lived with teenage refugee boys. It was not easy at first. 

“When I first came in, they were all segregated into their own groups based on culture and nationality. At mealtimes, they’d cook their own meals and ate on their own. I realised that had to change,” he said. 

He implemented a meal schedule that encouraged the boys to try cooking and eating different types of cuisine. He also realised that the dining tables were restricting the boys from mingling, so he made everyone sit on the floor. 

Slowly, the walls of unfamiliarity began to crumble and the boys became friends. 

Many of the boys also carried with them trauma and emotional baggage from their past and upbringing.

Because of his own life experiences and family history, Estaffan was able to connect with them in a meaningful way. 

“It was a time of growing in patience and love. How could I make a difference? That’s what I was always asking,” he remembers. 

Taking to the skies, God’s way

A year and a half later, Estaffan felt God’s call to step out again. He again remembered his chance-upon with MAF. 

MAF is a Christian organisation that supports Christian missionaries and humanitarian organisations with aviation, communications and learning technologies. 

Their staff and aeroplanes reach isolated, hard-to-access communities in remote islands and jungles. 

Estaffan applied for a house parent role with MAF in Papua New Guinea. It didn’t work out, so he tried applying for other roles. Still, nothing materialised. 

It was only when he surrendered it all to God that the door opened. 

His friend, who was working with MAF rang him that week and said she was transitioning out. She asked if he would like to take over her role? 

“And that’s how I ended up here, spreading awareness of MAF in Malaysia. I hope to recruit field workers, prayer partners and of course, donors to support the mission,” he explained. 

Estaffan (centre) with MAF colleagues.

MAF is constantly on the lookout for pilots, aircraft engineers, specialists in human resources, IT and operations, teachers, country managers, and the list goes on. 

“Today, I am serving isolated communities — people without access to the outside world. What I do supports and paves the way for them to receive the love of Christ and have their practical needs met,” Estaffan shared enthusiastically.

God’s strength and grace, ever-present

Estaffan acknowledges God’s guiding hand in his life, giving him meaning and purpose. Amidst all the seasons of change, Estaffan found his life partner, Kristina, and is also a soon-to-be father.

Estaffan and Kristina on their wedding day.

As he prepares to become a father, he sees how God has healed him and prepared him for what lies ahead.

“Just a few months ago, my father (whom we did not stay in touch with after my parents divorced many years ago) got sick and we knew the end was coming. 

My siblings and I decided to visit him in the hospital and say our goodbyes so that we would have no regrets. It was like visiting a stranger, but when I met him and held his hand for the first time in years, it was a very emotional encounter,” Estaffan revealed. 

In that moment, he realised just how significant his father had been, his efforts to be present and to love his family despite his own struggles. 

“He was present in ways he could: playing games, having lunch with me, fetching me from school. Now, as I’m about to become a dad myself, I’m able to see the good bits of him that I’d like to emulate – and of course, the parts I don’t want to,” he shared. 

The future may not be entirely clear for Estaffan but he has learned that God’s ways go beyond human understanding. 

What’s important, he says, is to rely on God’s strength instead of his own. 

“I realise that in different seasons, I need different types of strength. Growing up, I was taught to do things on my own but I now know that I can get through life because Christ strengthens me,” he concluded.

To learn more about Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), click here. If you would like to get in touch with a local MAF representative, email hello@faithour.com and we’ll connect you!

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