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Destiny of a First Toy

The faith journey of a Pennsylvania church planter began with a gift in a poverty-stricken Romanian neighborhood.
Ten-year-old Iosif Hoca clutched his new teddy bear like a piece of gold. The 1996 gift marked the first toy he had ever received. Christians launching a children’s street ministry in his poverty-stricken neighborhood in Transylvania, Romania, rewarded his rapt attention.

Hoca huddled next to other youngsters sitting on the ground in a crowded alley savoring the worship music and beaming at puppets that told Bible stories about Jesus.

“They told me about a man who loved me so much that He died so I might live,” Hoca recalls.

Today, Hoca lives the destiny of that stuffed animal, pastoring Mosaic Church in Kenhorst, Pennsylvania, a parent-affiliated church started with his wife, Christin, in 2017.

Hoca, 33, tasted the bitterness of poverty and violence growing up in a tiny 100 square-foot one-room apartment. Along with fearing his neighbors, Hoca worried about his hard-drinking father, a burly street fighter.

The street outreach eventually merged into a home Bible study, and then into Good Samaritan Church (GSC), which the young Hoca began attending.

Four years passed until Hoca surrendered his life to Christ at a youth camp in the Carpathian Mountains. He rushed to the altar sobbing and was baptized in the Holy Spirit. Returning home, he caught GSC’s evangelistic vision. His growing faith provoked a desire for ministry and seeing God intervene in peoples’ lives.

Several years passed, then Hoca’s non-Christian mother, Viorica, faced a devastating medical prognosis: death within a month from a brain tumor. Reluctantly, she agreed to attend a GSC healing service. Two weeks later, her doctor, voicing shock, revealed the tumor had disappeared.

“My mother, father, and sister gave their lives to Christ,” he says. “And God began healing more people and setting others free from alcohol and fighting.”

Named youth pastor in 2004, Hoca enrolled in a branch of Christian Life College in Oradea, Romania, while still working for GSC. He met Christin during her first trip to Romania in 2009. She belonged to a mission team from GT Church, an Assemblies of God congregation in West Lawn, Pennsylvania.

The couple married in Pennsylvania in 2011 and charged into ministry at GT Church while Hoca worked as a landscaper, a business he still operates as a bivocational pastor.

Along the way, Hoca connected with PennDel Ministry Network presbyter Steve C. DeFrain, lead pastor of Morning Star Fellowship in Bechtelsville, Pennsylvania. Under DeFrain’s leadership, Morning Star has planted eight churches and agreed to parent Mosaic Church.

“Iosif has a solid walk with Christ and vision for the lost,” Defrain says. “I talk with him weekly.”

The AGTrust Church Multiplication Network Matching Fund provided $30,000 as well.

Obstacles have tested Hoca’s faith. Mosaic’s launch in October 2017 attracted 60 attendees, but the crowd eroded to six family members. “We cried feeling God had abandoned us,” he says.

Focusing on Isaiah 54:2 provided the courage to hold on. Within about six months, the church grew to 85 congregants. He learned the importance of hanging out with people and being real. Hoca is confident of God’s provision for Mosaic’s future.

Mike Muncy, 50, began attending Mosaic a year ago at the urging of his wife, Heather, 49. Fighting 30 years of running away from God, he struggled with a drinking problem, pornography, and other issues. In the spring of 2019, Muncy surrendered to Christ.

“Jesus is my Savior and Lord now,” Muncy says.

Peter K. Johnson

Peter K. Johnson is a freelance writer living in Saranac Lake, New York. More than 500 of his articles and short stories have appeared in Christian and mainstream magazines and newspapers, including the Pentecostal Evangel,Charisma, the Saturday Evening Post, Guideposts, and Decision. He also serves as a consultant and contributing editor to a scientific journal.