The 700 Club with Pat Robertson


Former Inmate Now Death Row Minister

By Gorman Woodfin
The 700 Club"I was sick and tired of who I was. I was sick and tired of who I called my friends. I was tired of pain. I was tired of being shot. I was tired of shooting at other people. I was just tired of it," says Thom Miller.

Violence and crime plagued Thom Miller’s life on the inner-city streets of Ohio. Thom remembers how it all began—overwhelming poverty consumed his childhood. He remembers the day when the social workers came to take him away from his single mother as she pleaded to keep her two sons.

"She had hold of me," he recalls, " and she was begging them, 'Don’t take my children. I’ll work more. I’ll get more work, and I’ll feed them better. You can feed them better than me, but you’ll never love them better than I love them.'"

Though Thom and his brother got to stay with their mother, Thom turned to a dark life of crime on the cold city streets. Longing to find a father figure in his life, he gravitated to the wrong crowd.

"I started getting into drugs, started doing drugs, and started finding out that there was money in distributing drugs and buying drugs and then reselling them," he says. "I started collecting money for people that are in organized crime."

His life of crime landed Thom in prison. During his long years behind bars, Thom says his darkest moment was when he found out his loving mother was dying and wouldn’t make it through the night.

Thom Miller's motherSays Thom, "There was a system where if you can come up with the money to pay two guards to take you to your loved one’s bedside while they’re dying, they’ll transport you. I was told, 'It doesn’t matter how much money you have. You don’t need the money because a man like you will never be transported outside this prison. It doesn’t matter if your mother’s dying or not, you won’t go.' I had to go back to my cell and realize that my mom was going to die while I was in prison. That’s what my mom would remember. I praise God that that’s not how it happened. My mom didn’t die while I was in prison. She lived through it. But that was the darkest time."

Thom began a search for God inside those prison walls.

A program called The 700 Club reached a man whom many thought was unreachable.

"I had actually started watching the different programs on television, and I’d see Pat Robertson and Ben Kinchlow on TV. When nobody was around, I was in a maximum security institution, and I’d be in my cell. I had a bunky in there. We were living in this room. Then when he wasn’t looking, or when I knew he wasn’t around, I’d read my Bible. I just started realizing that there was a God," he says.

One day, in the quiet of a prison cell, Thom’s life took a dramatic turn.

"December 4, 1991, I asked Jesus Christ to be my God," Thom explains. "I asked God, actually I said something like, 'God, I’m reading about You. I don’t even understand You, and I’m not even sure if You’re real. I hoped that I could be forgiven.' I read that, and I hoped it meant me because I always thought that church-going people, the people who had a father to raise them right -- I knew that God would help them. I had crossed lines that I didn’t think I could be forgiven for. I just saw that maybe I could be forgiven. I asked God to forgive me, and I asked Him to change me. I didn’t even think I deserved it."

Step by step Thom’s life started to drastically change.

"Little by little I stopped doing the things I was doing," he says, "and one day I actually showed up at the chapel, which was like a touch-stone for the prison system—'Thom Miller went to the chapel. Something’s wrong.' I actually had somebody ask me, 'What? Did your mom die or something?'"

Thom even started to convince other inmates to watch The 700 Club.

Thom Miller"I actually started watching the Christian Broadcasting Network when people were around, when they could see me doing it. I tried to start getting other guys to watch Christian television," says Thom.

After almost eight years of prison life, during his sixth appearance before the parole board, Thom Miller was set free.

Says Thom, "I went back to the parole board. I kept going. And they were talking about who I used to be. I can’t defend who I was. I can’t defend that I’ve shot people. I can’t defend that I’ve stabbed people. I can’t defend that I’ve been involved in drugs and organized crime. I can’t defend all of that. But what I always kept telling them, 'That’s who I used to be, and I’m different now.' I just let them know one day at the parole board, 'No matter how long you keep me in here, I can’t change that, but no matter how long you keep me in here, I’m different. What you do is what you do, but I’ve already made a decision that’s going to last me the rest of my life.' And they paroled me. They actually paroled me."

After his release, Thom married a loving Christian woman named Julia. Today, Thom and Julia minister to thousands of prisoners all over the country.

"I started doing the men’s county jail services. We started doing that, and I just knew I should go back into the prisons," he says. "That’s a hurdle with a record like mine. I have it in writing that I would not be permitted into this prison because of my prior criminal history. I have it in writing. And we go into that prison. That prison actually houses death row, and I’m one of the ministers that helps men on death row. I’m back in. The Lord just opened the doors."

Thom and Julia are taking their prison outreach a step higher—they’re establishing a dynamic training facility to help released prisoners re-establish their lives to give the men the necessary tools and skills to make a living.

"We have men who are allowed to go home here in our community but would rather come here because they know that if they go home, their sister’s on dope, their brother may be on dope, their dope dealer lives right next door, or they’re just going to get back into the evil that they were involved in. They don’t want to go back again. We’re dealing with, once again, people who are sick and tired of being sick and tired," he says.

Thom shares with these men and women the same truths that changed his life.

"I’m nobody. I’m no one here. We get to give hope to thousands of people. The Lord means that I’m more than just Thom, that I’m part of a huge Christian community. I see God’s love change lives, and that’s the only life-changing force in the universe -- the love of Jesus Christ."

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