ST. STEPHEN – About 15 years ago, Ingo Hoeltzig of Munich, Germany decided he wanted to switch careers and go into ministry. A member of the Vineyard churches and part of the German Vineyard movement, Hoeltzig was working with his own church doing what he called a “traineeship”, and he wanted to add theology and ministry to his long list of academic achievements and receive education in theology and ministry.
In order to achieve his goals, there were three requirements to be met: that wherever he went would be a place affiliated with the Vineyard, that there would be a program on worship and music for his wife, and that it be in North America. His first graduate degree is in American studies, and he wanted to return to North America. Hoeltzig found everything he was seeking in St. Stephen, and came here to study at St. Stephen’s University in the fall of 2006.
“That was the only place in the world that met these three criteria, that was close to the Vineyard, that had something to do with worship, and it was supposed to be in North America. It turned out there is a place in St. Stephen where I could do ministry and had Vineyard contacts,” said Hoeltzig.
While in St. Stephen, Hoeltzig and his wife lived in the iconic Todd mansion, located on Union Street in St. Stephen. Hoeltzig loved the building, and he and his wife moved in, and even became superintendents for a period of time.
“We even brought our dog. You don’t just put-up a dog somewhere for a year,” said Hoeltzig. “So, we were actually allowed to take her, and they even made an exception that we could live in Todd hall although no pets allowed. It’s always been a great, very unique and iconic building from the outside. I took photographs of it and they hung in our house for a while. Whenever people saw it they were like, ‘oh, that’s the Addam’s Family mansion’. We said, ‘not quite, we actually lived there’, and they everybody was like, ‘really?’”.
Hoeltzig did study ministry, but said life “took different turns”, and now his full-time job is in IT management for a software company. He also has another career on the side. Hoeltzig formed a company that creates LEGO models on commission.
“I started a professional LEGO building company a few years ago, because I want to turn that into profession or into a main occupation.”
“I’ve been building with LEGO since I was four or five years old,” said Hoeltzig. “I’ve always had LEGO. I started again when my kids were old enough, so that I could build stuff for them. When they were around three or four, I picked it up again, because it’s just so much fun.”
Recently, Hoeltzig competed in LEGO Masters Germany, an offshoot of the LEGO Masters reality television program. His team decided they wanted to create something together. One person would build a central tower to hold everything together, and the other team members would build individual buildings to attach to the side of the tower. For his part, Hoeltzig chose to create a LEGO model of the Todd mansion that he loved so much.
“I decided, now is the time. I’m not going to build just anything. This is the time to build the Todd house,” said Hoeltzig.
Hoeltzig had a second reason for wanting to recreate the Todd mansion in LEGO. He wanted to give back to the community where he studied and lived for a year. He also wanted to give something beautiful to those who enjoy LEGO builds. He said he could have built something that would have been better for German marketing of his company, but he really wanted to do something for “everybody who is in the (St. Stephen) area who knows that building”.
“You could also view it as something that my LEGO modelling company is giving back to the community.”
Hoeltzig didn’t keep track of how many hours he put into recreating the Todd house in LEGO, but he figures between planning and construction, it took him between 25 and 50 hours. In fact, he spent 10 hours just planning the slanted rooves to make sure that they were at the correct angle, stable, and had no gaps.
Whether or not Hoeltzig can turn his passion for LEGO into a full-time career or not remains to be seen. But, in any case, he said he just wants to bring joy to people. The motto for 8millimeter is, “beautiful, fun, and inspiring”. If you would like to learn more about Hoeltzig and his team, you can visit the 8millimeter website at www.8millimeter.de/en
“I want people to really feel joy when they look at things,” said Hoeltzig. “It should be beautiful. It should touch their hearts, which is why I don’t build from scratch but use buildings that people feel they have a connection to. Of course, with anything you create, you want to get people thinking a little bit, to open up their mind. How is this possible? Where does this come from? Where does this go? If there’s any way I can get the message out that, hey, you can build beautiful things with LEGO that are fun and inspiring, and I’m there to help you if you want, that would be great.
“Thank you to the town and the university for having been such a great place to be. St. Stephen is a great place to live. It’ll be a period that my wife and I will remember forever.”