Many know him as much by his first name as by his full name and rank. To Salvationists around the world, his name is perhaps a recognizable as another “Andy” who played a sheriff on television in a small North Carolina town.
Even after his promotion to Glory in 2011, Commissioner Andrew S. Miller remains as loved and respected as any Salvation Army Officer can get. In office he rose as high as our USA National Commander, and yet he always made others feel just as important and vital to the Army’s mission and ministry.
We all know a lot of “Andy Miller stories”—but this one in particular personifies the kind of man Commissioner Miller was; a soul winner. What happened in this story qualifies as a Salvation iRony.
Many years ago the Millers were Corps Officers in Akron, OH—long, long before the concept of a Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center was even dreamt of in that town. In those days, the old Akron Corps was located at 31 N. Main Street downtown. The Millers were giving exceptional pastoral guidance over the corps, and souls were being won into the Kingdom.
But one snowy night, something unexpected happened.
His Assistant Corps-Sergeant Major accompanied Captain Miller as they made their way up a long staircase leading to the second floor where the administrative offices were located. When the Captain opened his office door, they were both surprised by a couple of young burglars. The thieves bolted past the two men, ran down the staircase and out the front door.
And one of them had Captain Miller’s briefcase!
Well, there wasn’t anything in the briefcase of real value. I suppose it was the principle of it all that instinctively made the Captain follow out the door and down an alley at breakneck speed close behind the culprits.
It wasn’t until after the incident did they consider the danger involved, had the criminals been armed. “It was more instinct and reaction, than any courageous thought!” Commissioner Miller later admitted when he told the story.
And yes, Miller caught up with them. The offenders were a couple of kids, not much more than teens. They had broken into the corps office by the same door through which they tried to escape.
But they were caught. Surely the next move would be to call the police.
Remember when I mentioned that “instinctively” Miller and the assistant sergeant-major chased them, despite the danger? Well, just as instinctively, something within Captain Miller changed gears.
Despite every right Miller had to call the cops and have the two bandits arrested—the Captain did something different, given the situation.
He witnessed to them!
Right there in the alley, surrounded by the cold darkness with only the light of a nearby streetlamp, Miller led the two boys to the Savior!
All of a sudden, the burglary to his office was incidental. The risk of life and limb during the chase became an afterthought. Even the retrieval of the briefcase was of no consequence.
Nothing mattered more to Andy and to those two young men than to turn this awful negative into a glorious positive.
And oh, what a positive it was! For those two boys that night marked the end of their life of crime, and a beginning of their new life in Christ Jesus! They even became involved in the corps program.
Down through the years, countless others have been won into the Kingdom through the loving ministry of Commissioners Andrew & Joan Miller—though admittedly none quite so exciting as the night Andy chased down two sinners and snatched them from the gates of Hell.
We can all understand that of all the “trophies of grace” won into the Kingdom by the Millers, the Commissioner fondly remembered these two with thankfulness for the rest of his life.
It proved to be a most exciting Salvation iRony.
—Major Frank Duracher, Assistant Editor, National Publications