“For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations.” (Ephesians 2:14-15)
Elizabeth Hoffman grew up with each of her feet in different worlds. She spent her childhood immersed in a predominantly black church while also attending a majority white school. She felt unaccepted by her peers in both places and focused on fitting in wherever she could by masking hurt with materialism and humor. She felt like she stood out no matter where she was. Elizabeth can’t remember the exact moment when she trusted the Lord, but laughs, “My mom always said I was born screaming, ‘Hallelujah!’” She was the kid who was in church every time the doors were open. However, growing up in Plano also meant that for her, success looked like money, achievement, and accolades. Outgoing and social, hardworking and an excellent athlete, Elizabeth looked like she had it all: from her faith to her athletic achievement. She trusted Christ for forgiveness but wasn’t grounded in discipleship or the knowledge that community was vital for her faith to remain steady.
By October of her freshman year in college, Elizabeth joined her soccer team in a partying lifestyle. But the Lord was pursuing her, drawing her to a local church. After graduating and returning to Dallas, she ended up at a high-stress job that called for 70-hour work weeks. She blew off steam on weekends with excess drinking. Again, the Lord called to her when a friend brought her to The Porch, Watermark’s ministry for young adults in their 20s and 30s. Elizabeth jumped in with both feet by becoming a member and leading a community group. “I didn’t think I had any business leading a community group at that point, but even in the midst of me being a hot mess, the Lord brought good out of being with other believers who were pursuing the same things and holding each other accountable.”
The following year brought her to a single-minded pursuit of the Lord. Through emotional pain and personal crisis, she clung to the promise in the Old Testament book of Nehemiah that the Lord will rebuild what has been torn down. She continued in community and processed her brokenness in GriefShare, Watermark’s grief recovery ministry.
In 2016, the downtown Dallas shooting in which five Dallas police officers were killed, including Watermark Member Officer Mike Smith, devastated Elizabeth. For months afterward, the Lord kept bringing her the idea of a gospel-centered conversation about race. Her foot-in-two-worlds upbringing gave her a unique voice to speak with understanding and compassion to those around her of different races and socio-economic backgrounds.
With a co-leader, she began two different study groups with 18 participants each. A diversity of ethnicities meant a wide range of experience was represented in each gathering. But in the midst of very raw and vulnerable meetings, a lot of ugly sin patterns were revealed including things people had been taught as children that they didn’t even realize that they had internalized. “To be honest, it scared me and made me super self-conscious when I hadn’t ever been before,” Elizabeth admits about the group. But she kept showing up. In the end Elizabeth and the participants walked away with a new understanding of God’s desire for unity. “It is each individual’s choice to rely on the Lord to help them move out of their comfort zone and push past the fear that is holding them back from being ministers of reconciliation.” Elizabeth was also encouraged by the way the study revealed larger opportunities. “One of the cool things that came out of the study was a long list of ways that we, as a church, could consider people of all ethnicities and nationalities in our ministries. We were able to ask ourselves, ‘What are the barriers and how do we remove them?’”
As Elizabeth grew in her relationship with Christ, He gave her a justice-driven heart that fuels her deep love for people and a desire to champion the unseen. God consistently placed Elizabeth in environments where she didn’t quite fit in. Throughout her journey, God has joined the sides of her story together, making Elizabeth a unique force of reconciliation.
These days, whether championing the underserved in Dallas through Watermark’s External Focus team or leading a small group in the Shoreline high school ministry, Elizabeth is able to share with those around her about the benefits of community, the need for discipleship, and the call for followers of Christ to love all people well. And as she brings the different worlds of her experience together, she is reminded that we should be of one mind when it comes to the things of God.
“People of color in our country are hurting and that should be enough to move us toward them with the compassion of the Lord. Hurt people are aching for the love that God displays through His Church, and I pray that we take every opportunity to step up to our high calling as believers in Jesus Christ. Through Him, the Church is the hope of the world.”