After his junior year at Wheaton College, Miller spent a few months living in Honduras, working with a street ministry. He grew more passionate about helping vulnerable people but found his childhood faith shaken. “I fell off a cliff spiritually,” he says. “I really was trying to figure out how we can talk about a just and loving God when there are 9-year-olds using yellow glue on the streets.”
For a few years after college, Miller lived in Houston and worked as a bilingual schoolteacher. He was still struggling spiritually, and he calls those years his “wilderness experience.” Over time, he learned to grieve the sorrows he’d encountered, and he came to a deeper understanding of how God works in the brokenness of the world.
The crisis was formative: “If my faith had just been a straight line up, I wouldn’t have had an understanding or compassion for our guys when they go through dark nights of the soul.”
By 1998, Miller was back in Honduras, looking for ways to help those going through dark nights in the wake of Hurricane Mitch. He learned that a large group of residents from a neighborhood near the river had taken shelter at a church near Miller’s apartment. He stayed with them in the shelter for a week.
When electricity returned, Miller made treks to an internet café and started writing simple updates for friends and family back home. Supporters wanted to help, and they began sending donations.
Over time, Miller and other locals identified a large tract of land for sale high up a mountainside. Miller used the funds to help purchase the property, but the group didn’t have enough money to build homes.
Meanwhile, a Red Cross representative visited the area and said the relief agency had funds for building materials, but no access to land. The agency offered to donate the materials to the residents to begin building simple homes. Miller helped the 165 families form local councils, and they sent representatives to city meetings to ask for water, electricity, and other services.
When they completed the project, the residents asked Miller to let them name the neighborhood after him. He demurred, but eventually agreed to let them name it after his mother. Two decades later, many of the same families still live in the “Villa Linda Miller” community—a neighborhood locally known as “the Miller.”
But as the hurricane victims were building new homes, Miller was still thinking about children who had no homes at all.