The Joy of a Cadet“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding."
Major Christine Poff says that the first thing people notice about Johnny Miller is his joy. You see it in his eyes and in his smile, in his voice and in his laughter. It wasn’t always so. Johnny had to journey a long way through anger at God, family tragedy and rebellion to realize that “the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh. 8:10). Here is Johnny’s story, as told in an interview with Major Poff.
My mom and dad were evangelists before they met and continued their ministries after they were married. I’m the oldest of three children, and we traveled with our mom, singing in her services. Life was good, and then it wasn’t.
I was seven when my dad died in a car accident coming home from a late-night service. The accident was caused by a drunk driver. Eventually, my mom remarried and moved the family from Chicago to Atlanta. Atlanta was not at all like Chicago, and I was an outsider struggling to fit in. Unfortunately, the marriage did not last, and my mom became a single mom again. She sacrificed and worked long hours as a flight attendant to provide for me and my siblings. My grandmother and other family members helped take care of us when needed.
At the age of 11, I was introduced to alcohol and marijuana. I was mad at God and felt abandoned, wondering how God could have let this happen to my family. I kept those feelings inside while my use of alcohol and marijuana increased. I had a difficult time receiving love from family and others in my life. The family was involved in church, but I only went occasionally to support them. I was afraid of not living right, but continued to do things I knew were wrong. It was a daily struggle that I mostly lost.
When I was in high school, I started working part-time to help the family. I felt I had to be the “man of the house.” It wasn’t long before I started getting into trouble for fighting at school. It became obvious to me when I was in 11th grade that I would never graduate this way. I stepped out of school and started an independent study online. I did graduate but I also began drinking more, partying and running with the wrong crowd. As angry as I was with the drunk driver who killed my dad, I found myself driving under the influence and having several minor accidents.
I was running from God and ministry, yet God’s grace and mercy were all around me. I felt convicted about the way I was living so I left Georgia to live with my uncle in Chicago, my dad’s identical twin brother. He was a godly man and a pastor/evangelist. I attended services with him and heard God’s Word. This was the beginning of my return to God. Soon I stopped smoking weed and then stopped drinking. I asked God for a sign, and the next day I tried to drink and was violently sick. I knew that was from God. I began reading the Bible and allowing God to work in me. As I returned to Him and left all the baggage behind, God healed my heart and transformed my mind. I became active in my uncle’s ministries and worked with youth, sharing how God had helped me. I soon realized God was calling me to serve Him. My mom and grandmother moved back to Chicago, started a ministry, and I got involved helping them.
There were some outstanding legal issues that I had never dealt with. They were holding me back from getting a job, a license or going to college. It was time to clear my record and make restitution for past sins by facing the consequences of pending charges against me. I was incarcerated and went to Bible study and prayer meetings in the jail. The men there told me God had called me to ministry and that I needed to draw closer to Him. It was the love of the Heavenly Father that continued to work to make me the man I needed to be for the ministry He had called me to. Later, I met my “first lady,” Marsha, who is now my wife. We have two beautiful daughters, Liya and Iyana.
I met the Army when my wife’s friend, Carla, was a soldier at the Chicago Midwest Corps. She shared with us about the corps and the Army. She invited us to come and see for ourselves. I found the closest corps where we lived. When we visited the hospitality was great, and we felt right at home. Soon we were soldiers of the Evanston Corps and busy in its programs and activities. I wanted to give back and share with others what God had done for me. I wanted to serve people. The corps officers were encouraging and great examples to us. Marsha was ready to be an officer, but I needed confirmation. Then in a worship meeting, I knew without a doubt that God was calling me to minister in The Salvation Army. Marsha said to me, “I feel God is calling me to officership.” And this time I said, “Me too.”
As I grew up without a father, I was confused and unsure of what direction my life should go. Because of that, I feel for kids growing up without their fathers or mothers. God gave me a heart for ministry to them. Evangelism and outreach are passions for me. I want to see people get saved. I want to reach out to people who do not know God or who are running from God. I look forward to sharing with others what God has done in my life.
Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJ) says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will direct your paths.” In my relationship with God, I have found my “Abba, Father” who gives direction and meaning to my life.
Lieutenant Johnny Miller completed training and was commissioned as a Salvation Army officer in the Central Territory in June 2021.