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Miller retiring after 39 years at Children’s Homescomment (0)

November 3, 2011

By Grace Thornton

On the battlefield in Vietnam, Paul Miller surrendered.

To Christian child work.

“I had already felt the Lord moving me that direction, but while I was in Vietnam, I knew He was calling me and I told Him I would do it,” Miller said. “And I knew I needed a seminary degree for that so I applied from there.”

One week, he was in Vietnam, and the next, he was in a classroom at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

And he never looked back on his decision.

Now Miller is looking at the first major vocational change he’s had since finishing up a joint degree at Southwestern Seminary and the University of Alabama. After 39 years, he’s retiring from the Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes & Family Ministries (ABCH), the only place he’s ever worked.

“I’ve had the privilege of living out here in Alabama what I feel was a distinct call to Christian child care,” said Miller, ABCH president and CEO. “Serving here, you feel like you are able to be a part of making life better for children who have known a great deal of pain and disappointment, to help them know the love of God and develop their potential.”

He never gave ABCH a resumé — he came on as an intern and never left. He didn’t apply for the president job either — the search committee approached him.

Miller sees the whole thing as a humbling experience.

“I appreciate the fact that God chose to call me, and I appreciate Alabama Baptists giving me an opportunity to live out that call,” he said.

Rick Lance, executive director of the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions, said he has long respected Miller for his humble leadership and commitment to Christ.

“I have met few people who equal his commitment to meeting the needs of others in Jesus’ name,” Lance said. “Paul walks the walk of being a prayer warrior. His ministry of prayer has been a strong foundation on which to do ministry for Christ. And he is a positive change agent for Christ.”

Miller has indeed been able to see a lot of change since his first day of work on ABCH’s Troy campus as a social worker nearly four decades ago.

That day, he carried his briefcase to work on a bike.

“I was practicing conservation before it was popular,” Miller said with a laugh.

In the time since, he’s seen ABCH grow to include a Mobile campus, where he worked for 15 years as superintendent after his stint in Troy. Then he saw the organization move its headquarters from Troy to Birmingham, where he now serves as entity head.

And through the years, ABCH also added multiple other ministries, including foster care programs in Birmingham, Decatur, Dothan and Oxford.

“Paul Miller helped to shepherd the enormous transitions through the years as the leader of the Alabama Baptist Children’s Homes & Family Ministries,” Lance said. “I can attest to the effective leadership Paul has offered to the ministries for which he is responsible. I will miss Paul, the friendly partner I have had in ministry in Alabama Baptist life for these many years.”

As his Jan. 31, 2012, retirement date approaches, Miller said he’s looking forward to an active life of involvement with his church — First Baptist Church, Pell City — and going on missions trips.

He’s also ready to spend more time with his wife, three children and seven grandchildren.

“I’m so grateful for my family — my supportive, loving children and spouse. She has ministered and been with me all those years,” Miller said of Diane, his wife of 44 years. “I’m looking forward to what God’s got in store for me and my family.”

He’s got high hopes for ABCH’s future, too.

“I would love to see our family ministries strengthened to the point that there wasn’t even a need for foster care homes,” Miller said. “I know that’s idealistic and we could never have it happen for all but for as many as we could — to keep them in their families or reunite them with their families.”

He said he is excited to watch how the ministry will grow in the coming years.

“I hope we always respond to the greatest need and the greatest potential to respond, doing that in a way that would honor Christ always,” Miller said. “I’m very grateful and I’m going to continue to pray for this ministry and support it.”

He said he can’t imagine a life more meaningful than the one he’s been privileged to spend looking after orphans, engaging in what the Book of James calls “true religion.”

“I believe the Word and I believe we are to live that out. I haven’t always done that, but it’s always been the desire of my heart,” Miller said. “I’m grateful for the children I had the opportunity to watch grow along the way. You have disappointment at times, and you wish sometimes they would make different choices, but so many have responded to the love of Christ.”

He said he got an email just the other day from a young woman whom he had known on the Troy campus years ago at the beginning of his work.

“She was just writing to say, ‘You and Mrs. Miller made a difference in my life. I know you cared for me and truly loved me,’” he said. “Every day, when I’ve come to work, I’ve known that it mattered to someone. Being able to be a part of that has been such a blessing.”

For more information about his ministry at ABCH, visit www.alabamachild.org.

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