Reversing a Legacy
Leo George Miller’s earliest memories involve trying to restrain his drunken father from beating his mother. Although his parents divorced when he was a young boy, as a teenager Miller followed down the path of alcohol abuse, plus using and selling drugs.
While hitchhiking with a friend near Dallas, a motorist picked up the pair and convinced them to help him hold up a convenience store.
“We planned to rob a store near a motel and run back to our rented room, eliminating the need for a getaway vehicle,” Miller recalls. “What a great plan!”
However, as the robbery took place, an unmarked police vehicle pulled into the parking lot. The clerk inside the business started hollering for the officers to help when he saw their uniforms as they got out of the car. Miller fled with a whopping $122 and made it to the motel, where he met the driver behind the scheme. But police found the motel key in the pocket of his captured hitchhiking buddy, so figuring out Miller’s whereabouts didn’t take long. Officers stormed the room through the door, shotguns pointing at Miller’s head.
Although this represented Miller’s 10th time behind bars, he never had faced an adult felony charge before. Miller received a 10-year prison sentence for armed robbery.
God provided a cell partner and then a second who repeatedly told Miller about Jesus. Miller hoped his third cellmate wouldn’t be so vocal.
“It seemed more like a Bible college than a prison,” Miller remembers. “As I entered my new cell, I saw my new partner sitting on the bunk ― reading a Bible!” The other inmate couldn’t read very well, and he said the words aloud, slowly, in order to gain understanding.
“He only read one chapter each night, but it took him an eternity to finish,” Miller says. One evening, Miller suggested he read the chapter for the other inmate so he wouldn’t have to listen to the Scripture reading drag on and on. The cellmate asked Miller what one of the passages from the Gospel of John meant.
“As I tried to explain it to him, God began to work in my heart,” Miller says. When the other prisoner went free a week later he left his Bible behind. Miller sought God’s help.
“I immediately felt Him enter my life, as if someone had lifted a great weight from my shoulders,” Miller says. He began attending prison church, and 1½ years later, the parole board miraculously granted his release from prison. He paroled to Calvary Commission, a ministry in Lindale, Texas, that provides a discipleship atmosphere for new parolees. Ministry founders Joe and Charlotte Fauss, who are U.S. missionaries with Chaplaincy Ministries, mentored Miller.
In 1979, Miller married his wife, Terry, who had lived with Joe and Charlotte for six years after enrolling in U.S. Missions Teen Challenge at age 15. The Millers served as early leaders at Calvary Commission, Leo as operations director and Terry as secretary.
“Those 10 years spent with Calvary Commission served as a foundation in our lives,” Miller says.
In 1987, after becoming an ordained Assemblies of God minister, Miller pioneered All Generations Church in Lockhart, at the time the largest community in the North Texas District without an AG church. More than three decades after starting the church, Miller, at 61, is still pastor in Lockhart, a city of 13,500 about 30 miles south of Austin known as the filming site of such movies as Secondhand Lions and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?
“Ministry at times has been difficult,” Miller says. “But the slow numerical growth and other trials served as a testing ground.”
The Millers have six daughters and three sons, ranging in age from 18 to 37, and most of them are involved in worship at All Generations. The church is reflective of the diverse demographics of the community.
“We have a real heart for broken people, accepting them where they’re at, but realizing that God wants to take them to a better place,” says Miller, who still serves on the Calvary Commission board.
“Leo is a son in the Lord,” says the 78-year-old Joe Fauss. “We immediately recognized him as a leader who could handle a lot and he has been steadfast through the years.”
Miller’s testimony is part of a new book Fauss has written, Caution: Watch Your Step.
“I am amazed as I look back and consider the depths from where I came: a family heritage without Christ, with many generations of sin and hopelessness,” Miller says.