If that's your reaction, you are not alone. Here's how it went down.
When I was a small child, God called my parents to leave our home in Houston, TX and to bring our family of five to Mobile, AL to begin a 90-day Christian rehab for male alcoholics and drug addicts. That's what they did; and that's where I grew up, right there on the property with all the residents.
What began with four men, meeting in our home, has grown today, now fifty years later, to three campuses housing 125 men, women and even the children of those who have no one to care for them while their mothers are enrolled in the 90-day program. God has blessed the mission through churches, organizations and individuals who have given to keep the doors open. No one has ever had to pay a penny to come receive help, healing and hope through Jesus Christ.
While it was certainly an unusual childhood, much of the person I am today can be credited to my years of growing up at the Mission of Hope, as well as to the God-fearing, loving and faithful parents I was so blessed to have. I have never known any two people more loving and generous than my parents. When my dad passed away in 2011, I wrote a memoir about him. You may read it down below.
Of all daughters, I am most blessed. My daddy was the most genuine man I ever knew. He was the same person at home as he was in public. What you saw is what you got. Everything he did and said was motivated by love. He loved the unlovely, the down and out, those others rejected.
Mama says she used to cook extra food because she never knew when Daddy would find someone on the street and bring them home for dinner. He included his family in every aspect of his ministries. Some of my favorite memories are of getting up early on Saturday mornings and going to visit families of children who rode his church bus to Sunday school. That bus route was his heart. He loved bringing children to church to hear about Jesus and also sharing Jesus with their parents.
He loved street ministry and jail ministry as well. One of his favorite places became the Star of Hope Farm in Houston, Texas, which is an in-house Christian program for the male alcoholic and drug addict. That is where his love for the addicted became his calling and passion. When we would go there, we knew it would be late before we left, because Daddy was going to visit with as many men as he could.
In 1971, Daddy brought our family to Mobile, Alabama to be the founder of the Mission of Hope, also a Christian in-house program for the addicted male. Thousands of addicts have come through this program over the past forty years, to find hope and healing in Christ; and hundreds of thousands have been positively impacted by the mission. Today, this program has been extended to include two campuses for addicted ladies, the children of those who have no one to care for them while their mother is on the program, a jail ministry and a street ministry.
My dad had one of the wittiest senses of humor. He loved to joke, pick and tease. He used to drive mama crazy by chasing us kids, the grandkids and great-grandkids through the house. Oh, the squealing, tickling and laughter. And we loved it! One of his very favorite things to do was hide behind furniture and walls and jump out to scare the bejeebers out of us. Then he'd laugh and laugh. I'm sure he is the one at fault for my...uhh, I mean...he's the one who instilled in me the love of laughter and a good practical joke.
Many mission men tell of his jokes and funny stories shared with them during their time on the program. He enjoyed working side by side with the men, never "lording" over them. He taught them many life lessons over a game of chess or digging a ditch together. Over the years, hundreds of these men considered my dad their dad. They truly loved him. We had to share him many times on Father's Day. It was never unusual for there to be a knock at the door and for Daddy to go out and sit on the porch to chat with a man who was having a crisis. We grew to understand this was his calling.
Daddy instilled in us his love for gospel music. It wasn't at all uncommon to find us gathered around the piano in the living room, singing to the top of our lungs, all the old hymns in four-part harmony. Road trips always included lots of singing, sometimes silly songs just for fun.
The most important thing Daddy ever did though, and for which I am most grateful, is leading his children to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. He made sure his children knew about his Savior. Daddy's love and passion is being passed down now to the fourth generation...his great-grandchildren. They are now the ones being led by their parents to take the baton and minister to the mission residents' children, with the Children of Hope Tree at Christmas and Easter and also leading out in family services at the mission. The grandchildren are diligently passing this passion on to their children. What a legacy! Yes, I am very blessed to have been the daughter of Lonnie Miller. What an example! What a legend!
May the legacy continue through me and everyone who was ever blessed to cross his path. I miss him more than words can describe. But I know with a certainty that he is with the One he so diligently gave his life to serve. In that, I have peace and assurance I will see him again soon.
So, it's not "goodbye" that we say, but instead, "see you soon, Daddy!" Go rest high on that mountain. Son, your work on earth is done!
Your "techinicolored daughter"
May 5, 2011
(Written five days after my dad's death on April 30, 2011)
MY FAITH is the most real part of who I am. It permeates every part of my being, governs the choices I make and keeps me sane in this insane world. If God never does another good thing for me, the cross was enough. But because I made the decision to surrender my life to follow Jesus, I have a personal relationship with the Creator of the Universe, Himself! It's an eternal relationship, lived out moment by moment, day by day. And it has changed my life forever. Yes, I am still a sinner; but God offers forgiveness and redemption.
I have no fear of the future. I am not afraid to live. I am not afraid to die. And when I must endure suffering (and I certainly have), His presence is my constant source of peace and joy, even in the pain. My fear has been replaced with love, power and a sound mind. Well, God's still working on that part, LOL. (2 Timothy 1:7). It's this incredible work God has done in my life that brought me to this beautiful ministry of laughter and joy, all because of His Amazing Love and Grace.
Do you know Him? He is offering this abundant, eternal life to you too. Jesus said, "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." (John 10:10). I invite you to have His gift of ETERNAL LIFE, that begins now by having a personal relationship with God, made possible only through the life, death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.
You may learn more about what I believe by clicking here.