‘I Know the Plans I Have for You’
– Mrs. Joy Miles –
Remembering 25Yrs at Southland
Seventeen years ago, in 1985, Tim and I packed up our car and our three young children and headed west to St. George, Utah to begin a church. Did we look ridiculous, illogical, impulsive and slightly demented? Yup. You see, we had a thriving church in Manchester, Michigan where Tim had been a pastor for twelve years. We loved the people and delighted in serving the Lord there … fortunately, they loved us back and I happily wanted to retire there some thirty years later….
“I know the plans I have for you saith the Lord…” (Jeremiah 29:11)
In 1983, Ron and Wanda Thompson who were missionaries to Utah and supported by our church in Michigan, stopped by for a couple of days to visit. They specifically asked us to pray for two towns in Utah that had almost no Christian witness: Richfield and St. George.
Sweet, simple, innocent requests, and utterly life-changing. We prayed faithfully for these two towns, and eventually found ourselves focusing on St. George. At the same time Tim began preaching from the Book of Acts on Paul’s church planting ministry.
Deep in my heart I sensed that a big change was coming, one that I wasn’t embracing too quickly. (“Remember God, you know how much we love it here….”) Then I had a quick flashback: My parents were and are missionaries to Chile, South America, where they are church planters. Being raised there, I knew all about the rigors of this type of ministry where spiritual strong-holds dominated and opposition was a daily occurrence. I also saw the rewards. Was God going to take Tim and me into a similar ministry?
Six months later, at Sunday dinner, Tim said, “I feel that God may call someone from our church to the mission field … silence … maybe it is us.” I looked at him and said, “Maybe it is.” His mouth dropped.
Simultaneously, independently, God had been preparing us both for a church planting ministry in Utah.
Two years after praying for St. George, the Lord sent us there. We had nothing but a few belongings, $400 pledged in support, what we had in our car and a powerful verse: “Faithful is He who has called you who will also do it.”
To keep us from running away in panic, God gave us a place to worship before He gave us a house to live in. It goes like this: Ron Thompson knew of one Christian man in St. George who managed a convention center at the Four Seasons Motel and asked that we stop by and greet him. We did. When he saw us for the first time, he said quietly: “I’ve been thinking about you. Can I show you something?” We followed him down a long corridor and he threw open a door. Inside was a long room, set up with chairs, and at the end a pulpit and piano. “Could you use this to start your church?”, he asked. Tim and I, with goose-bumps running down our arms, mumbled something intelligent like: “uh, yeah, humm, OH YES! How much a month?” Nothing….
In September of 1985 we began Southland Bible Church. What an awesome road God has taken us on with unbelievable answers to prayer and opposition that at times threatened to overwhelm us. There were times that we literally didn’t know how we would pay our few bills. Yet God was faithful and knew our fragility and kept us encouraged and reminding us that it was HIS work to do in HIS time and for HIS purpose.
Church planting has some very interesting moments like the Sunday when only our family and one other person showed up for the Sunday morning worship service. The one person was a young woman named Christie. We did everything as planned, sang, prayed, and then Tim began to preach to me, the kids and Christie. It was such an awkward feeling. After the service she left and I (full of faith in God) turned to Tim and said, “She won’t be back.” But she did come back. She later accepted Christ-the first one in our ministry in St. George, and a year later she invited her neighbor to church and her neighbor, Rose, trusted Christ. Soon the burden for reaching their husbands was great, so we started to pray for them. Two years later one of the husbands came to Christ. He sold everything and went to Frontier School of the Bible and now is a pastor in Idaho! After eight years the other husband came to Christ and also sold everything and went to Bible school. He is now on staff at Frontier School of the Bible. What a blessing to see God using us through souls being saved and lives being changed.
Things aren’t always like you want them to be in church planting. I remember when Tim cleaned floors every night at a local grocery store. I babysat five other children daily just to make ends meet. But God rewards the faithful and He gave us a wonderful church building and continues to bring people that need the Lord to our church.
Church planting is just one miraculous story after another of God’s awesome love reaching into the lives of sinners and His power changing their life forever. God has done “exceedingly above all that we could ask or think….”
One of the side benefits of being a church planter is the visible testimony it is to our children. They have watched the Lord give us land for a camping ministry. They have seen people accept Christ as Savior and change. They have had to take a stand for the Lord in a city that teaches about false gods. They have grown deeper daily in their love for the Lord.
Sometimes church planting is both exciting and depressing. I remember when there were twenty-five attending after three years in the ministry. Then within weeks 14 of those people had changed their jobs and moved to another state. But praise God they had accepted Christ before they left! It is hard to start over again with a small number, but we believe that God is building His church and all He requires of us is faithfulness, perseverance and trust.
Where is the happiest place to be? Doing God’s will, which for us it meant leaving Michigan and moving to St. George, Utah.
Joy Miles was raised on the mission field of Chile and Argentina and attended Grand Rapids School of Bible and Music. It was while there that the President, John Miles, introduced her to his son, Tim. In 1985 they responded to the call of God to Utah.
In 1993 MountainViewBible Church was born in LaVerkin Utah with the vision of it’s “Sister” Church Southland Bible in St. George. The construction of MountainView Bible Church at 88 North State began in August of 1994, and was completed by January of the next year with volunteer labor from eight Bible churches in Utah. Dedication was held in March of ’94.