Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Call to the Mission

The Call

 "I will go where you want me to go Dear Lord, I'll do what you want me to do, I'll say what you want me to say, Dear Lord, I'll be what you want me to be."  Song by Mary Brown (italics mine).

  Twenty-five years ago today (January 1, 1989), I received the call to go.  That call took my family and I to Papua New Guinea (10 years), and led us to the Solomon Islands where we have been serving for the past 15 years.  The following is the story of that call.

  The call came on Sunday night, January 1st during a missions program at church.  Mary Lou, our mission study chairman, was doing the lesson.  She had a skit and in this skit she had people on the platform pretending to be various missionaries.  Mary Lou was interviewing them about their work in their respective countries.  It was not an especially emotional type service, but mostly gave information about their work and country so we could effectively pray for them.

  Tears welled up in my eyes and before long I was weeping like a baby.  I suspect I was the only one so moved in that service.  I describe this feeling, for lack of a better analogy, as a homesick feeling, the kind I felt at 5 years old when I first left home to go to boys and girls camp.  I spent the week in tears with frequent visits to the camp nurse.  That was what this feeling was like, but only now I was 38 years old setting in a service on New Years night.  My longing heart was toward missions and with the strong yearning to return to the field.  God had definitely reached down and touched me so I knew His hand was moving in my life.

  There is a little history involved.  For you see in 1987, my wife and I along with our two teenage children spent 2 wonderful months in Swaziland working at the RFM[1] hospital.  That was a dream come true.  As a child I always wanted to be a missionary.  We filled out and submitted the application to the Department of World Mission.  Then in 1975 after a few years work and experience in laboratory medicine we were invited to attend what we then called the "School of Missions".  We were confident, the door was opened and so I resigned my job, and while in KC enrolled in seminary, found another job in a hospital lab so I could work my way through seminary.  Imagine the shock when soon after our return to Carnegie, Oklahoma, we received a letter saying we were not suitable candidates for missionary service.   So I returned to the job at Carnegie Hospital and never attended Seminary, something I felt would be a pre-requisite for missionary service.

  Our first real taste of mission work was when we joined our district team on a 2-week work and witness trip to the Dominican Republic in 1981 to work at the district center.  We were excited, a dream come true.  Oh we were not "real" missionaries but got a taste of cross-cultural ministry.  Then 6 years later, and after a lot of spiritual growth,[2] we had the glorious opportunity to go to Swaziland.[3] In Swaziland it was still short time (2-month) but I felt a perfect fit like a hand in a glove. It was like the Lord giving me a huge object lesson to illustrate that we are cut out to do cross-cultural ministry.

  At the RFM hospital and then again at the airport leaving Swaziland I remarked to those saying good-bye to us, "See you later."  I felt so good about this experience that I felt confident we would soon be returning with the entire family.   On returning home I wrote a letter expressing our desire to serve the Lord over-seas.  I received a response that went something like this, "We don't have a current need for someone with your talents and we don't anticipate a need in the foreseeable future.

  I filed that letter away in file 13 along with the first letter.  I immersed myself in my work at the hospital and as children church pastor at our church.  I began to think that the call I felt as a child was from my own desire and not from the Lord.  I must have been mistaken about God's call.  I was unsure. 

  Now to New Year's day of 1989 as I was in that evening service, this call that came to me in such a powerful way was different.  It was as if Jesus himself had walked in and sat down beside me and whispered in my ear, "You are suppose to be like one of those missionaries, I need you George.  Will you go for me?  Are you willing to give up family, houses, career, everything for me?" 

  My immediate answer, through the tears, "Yes Lord, everything for you."  Then I told the Lord, "We have tried to be a missionaries, we have written letters, filled out applications, and did all the things we felt necessary.  Now Lord, it is up to you, if you want us to be missionaries, you have to open the door.  I am not going to do anything but pray and wait.  If you open the door we'll go, but I am not going to write a single letter, talk with anyone, or do anything except walk through a door that you open."

