- 1 February 1905-14 September 2000
George Edward "Ed" Roffe was born in Toronto on February 1, 1905. His father was A.W. Roffe, an influential pastor who served as superintendent of the District of Canada for the Christian and Missionary Alliance from 1919 to 1925.
After graduating from McMaster University and Nyack Missionary College, Roffe was appointed by the Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA) to serve as a missionary in French Indochina. In 1928, while studying in France in preparation for travel to Southeast Asia, he was directed by the C&MA to pioneer a new field among the tribal peoples of northern Laos. In 1929, he became the first resident Protestant missionary in north Laos, settling in the city of Luang Prabang. Soon after, Roffe brought his new bride, and recent Nyack graduate, Thelma Wilhelmine Mole (1907-1999) to live and serve there with him.
While on Furlough during World War II, Ed and Thelma Roffe attended two sessions of Wycliffe’s Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL). Ed Roffe also took advantage of the delay which the war posed to earn his wings, and upon returning to Laos in 1947 became the first missionary pilot in the area. In addition to their ongoing direct evangelistic efforts and administrative duties, the Roffes were also given the responsibility of running a Bible College tasked with raising up indigenous leaders. In 1950, a young student from this school by the name of Kheng was instrumental in sparking a mass movement among the mountain tribal people of northern Laos, which saw whole villages come to Christ in a matter of days. This revival precipitated the formal incorporation of the national church in northern Laos. The “Evangelical Church of Laos” held its first assembly in 1957, with pastor Saly (the first Laotian ordained by the Alliance) as the first president.
In 1951, the Roffes were transferred to the city of Vientiane. After returning to Laos in 1955 from an extended furlough, during which Ed Roffe was able to complete graduate studies in Linguistics at Cornell University, the Roffes were assigned to engage full time in the ministry of translation and literature. In a ten year period they were able to turn out approximately 100 titles, some of them original. Ed Roffe was eventually freed from his other duties to work exclusively on translating into Lao a new version of the New Testament, complete with cross-references, a glossary, a dictionary of unfamiliar terms and a limited concordance. The completed work was presented to the king of Laos in late 1973.
In 1975, the communists took control of the government in Laos, and the Roffes were forced to leave the country. In all, punctuated only by war and furlough, Ed and Thelma Roffe had labored faithfully in Laos for 47 years. Upon their return to North America (Orlando, FL) their ministry to the people of Laos did not come to an end. In addition to monitoring the situation in Laos, the Roffes actively cared for Laotian refugees in their area and helped many get adjusted to North American life. During his retirement years, Ed Roffe was also actively involved in correcting, editing, or translating various documents sent to him for comment.
Ed Roffe died on 14 September 2000. He was predeceased by Thelma, who died in 1999.