Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Missionary Tim Miller witnesses modern-day martyrdom

The following story was the front page story of the September 3 edition of The Alabama Baptist. After reading the story, I was moved to invite Tim Miller to speak at First Baptist Church. I have been leading my church on Wednesday evenings to be more deliberate in praying for the persecuted church. Tim is going to be speaking to our congregation on Sunday, October 4 during our morning worship services.

The Cost: Missionary to Philippines witnesses modern-day martyrdom
By Jennifer Davis Rash
The Alabama Baptist

Tim Miller knows the Bible well. He’s spent the majority of his 46 years dissecting, memorizing and sharing it, but he’s not sure he ever thought he would find himself severely beaten and his friend murdered because of its message. But that is now part of his faith journey, and it is this eye-witness account of this modern-day martyrdom that leaves Miller confident in the foundation of his faith.

"We have a foundation with Christ and my little fortress is more secure now. I am more confident in the things I am doing and the ways I am doing those things that need to be done," said Miller, who recently returned to Alabama following the May attack.

While Miller’s experiences teaching in various seminary classrooms, embracing cultures around the world and even working with Britain’s prime minister and wife on medical ethics offer infinite copy for unwritten books, it is his nearly 10 years of work in the Philippines as an educator and missionary that has defined the latest chapters in his life.

Planting a church in a city of 40,000 that grew from zero to 450 in about five years, Miller worked strategically to train and equip Bible study leaders who could disciple new believers and prepare them to do the same.

"God is amazing in that a person like me can take a bunch of people coasting through life and create an evangelism explosion," said Miller, who was holding three worship services at the church every Sunday, each in a different language — Tagalog (most widely spoken Filipino language), German and English.

Originally from Nebraska and the son of well-known preacher and author Calvin Miller, Tim Miller holds degrees from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.; Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas; and the University of Oxford in England.

Professing his faith in Jesus Christ at age 7 and growing up in a strong Christian home and church environment, Miller said talking about his faith has always come easily. Combine that with an adventurous spirit, a deep interest in people and a well-traveled resumé and he can typically interact easily with individuals from any part of the world. Christ most certainly comes into the conversation fairly quickly when Miller is involved.

In the Philippines, that was no different. Outside of his classes at Baguio Bible College (associated with the Asia Baptist Graduate Theological Seminary) in Baguio and his eight years of developing a food kitchen that feeds about 1,000 people a week, Miller turned to a kind of fishing.

Fishing for fishermen, that is. He loves a good tuna steak, and what better place to find one than fresh off a boat as a local fisherman comes ashore?

Only a two- to three-mile walk from Miller’s house in the Philippine province of Zambales was a fishing community. He spent many hours there buying fish, sharing stories and building relationships. The fishermen happened to all be Muslim.

Through the years, he led scores of Muslims to Christ, but it was one particular new Christian — Ali Manalo — who would change everything for Miller. Manalo would pay the ultimate sacrifice for his decision. And Miller would find himself under 24-hour police protection — the target of an Islamic militant group — following an intense beating by this group known as the Abu Sayyef.

It was late May and Manalo, just a year into his new faith, was making good progress in Scripture memorization and his understanding of the basic foundational truths, Miller explained.
Distant relatives unhappy with Manalo’s move to Christianity contacted the Abu Sayyef. Representatives from this group and a few others they picked up in the area invited themselves to the next Bible study at Manalo’s house. After being spit on and verbally abused, Miller attempted to calm the men down.

But all he got in return was a barrage of bamboo clubs coming at him as the other Bible study attendees fled.

It was Miller and Manalo against 10 militants in what would be Miller’s first and Manalo’s last
Arnese (Philippine stick fight).

At 6 feet 3 inches and with military defense skills he learned 25 years ago, Miller managed to fend off several men as he ushered Manalo’s wife, Fatema, and two young daughters to safety.
But before he could save Manalo, Miller was struck from behind.

He awoke in the hospital and entered a two-month journey of saying goodbye to close friends and church members. For about two months, he remained homebound, healing and staying clear of the Abu Sayyef, who threatened to take revenge on Miller for the local government’s hanging of the two militants leading the attack. "(Friends) came by every day to cook, clean, do whatever I needed," Miller said. "They were there for me."

Even Fatema.

"She thanked me for getting them out," he said, noting he still thinks about that day and wonders if there had been an option, would he have given his life so Manalo could have lived and taken care of his family? "Yeah, I would have," Miller said, noting Fatema hung a photo of Manalo on her wall with the inscription John 15:13 — "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."

"She sees her husband as a martyr, as do I," Miller said. "She is intent that her daughters know that commitment to Christ costs."

At 3 and 4 years old, Manalo’s daughters will carry that fateful day’s events with them throughout their lives, but Miller believes their mother will never let them forget how their father stood for his faith.

Miller — who still favors his right elbow and ribs a little and can finally talk after having his jaw wired shut for six weeks — knows he won’t forget. And for the first time in his theology-filled life, Jesus’ words in Luke 14:26 about "hating" one’s family and oneself finally made sense. "I never quite understood that," he said, "until you see it cost people something."

A member of NorthPark Baptist Church, Trussville, in Birmingham Baptist Association, Miller is currently teaching hermeneutics at the Birmingham extension of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

He is working on securing a new teaching assignment in Central or South America, which should begin in early 2010.