  I did not have to wait long for the open door.  Monday, Jan 2nd was the holiday from work since the 1st was on Sunday.  Our home was paid for and we were totally out of debt when we returned from Swaziland.  It looked like we were not going to the mission field so we decided to remodel our home and settle down.   With that in mind in 1988 we took out a mortgage on our home to make some necessary repairs and fix it up.  January 2nd I was at home working on our house.  The entire time I was in a state of prayer that if it were God's will, He would show me clearly by opening a door.  I never told anyone, not even my wife, children, or the friend helping me.  Of course my wife saw the tears on Sunday evening, but actually it is not unusual for me to cry, especially when the Lord blesses.  I am so grateful that the Lord gave me a wife who is obedient to the Lord and willingly follows anywhere.  The open door came on Tuesday 3rd.

  I was back at work and answered the phone call in the lab.  Nancy was on the phone and said, "George, you'll never guess who just called!  Kansas City[4] just called and they want to know if we are willing to go to Papua New Guinea."  I replied, "Sure, call them back."  Silence for a few seconds as Nancy no doubt was processing what I said, remember I never told her a thing about what was going on in my mind and prayer life.  Then she asked, "Are you sure?  Don't you need time to pray about it first?"  Then I told her the reason for my Sunday night tears and the prayer asking God to provide an open door and the speed with which He operated.  That's why my "yes" answer was ready.

  We had 3-way conference call function on our phone and so Nancy called back and I could join in the conversation too.  I retold the story of my Sunday night experience and then the phone call so soon afterward.  The mission secretary listened with interest and then replied, "This is not an offer, but I have been asked to call and see if there are those available to be sent at short notice." I remarked, "We are definitely available.  When do you need someone to go?"  "As soon as possible," was her reply.

  It was not an offer, but in my mind I started packing my bags, due to the timing of this call and God preparing my heart and mind.  I told my work-mates and the hospital administrator and they all affirmed me in this.  An interesting thing happened to further affirm this was when Gloria and Greg returned from high school, Nancy asked, "You'll never guess who called today."  And Greg answered straight away, "KC and they want us to go to Papua New Guinea." "How did you know?" Nancy queried.  "I just guessed from the way you asked, and I know the hospital in Swaziland is no longer staffed by the world mission department.

  I was waiting for a 2nd phone call and finally my impatience got the best of me and so I called the Dept. of World Mission back around the 1st of February.  I was told they still hadn't made up their mind but the secretary asked me, "If we do appoint you when can you be ready to leave?"  To which I replied, "I have worked here for a long time and need to give at least a 30 day notice to my employer and then it will take me another 30 days to pack up, then I should be ready to leave.  The next information I received was a few days later in the mail came a large envelope with the missionary contract and the cover letter stating that they understand I need to give a months notice and so I can do that and they will start me on payroll with DWM[5] March 1.  I took the contract and showed Nancy and said, "I suppose this means we've been appointed."  This was a 2-year specialized assignment contract, but I believed this call was for a lot longer, possibly lifetime.  It is history now but the 2-year specialize assignment was extended to a 4-year specialized assignment and then during our first home assignment we applied for, met with the General Board, went through the missionary screening process, and were granted a Career Missionary Status.[6]

From Call to Arrival on the Field

After receiving the contract February 4, I immediately gave my 30 days notice.  I told the office we could be ready within 30 days and so I assumed that meant we would be leaving for the field by April 4.  We went into high gear in processing the endless amount of paper work for work permits, visa requirements, and passport update.  We had travelled to South Africa and RSA was in the apartheid era and many nations had broken diplomatic ties with RSA.   Merely having their stamp in our passport could cause a delay or rejection of our Visa application to PNG.  So we needed new passports that were clean, without reference to South Africa.  The US State Department misunderstood and so issued us new passports that were stamped across the face page, "Good only for travel to South Africa".  No that was not what was needed, the old passport was good enough for RSA travel.  So we had to resubmit the passports.

  In the middle of all this we packed and sent our crate, fixed up our home for sell, and I still worked a few hours at the hospital in training the new lab director.

  Then trouble hit; our dog chewed up the neighbor boy's ear.  I called our home owners insurance and they told me to take the boy to the hospital and assure the family that we have good insurance coverage and they will cover all medical expenses necessary to fix up and restore his ear.  Our hospital ER first dressed it and sent him to a specialist in OKC.  Then within 5 or 6 days from their visit to the specialist we received a call from the insurance agent informing us that we are being sued and we are to break off all conversation with them.  We were not to have any interaction with them at all, not even a smile or a simple "Hi".  For me that is tough, but it was easier because I was immersed in our preparations for departure.  Plus it was easier because these neighbors had recently moved next door and our friendship was more on a casual basis and they too ignored us.  I could not believe that a physician, the most sued professions in USA would recommend that course of action to a patient.  This law suit was pending when we left for PNG but the lawyer told me he felt confident they would settle out of court, but if it went to trial, I might need to return for a few days.  It was indeed settled out of court for ten thousand dollars.

