‘I Know the Plans I Have for You’
– Mrs. Joy Miles –
Remembering 25Yrs at Southland
Requested article written in 2002 for “ VOICE MAGAZINE” by Joy Miles
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. Could a number of people question our sanity? Probably. We were breaking our church family’s hearts as well as our own. 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 Bible teaching churches: Richfield and St. George.
Such a sweet, simple, innocent request, and utterly life-changing. We prayed faithfully for these two towns for the next year and a half, that God would send someone to begin a Bible Church, eventually finding ourselves focusing more and more 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 and Argentina, South America, where they are church planters. Being raised there, I knew all about the rigors of starting a Christian Bible teaching church in the midst of a strong predominant religion that did not welcome us, yet ruled all aspects of life, both culturally and religiously. Opposition was present, as well as the rewards. Was God going to take Tim and I 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 even gave us a house to live in! It goes like this: Ron Thompson knew one 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 up and down our arms, mumbled something like: “Uh…. ..yeah….um…. OH YES!!” Tim asked how much rent would be a month, and he replied “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 tempted us to want to quit. We prayed and praised God until our faith was back on him. There were times that we literally didn’t know how we would pay our few bills. We prayed more. Yet God was faithful and knew our frailty and kept us encouraged, 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, our three kids ( two were asleep!) and Christie. Need I say how awkward this felt?! After the service she left and I,full of faith, turned to Tim stating, “She won’t be back.” But she did come back! Sunday after Sunday. She later accepted Christ as her Savior and became a Jesus follower–the first one in our ministry in St. George. Some time later she invited her neighbor to church and her neighbor, Rose, trusted Christ. Soon the desire for reaching their husbands was great, so we started to pray for them. We prayed much. Two years later one of the husbands came to Christ. In time, as their love for God grew, he quit his good job, sold everything and moved with his family to Frontier School of the Bible for Bible training- presently he is a pastor in Idaho. After eight years the other husband came to Christ, and in time also chose to quit his job and get training at a Bible school. He is now on staff at Frontier School of the Bible. What a blessing to see God changing people’s lives, marriages,families and generations.
Things aren’t always like you want them to be in church planting : I remember when Tim cleaned floors every night during the night shift at the local Smith grocery store while I, pregnant with our fourth child , began a small home daycare watching five other young children along with our own , to make ends meet. Trying to keep nine children quiet in our small home while Tim attempted to get a few hours of sleep during the day was no small feat. Thankfully, we all still like each other!
God had definite plans, and eventually allowed us to purchase property and build a small, white church , which subsequently went through several additions and expansions over the years, all with cash—as more and more people began attending, hungry to learn about God and how to have a personal relationship with Him, through His Son, Jesus Christ.
Church planting is just one miraculous story after another of God’s awesome love and salvation reaching into the lives of humans, and of observing His power and love changing lives forever- just as he has done in our own.
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 has been to our four children. They have watched the Lord give us land for a church and provide all of the funds without us mentioning the need to others….They’ve watched people walk in who are hungry to learn about God through His Word….They have seen God change their lives…They have watched God provide beautiful mountain property for a camping ministry, and the funds for it, along with many volunteers who have helped build cabins, pavilions , kitchen, dining room – making it a place where children, youth and families thrive during the summer months. They have had to figure out what they truly believe and why, along with knowing how to clearly explain and defend their faith without compromise. They have grown in their love for the Lord and desire to live for Him in their conduct and actions.
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 job changes and moved to another state. It is hard to start over again with a very small number, but we believe that God is building His church and all He requires of us is perseverance , trust and to faithfully teach His Word.
In 1993, Southland Bible Church purchased property in LaVerkin, Utah with the desire to build a sister church called Mountain View Bible Church. The construction of Mountain View Bible Church at 88 North State began in August of 1994, and was completed by January of the next year with volunteer labor . Dedication was held in March of ’94.
Where is the happiest place to be? Doing God’s will, which for us meant leaving Michigan and moving to St. George, Utah- a place we had never seen or heard of.
…….Joy Miles was raised on the mission field of Chile and Argentina for 14 years and following graduation in Argentina, 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.
2017…. 32 years later:
“ It is unbelievable to look back over these past 32 years, amazed at what God has done ….
Around 300 to 420 people call Southland Bible Church their “ home church” – including part-time snow-birds- who are such a joy and blessing to love and know….We love our Savior Jesus Christ together and go through life seeking His wisdom and strength, loving and encouraging one another and knowing that we will all be together one day in heaven around God’s very throne…
Sunday is our favorite day of the week, where wonderful voices raise up and sing praises to our God and Father together, and hearts are united in worship as we study His Word and seek to live for Him and through Him….God has changed all of our lives, and continues to do so….
We love it here. We love the beautiful, kind people of St.George. Our children thrived here and three out of four live in Utah…the fourth comes back often to visit with her family….Utah is in our blood.
Such a sweet, simple, innocent request said to us back in the early 1980’s : “ Tim, will you and Joy pray for St.George, Utah- that God would send someone to start a Bible based, Bible teaching church there?