By Dr. Joshua Phillips
If you are ever in the northeastern part of Maryland, not far from the Delaware state line, you may have an encounter that is common in our community. A young, slender man with curly hair may approach you and extend a half-fisted handshake. He will probably be wearing a cross around his neck and a worn black “Jesus” hat on his head. Listen carefully because he is difficult to understand unless you’re completely focused.
He will engage you by asking one of four simple questions. “Do you know Jesus?” “Are you going to heaven?” “Do you go to church?” “How can I pray for you?” Rest assured, he will ask one of those questions, then discuss it with you further. Then he will hand you his notebook and pen so you can write your name in his prayer journal. He will close the conversation by putting his hand on your shoulder and praying for you, and telling you one last time that he loves Jesus. If this happens to you, then you will have encountered Andrew Miller.
Andrew Miller is one of the greatest prayer warriors and disciples of Jesus that I know. People in Andrew’s church know to seek Andrew when they want someone to pray for them.
Andrew’s Early Years
Andrew is in his early 30s and lives with his parents, Greg and Laurie. He has two siblings, Michael and Katie. Not long after his first birthday, Andrew began having severe seizures. Early in his development, his parents noticed that he was not talking like other children his age. Laurie said, “We knew something was not right and took him to multiple doctors. We never received a formal diagnosis, though we got the seizures under control. Most felt that he had severe autism, among other issues.”
Mildly put, the early years with Andrew proved pressing and difficult. Andrew would randomly take off his clothes and sneak out of the house to neighbors’ homes blocks away. He would eat paper, climb trees, or climb onto the
neighbor’s second-story roof by using the house antenna. These were only a few instances of scary moments with Andrew. He required constant supervision. It would only take a minute for him to disappear. Laurie explained, “It is no exaggeration to say that we had to screw all the windows in our house closed and deadbolt all the doors to keep him safe and secure.” It became commonplace for him to bolt straight onto the street amid traffic and Laurie is still amazed to this day that a car has not struck him. Laurie once told Andrew in frustration, “You had better pray to Jesus because He is the only One who can help you.”
This young couple’s experience with the strain of raising another Andrew, another son, and later a daughter, was very real and taxing on their marriage. They were both people of strong faith, but the stress of raising a child with these kinds of struggles would break many marriages. Laurie recalled reaching a breaking point after one of Andrew’s severe seizure episodes. She told me, “I shared with one of my friends that I was praying that God would perform a big miracle in Andrew’s life.” Her friend then asked a convicting question. “Have you thanked God for the small miracles?” Laurie was immediately broken and started trying to focus on the little milestones in Andrew’s life. This was merely one growing moment among many over the years. Laurie reiterated that she now sees what God was doing with Andrew.
A Mature Young Man With a Bold Voice for Jesus
Though he still battles with his disability, Andrew has become a mature young man and a bold voice for Jesus. Ss he grew into manhood, he began to adapt better to life’s challenges. Andrew works with his brother, who operates a lawn care business. He loves going to church and telling people about Jesus. The community knows Andrew as the boy that loves Jesus. As one of Andrew’s pastors, I hear of Andrew-encounters throughout our community, and many attend our church because of his personal invitations. Andrew demonstrates a bold faith that most Christians only dream of demonstrating.
Andrew’s father, Greg, shared an incredible story with me about when he took Andrew to meet baseball legend, Cal Ripken, Jr., at Ripken Stadium. Maryland locals are very familiar with Ripken Stadium, located in Ripken’s hometown of Aberdeen, Maryland. Each year, the Ripken family hosts the Cal Ripken World Series and Little Leaguers from all over the world can compete at the beautiful baseball complex which Cal constructed.
Greg and Laurie served as host families for ballplayers who needed housing for that week. The Millers received access to the baseball star during one of the games. Greg stood in a long line to get Cal Ripken’s autograph. As he waited endlessly for his turn to meet Ripken, he saw Andrew going through the line and getting each person to sign his prayer journal so he could pray with them. Greg smiled as he watched the real hero in the room go to work, another example of a day in the life of Andrew Miller. Everyone in the room sought the touch of a Hall of Fame baseball player, but Andrew was member of the Hall of Fame. After hearing that story, I told Greg that Cal Ripken is in the Baseball Hall of Fame, but that Andrew Miller will be in the Hall of Fame of Faith.
As a partial eyewitness to this incredible story, and as I write about this incredible young man, one Scripture comes to mind. “But many that are first shall be last, and the last shall be first” (Matthew 19:30). There is no end to Andrew’s story, because, as Laurie perfectly stated, “He belongs to Jesus, and each day Jesus is perfecting him.” As Baptists participating in the “Who’s Your One?” campaign, let Andrew Miller be our example. He engages with people every day. Andrew is a great example of a bold witness that inspires everyone.
Cover photo: Andrew’s brother-in-law Shane Appel; his sister Katie; Andrew; Andrew’s mother, Laurie, with her granddaughter Caroline; Andrew’s brother Michael; and Greg, Andrew’s father (photos used with permission).
Dr. Josh Phillips serves as associate pastor of Pleasant View Baptist Church in Port Deposit, Maryland.