  Now it is near the end of March, and it appeared our paper work was being delayed so I called KC and asked, "When do you really suspect we'll be leaving for the field?"  I was the told the paperwork to PNG requires a long time and so if you can leave by July 1st you will be doing good.  We finally received our passports after 2 months, and we mailed them to the PNG embassy in Washington DC as instructed using an express envelope and inclosing another self addressed, postage paid, express envelope for them to be returned to us.  Then I attended a pastor's meeting in Lawton, OK and since now we were looking at the 1st of July for departure date, I went around with my date book scheduling deputation services through April, May, and June.  We sent the passport to PNG embassy 3 or 4 days prior to the pastor's meeting.  I was in the service when an usher tapped me on the shoulder and said I had a phone call.  It was my wife, "We received our Visa for PNG and I called KC and they wanted to know if we could leave next week."  "NO, we can't get ready by then."  "Then they want to know when, they want us to give them a date," so I looked at the calendar shot a date of May 5th.  We arrived in PNG on May 5th.

  We had other incidents throughout April as we were preparing to depart.  Our son Geoffrey got chicken pox in April, 2 weeks before our departure, but we have no clue where he contacted this.  Of course the incubation period for our son Gary to break out would coincide with our trip date.  We certainly didn't want to be stuck in quarantine somewhere.   We did not notice the spots until the morning after our arrival in Port Moresby and were ready for our trip to Mt Hagen.  No one else in Kudjip contracted Chicken Pox from Gary, as we kept him inside and away from other children for the first week.  Gloria our daughter was to travel with her school choir.  The morning Greg and Gloria were to leave on their choir trip, Gloria woke up sick and we thought it was nerves but then she passed out.  We took her to the hospital and she was diagnosed with acute appendicitis.  I called a doctor friend of ours who was an excellent abdominal surgeon in our small hospital.  He continued to come occasionally to operate but gave up his practice in our town to perform plastic and cosmetic surgery.   I phoned Dr. Jim and asked him about doing Gloria's operation.  He said, "George, I'd be glad to but I can't get to Carnegie, if you can bring her to Deaconess Hospital I'll do it."   So instead of going with the choir trip Gloria made a trip to OKC and the Deaconess Hospital.  After surgery Dr. Jim remarked, "She will be great, I just left her with a little tummy tuck, the skimpiest bikini will cover it up."  To which I remarked, "Thanks doc, she'll be glad to hear that."  The doctor performed that surgery as a professional courtesy at no charge.  Gloria was almost fully recovered when we left for PNG.

  Praise the Lord; God is faithful, as we trust in him.  The call really sustained us in PNG because I knew that I knew we were where the Lord called us.  Even so at the time of each home assignment I always pray asking the Lord for direction, as I did not want to continue serving him on a 1989 call, and each home assignment the Lord assured us it was his will for us to return.  As we are approaching retirement, I am confident that my God will show up and direct our paths.   I want to thank those of you who have partnered with us along this journey.  Also we are grateful of the many friends we have met along the way.  Many dear friends are now our brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, who we would have never met if had we stayed in Carnegie. 


[1] Raleigh Fitkin Memorial Hospital – Manzini Swaziland

[2] That's another testimony.

[3] The miracles involved in our going as volunteers Swaziland is miraculous.

[4] Kansas City (KC) was our church's headquarters until they relocated a few years ago to Lenexa Kansas.

[5] DWM – Deptartment of World Mission is now GMS – Global Mission Services

[6] Now it has been changed to Global Missionary Contract

George Miller
PO Box 712
Honiara, Solomon Islands
For more information about our work check out Web: http://oceanianazarene.org

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Letter 2013

Merry Christmas from the Miller's
WOW!!!  2013 is coming to an end.  Time just flies by, and I suppose it passes faster when one is having fun.  When you enjoy what you do you never have to work. I have been referred to as a work-a-holic, but we all no that ain't true.  I just have a passion to help people and encourage them spiritually; especially I just love to see people develop in their relationship with my best friend, Jesus.
I must confess there were 6 weeks this year when I would have rather been fishing with my grandkids.  Those were the weeks when I hurt my back and was laid up in bed for three weeks and convalescing for another three weeks.  What a bummer, but it was great as the youth pitched in and really helped.  By the way; I did have some wonderful fishing time with Grandkids this year.

