Lester Miller, Founder of Findlay Area Youth for Christ, 1958
Story shared by Bur Shilling
On October 12, 2015, I attended a funeral for an older friend named Lester. Lester was 98 years old when he died. Ironically, Lester’s life impacted my life before I ever met him.
Early in Lester’s life, during his late twenties, while working full-time as a miner in the coal mines of western Pennsylvania, he started a local Youth for Christ ministry for the youth in his mountain community.
In 1947, the year before my birth, Lester attended a national Youth for Christ conference at a Bible conference grounds in Indiana called Winona Lake. Billy Graham was the first employee of Youth for Christ, but during this teen conference, he asked the leadership of the organization to pray with him about how God might best use him in the future. He was considering leaving YFC and starting a crusade ministry.
The leaders attending the conference decided to have an all-night prayer meeting to ask God to give special direction to Mr. Graham. Lester spent that entire summer night sitting under the grand piano on the stage of the Billy Sunday Tabernacle at Winona Lake praying for guidance for Billy Graham.
Interestingly as he prayed for guidance, God began to speak to Lester’s heart. Upon returning home at the end of the conference, he told his wife Alberta he felt God’s call to move to Findlay, Ohio, and start Youth for Christ there. This was a difficult decision for Alberta because she had grown up in that western Pennsylvania community and her entire family still lived there. However, in obedience to God’s call, in 1957 they packed their few possessions and with three junior and senior high children moved to Findlay.
Upon arrival in Findlay, Lester developed a local YFC Board and began having Saturday Night Rallies as an outreach to local young people. It soon became obvious that the new organization needed full-time leadership, so in 1958, the board of directors hired a young man from Detroit, Michigan, as the new director. Paul Miserlian, an employee of Ford Motor Company, accepted the position and moved to Findlay.
Ironically, Lester found out many years later that Paul had attended that same Winona Lake YFC conference in 1947 as a teen and was totally unaware that God was orchestrating their future in Findlay.
In the fall of 1960, a friend invited me to a Saturday night Youth for Christ rally. That night, two years after Paul’s arrival in Findlay, I committed my life to Jesus as my Savior and Lord. I was an early product of Lester’s vision.
Many “Lester stories” could be shared over the 65 years; he was influential within YFC. In 1990, Lester received the YFC/USA Presidents Award of Outstanding Achievement.