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A Novel Call to Missions Invites Risks and Miracles

Despite the many dangers they have faced, missionaries Mike and Ilona Hadinger have seen God's grace and experienced His protection through them all.

AGWM missionaries Mike and IIona Hadinger have endured earthquakes, a killer landslide, death threats, and illnesses. Yet, through it all, the miraculous hand of God has confirmed and blessed their calling.

Their first alert about missions appeared unexpectedly in 1992.

Mike Hadinger had joined a two-week tour of Russia with 50 U.S. pastors to distribute Bibles and share the gospel in schools. While sitting alone on a tour bus waiting for colleagues to leave their hotel in St. Petersburg, he noticed a block-long line of people shivering in the early morning, clutching tickets to buy bread from a bakery.

Witnessing an evangelism opportunity, Hadinger jumped off the bus with a carton of Bibles. Bakery customers surrounded him, including a red-faced woman with missing teeth and a scarf wrapped around her head. Beaming, she held his face tenderly in her wrinkled hands.

Her gratitude melted Hadinger. “If there are more people hungering for your Word, Lord, I’ll go anywhere you direct me,” he promised God.

Upon returning home, he told Ilona that God might be calling them to missions. They had pastored in AG churches in Ohio for 11 years – Immanuel AG in Cleveland and First Assembly of God in Vermilion.

They heeded God’s call, but journeying to the mission field took several years.

In 1995 the couple accepted the challenge of ministering to an unusual unreached people group - 100,000 Old Colony Germans who had immigrated to northern Mexico during the 1920s.

The Hadingers moved their family to the Mexican state of Chihuahua, a remote desert region near the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains. Immediately, they encountered the criminal influences and dangers of rival drug cartels.

“We did a lot of basic pioneer work of prayer walks, knocking on doors, building relationships, starting a prison ministry, and enlisting the support of the local AG church to reach young people and disciple new converts,” Mike Hadinger, 62, recalls.

Alcoholism and access to cheap narcotics led to addictions and dealing by local German youths and adults. For example, during a Sunday church service, Hadinger spied a man attempting to sell bags of cocaine from his hollowed-out Bible.

However, God always demonstrated his grace and protection through unexpected incidents.

Driving with the local AG superintendent on a mission trip, Hadinger pulled his Speed the Light truck into a rural shop to fix a damaged flat tire. The mechanic, an Old Colony German teenager, could not repair it. Instead, he over-inflated the tire and suggested driving fast to the next town for help. Before leaving, Hadinger gave him a German gospel tract.

A few days later a church planting team member called Hadinger to help comfort a grieving mother whose teenage son had been killed by a drunk driver.

During the visit, Hadinger learned that her son was the teenager who accepted his gospel tract. On that same evening, the son showed the tract to his father who read it to the family as they sat around the kitchen table. They all repeated the sinner’s prayer and asked Jesus for forgiveness.

The boy’s mother told Hadinger that her son appeared very different the next morning. His face shined with a new glow and happiness.

“In an instant we sensed this had been a divine appointment and the Holy Spirit had guided our footsteps so that this young soul would spend eternity with God,” Hadinger says.

The Hadingers ministered among the Germans until the end of 2005 when Mike suffered a seizure, which required a lengthy medical leave.

They returned to a new post in southern Mexico in 2008, teaching at the Alpha Omega Bible school and later helping establish pastoral training centers among the indigenous tribes of the Chatino, Zapoteco, and Mazateco in the state of Oaxaca. The centers provided Bible training for indigenous pastors living in remote areas.

In another divine encounter, Mike and a local AG pastor were driving along a mountainous road on a church planting trip. Suddenly, about 25 miles from the nearest town, Pluma Hidalgo, they braked before hitting a mound of red clay, dirt, rocks, and tree limbs, stretching about 500-feet.

The narrow road bordered on a dangerous cliff, which prevented turning around. Instead of leaving the STL 4WD vehicle and trekking back to town, they decided to maneuver over the mound. Mike steered the truck while the pastor pulled out tree limbs. Just seconds after rolling off the mound, a cascade of dirt and rocks from above propelled everything over the cliff.

“Looking back, the hand of God saved us from disaster,” Mike says.

Earthquakes were also common.

He recalls the aftershocks of the Sept. 7, 2017 Oaxaca 8.1 magnitude quake devastating hundreds of villages. As a testimony of God’s provision for unreached people groups, Convoy of Hope gifted 25 mobile kitchens, food, 100 school shelters, and medicines.

Ilona Hadinger, 58, is eternally grateful for the sustaining prayers of supporting churches and individuals, especially their quick responses to immediate needs and spiritual battles. “We were not fighting alone,” she says. “And they continue to carry us.”

She relates a scary phone call from her son Jonathan, 31, who almost died working bivocationally in a plastics factory while also serving as youth and worship pastor at New Life Community Church, in Ashland, Ohio.

He was cleaning plastic residues inside a large high-temperature industrial oven when the heat was turned on and the heavy metal doors began closing. He saved himself by sprinting to the opening and diving out.

“I cried when I realized how close we came to burying our son,” Ilona says. “I also cried tears of joy because God has been so good and faithful to our family.”

The Hadinger’s are itinerating for their next AGWM appointment at Global University. Still relying on a scripture, Jeremiah 29:11, since Bible school many years ago, Mike Hadinger will not relax his novel call to missions.

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.