Highlights from the Year:
·      Nancy is a stay at home wife as she resigned her job as Principal getting ready for our Home Assignment (HA).  She still has a few jobs to do such as Mission Treasurer, SPNTC Treasurer, House Keeper, Hostess, private tutor, Bible College Teacher, etc. [I added that etc. as I'm sure I left something out.]  She seems to always be busy; maybe taking care of her husband is more time consuming than I thought.  She is definitely the computer Guru of the house.
·      SPNTC – We held 6 Bible College courses this year.  We are using the electronic books (tablets) as we can put an entire library (6000+ books) on an SD card.  Thanks for those who have given financially to make this possible.  Also this year we had our first SPNTC – Solomon Campus graduate teach a course.
·      Home Assignment (HA)/Family Highlights:
o   We had a wonderful, deputation tour this time, beginning March 9th in Westminster, MD and ending June 12th at Camp Creek, Taloga, OK (The church where my brother was pastor at the time of his death).  We held 55 services in 44 different venues, down some from the past two HA.  We traveled from Smyrna, Delaware in the NE to Los Angeles in the SW, and to Everett, Washington in the NW.  We held 5 district tours in Upstate New York, North East Indiana, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, and North West Districts (parts of Wash., Oregon, and Idaho).
o   We met a lot of wonderful people along the way as well as had reunions with "old friends", some we haven't seen in years. (We enjoyed seeing you.)
o   I had the privilege of Baptizing Granddaughter Felicity.
o   Spent some time with Sister-in-law Sara and relaxed at the farm.
Geoff's Van
o   Family time: We had some free time and our kids (Geoff's family & Wendy with her children, Greg was busy.) wanted to tour Washington, DC, Niagara Falls, etc.  We met up with the kids in Washington DC and spent time touring the capital, Smithsonian, and other interesting sites then rode together, in one vehicle, to Upstate NY.  How is that for excitement, 13 of us traveling together in Geoff's van?  We rented a house billed to sleep 16 people, but the owner over-rated that house for sure.  Fortunately we love each other and the close communion worked out. 
At the Vietnam Memorial with some of the family
o   General Assembly: We had a great time with family and friends at General Assembly of the Church of the Nazarene in Indianapolis, IN.  There was some family time at the assembly too.  In addition to family this year there were four Solomon Islanders who were able to attend.  Pastor Alick was the Mission Convention and General Assembly Delegate, Ezra and Rex were Youth convention (NYI) delegates, and Hannah was a visitor.  They really enjoyed their stay and Hannah enjoyed her brief tour with Nancy and I. 
Hannah's view of a wheat field      
Hannah's first feel of snow
What a huge tree!!!

I pass her greetings on to those in LA and NW districts, who met her.  She enjoyed visiting and meeting everyone.  The SI delegates were privileged to share in the Dallas District children's camp and they enjoyed it very much.
o   On our LA tour we were able to spend some quality time with my cousin Margy and her family.  It was awesome.  Also we attended the VanGundy Family Reunion in El Reno, OK.  The first time in a while but it was great seeing my cousins I haven't seen in a while. 

o   In Ohio we saw a cousin Andy and family that I last saw as a teenager. In fact the Nazarene Pastor nearby met this cousin and through that contact we had a service there so my cousin was able to attend.
Cousin Andrea (Andy) & daughter Teresa
Cousin Russell (Andy's son)

o   Took a tour with Greg, Wendy, and six of our Grandkids (and Hannah) to Wichita mountains and stopped at Meers. (An old Gold Mining town, they never found Gold there but that's another story.)  Enjoyed one of those Meers burgers made from Longhorn beef.
o   Spent some time at Scott and Gloria's enjoying their home near Dallas but it had a country feel with a fishing pond and everything.  We use their address in Nevada, TX; however I have never seen a road sign for the town of Nevada. (I think it must be an imaginary place.)
o   Enjoyed our time with Geoff, Churie, and Girls.  Helped Geoff install a zip-line in his back yard.  If only I was a few years younger, I would have enjoyed that one.  All the family got together for a fun time at Geoff and Churie's home. 

