Jerry Miller — administrator, Out-Spokin' director, host and caterer — blended relational ministry and efficiency, creating community through Mennonite Board of Missions' programs and in many other settings.
Jerry Allen Miller, who served with Mennonite Board of Missions (MBM) for more than two decades, died July 30 at Majestic Care, a nursing care center in Goshen, Indiana. MBM is a predecessor agency of Mennonite Mission Network.
Jerry volunteered at the beginning and end of his MBM ministries. One year after Jerry and his wife, Becky, got married, they became unit leaders for the Voluntary Service (VS) unit in Aibonito, Puerto Rico, where they served from 1964-1966. Then, Jerry was hired by MBM and worked from 1966–1982, first as a VS administrator and, then, in 1970, as Out-Spokin' director. From 2000-2003, Jerry and Becky gave their energies to hosting the London (United Kingdom) Mennonite Centre, where they maintained public areas, guest rooms and gardens. During teaching seminars, they prepared and served meals. An often-mentioned highlight, treasured by staff and guests, was the gathering time for all who happened to be at the center. In the mornings, the Millers offered coffee time and, in the afternoons, tea and cookies.
Out-Spokin' was an innovative cycling ministry that built Christian community, as participants bonded through biking and receiving hospitality from churches along their routes. The program was the brainchild of Terry Burkhalter but was transferred to MBM in 1970, and Jerry became the first MBM director.
Sherm Kauffman said that Jerry respected each person he met and embodied Out-Spokin's values to affirm, engage and care for everyone — whether rider, staff person or board member. Kauffman was Out-Spokin's spiritual resource person on a seven-week ride from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean. He also worked on staff and as the board of directors' chairperson for several years. Later, Kauffman served as executive minister for Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference.
Kauffman said that Jerry's dedication to providing opportunities for people to experience Christian community never wavered.
"Jerry gave servant leadership to one of MBM's most creative ministries," Kauffman said. "His infectious sense of humor and mischievousness provided an essential lubricant to keep the wheels rolling! His capacity for innovation and [flexibility surrounding] changes to plans kept the gears engaged and the chains clear of crud."
Former Out-Spokin' staff members overflowed with heart-felt praise for Jerry's leadership.
John Drescher-Lehman said, "Jerry's magic was this: When you trust someone to lead and allow for fun and failure, growth will most likely occur." According to Sandy Drescher-Lehman, John's wife, she and John "wouldn't have even gotten married 40 years ago if it weren't for Jerry!"
Jane Rittenhouse appreciated Jerry's ready laugh, his love for ice cream, his abundant energy. "He had high expectations of himself and others, and he demonstrated how to live well, while being frugal," she said.
Stan Miller, who began as a summer volunteer and, later, became Out-Spokin's assistant director, admired Jerry's ability to mold young people into cohesive units with his clear instructions. One of Jerry's greatest joys was seeing people with less than desirable attitudes become united into an efficient work crew, he said. "Jerry loved efficiency!"
Jerry was born February 14, 1938, to Bernice A. (Richardson) and Wallace L. Miller in Dover, Ohio. He attended Walnut Hill Mennonite Church during his youth, as did his wife, Rebecca Ellen (Miller), who is known as Becky. They both attended Eastern Mennonite College (now University) in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and were married in 1963.
He was preceded in death by his parents and four brothers: Dean, Darrell, John and David; and a sister-in-law, Barbara. He is survived by his wife, Becky; his sister and her spouse, Carol M. (James) Zimmerly, Kidron, Ohio; sisters-in-law: Janet Miller, Sugarcreek, Ohio; Sue Miller, Dover, Ohio; and Viola Miller, Sugarcreek, Ohio; and numerous nieces and nephews.
In addition to his ministries with MBM, Jerry worked in admissions and recruitment for Eastern Mennonite College and was catering manager for Das Dutchman Essenhaus in Middlebury, Indiana.
He was a member of Eighth Street Mennonite Church in Goshen, where his funeral service took place August 5.
Memorial donations may be directed to the Mennonite Mission Network or Mennonite Central Committee. Please indicate that your gift is in memory of Jerry Miller.