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Deeply Rooted

Christine Yount Jones

Eunice Miller's 31 years in children's ministry have borne abundant fruit in Fort Collins, Colorado.

After 31 years in the same house, Robert and Eunice Miller are moving. "We moved to Fort Collins 31 years ago, and our house was on the edge of town," says Eunice. "The town just kind of grew up around us."

Their move is a kind of metaphor for Eunice Miller's lifetime service in children's ministry. The Millers have faithfully paid off their mortgage, they've built living histories with neighbors, and they've chosen contentment over consumerism.

In the same way, Eunice has planted her life at First Christian Church in Fort Collins, Colorado, and has watched Jesus' young followers pop up all around her. It's Eunice's commitment to establishing deep roots and her willingness to pull up old roots that need new soil that have borne abundant fruit in her ministry.

In 31 years of children's ministry-both as a volunteer and as a professional-Eunice has seen many changes in children, families, and churches. But the primary thing that hasn't changed in Eunice's life is a dogged determination to remain faithful to her Lord, to stay current, to learn more, and to understand the people God has entrusted to her to reach and teach.

Eunice Miller is deeply rooted. Her life reflects the words in Psalms 1:1-3: "Happy are those who don't listen to the wicked, who don't go where the sinners go, who don't do what evil people do. They love the Lord's teachings, and they think about those teachings day and night. They are strong, like a tree planted by a river. The tree produces fruit in season, and its leaves don't die. Everything they do will succeed."

Eunice's church has faced its most critical challenge recently. Three years ago, the man who had pastored First Christian Church for 29 years retired. The church has yet to replace him. The church membership has dwindled from a whopping 1,500 to a faithful 300.

"Many people have become discouraged and have left our church for other faith communities," says Eunice. "I feel the loss as though they were blood relatives. At the same time, I must carry on my ministry -- with the added duties -- and try to encourage others who are also mourning the losses. It's difficult to mourn with those who mourn and yet be an encourager who's trying to help others work through the situation. This experience has brought me to greater reliance on God through prayer and Scripture reading."

The years have mellowed Eunice and enabled her to see issues from more than one perspective. Rather than polarize herself, she lovingly seeks to understand each person's viewpoint. This balance in her life has made her a shady respite for emotionally ravaged church members.

There are three factors that Eunice cites as her secrets to longevity. "First and foremost is God's call on my life," she says. "Since I feel the Lord spent years drawing me into the ministry, I feel he will also remove that call when he has other plans for me. In the meantime, he has given me a burden for children and has provided the wisdom and energy to accomplish whatever needs to be done.

"Second is the support I've received from my husband who's always provided support by handling more details in our home, caring for our sons, and helping with everything from set-building for events to substituting for absentee teachers. He has also listened to many hours of my spouting whatever's on my mind.

"Third, over the years I've learned to manage my time better. When I work, I work; and when I play, I play."

No one is immune to insecurity attacks. "Throughout my years of ministry, I've felt education and training are important to growth in the ministry," Eunice says. "I've regretted not going to a Christian college for a Christian education degree."

But that hasn't kept Eunice from learning. Over the years, she's taken courses at seminaries and attended seminars, workshops, and other short courses. She's also an avid reader of Christian education books and magazines.

"I firmly believe that when a person ceases to learn, he or she begins to die. With the advent of new technology, resources, and trends in culture, it's essential to keep updating."

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