o   We got to visit mom in Owasso, along with Chris, Sonja and family. We only have one living parent, Nancy's mother, Virginia Sides.
o   We did not spend as much time with Gary as I would have liked. We did travel together to General Assembly and Father's Day we were off and accompanied him to his church.
Maecala & Cisco at El Charro
o   Spent a couple days in Carnegie, our home prior to the mission field and the church where our membership is.  Enjoyed visiting with our dear friends there.  We also make it a point whenever in Carnegie to visit with Maecala and the Salazars at the El Charro Restaurant.  We enjoyed that home cooked truly Mexican food.
Worship at Crossroads Tabernacle
Our niece and Family

o   Easter Sunday we went to Crossroads Tabernacle Church in Fort Worth, TX.  One of our nieces from children church days in Carnegie made contact with me through FaceBook shortly before our HA.  It was great spending time with this young lady's family on Saturday and then taking her to such at awesome church on Easter Sunday.  Her residence is just a few blocks from the church.
o   It is a joy seeing our four kids and our grandchildren in church serving the Lord.
o   Visited a lot of Blood Banks around the country with my (George's) diagnosis of Hemochromatosis and my need to make frequent donations.
A Testimony from Home Assignment: Those who know me realize that I am passionate about Jesus.  I get my highs from witnessing people commit their life to Christ and develop in a dynamic relationship to Jesus.  We are in the disciple making business.  The great commission of Jesus is to "Go and make disciples."  But as my dear friend Dr. Verne Ward, Mission Director of our church once said, "It is in our going that we make disciples."  I love to do that and if you agree you will enjoy the following story about my nephew Bert.
            Bert was married to Christina, my biological niece, but after my brother's death, he left her for another woman.  Even Bert's own family rejected him.  Christina told me that I was the only family member he kept as friend on Face Book.  I just prayed for him but never tried to "straighten him out" by posting things on social media.  He had left the second woman and was living with a third at the time of this home assignment.
            We had a couple tours in Indiana and he was now living in Fort Wayne with his girlfriend.  Imagine my surprise when I received the message that he would like to see us.  I invited him to dinner on Saturday at a Ft. Wayne restaurant.  He arrived with his friend and her son.  I really wanted to put the fear of the Lord, or at least the fear of Uncle George in him, but his girlfriend's presence mellowed the conversation.  I am one to kind of "cut to the chase", but I refrained myself, but did share with him a little.  The conversation was good but not heavy for sure but the entire time I was praying seeking opportunity to inject faith into our conversation.  Near the end of our time together, I remember telling Bert, "Jesus is the real deal."  I invited them to our service the following day at the Trinity Church of the Nazarene, Ft. Wayne.
            They came and even his girlfriend's aunt and uncle who were Nazarene, but members of another church came to hear me preach.  At the conclusion of the service, I was visiting Bert and remember him saying something like, "If I gave my life to God now, I can't get Christina and my daughter back, I've really messed up."  To which I replied, "You are right, you have really hurt her and I doubt you'll ever be able to get her back, but you need Jesus more than Christina.  Just follow Him and let Jesus straighten out and make sense of your mess."  He then left the service and we enjoyed lunch with the pastor and church family.  Pastor assured me of their prayers and that they would reach out to Bert and his friend.
            The very next Sunday, Bert phoned and I was overjoyed as I heard him say, "Uncle George, I recommitted my life to God, pray for me as I plan to call Christina and her mother and apologize for what I did to them.   
            Soon we were back in the Solomon's and I recently received a message from a pastor friend of mine, telling me that Bert and Christina, would like to get remarried and asked for my opinion.  Bert is really progressing in his faith and I hope they will soon get re-married.  A Miracle!! Pray for Bert and Christina.[1]
That is the joy in serving the Lord, seeing lives in a mess being transformed by this One who was born 2000+ years ago, was crucified, buried, resurrected, and still lives.  As we celebrate His birthday.  I want to say "Happy Birthday Jesus". Hallelujah!!!  Amen!!! 
      Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,
    "Uncle" George and "Aunt" Nancy Miller
Honiara, Solomon Islands

[1] Thanks Bert for giving me permission to retell your story and your allowing me to use your real name.