"I thank my God upon every remembrance of you," (Philippians 1:3)
It hit me yesterday. Two years ago on a Sunday afternoon in late January, I attended the visiting hours and funeral service for Dave Milley at a funeral home in Stoughton, Massachusetts. It's hard to believe two years have gone by since his passing. Dave was seventy-two-years-old at the time of his death, so he'd be seventy-four now. I recall that at his service, someone commented to me that Dave died ten years earlier than he really should have. That may sound like a weird or erroneous observation for a person to have made, but I heartily agreed with that gentleman's comment, and I still agree with it.
I greatly grieved at the loss of David C. Milley. I knew him for almost thirty-six years, but it was during the last five or six years of his life that we became really close. Within twenty-four hours of his passing, I wrote and posted on-line what I believed was a very powerful piece about Dave- a piece I considered to be a great tribute to him. Some of his relatives thought my posting was much too explicit and quite inappropriate. I guess my problem was that I'd sort of pulled out all the stops in writing about Dave's strengths and weaknesses. A Milley family member contacted me and asked me to take my posting down- and I did just that. Later, someone asked me if I'd saved a copy of that piece. I didn't. I intended to honor the family's request, and I never meant to hurt anyone, nor to disparage Dave Milley's image or reputation. My intention was to honor him and to help insure that his greatness and legacy would not be forgotten.
Today, if you do an on-line search for David C. Milley, you won't find very much material. That's disappointing, because if and when the history of the Assemblies of God and the Pentecostal movement in the northeastern U.S.A. during the last half of the twentieth century is written, I believe Dave Milley will hold a prominent position in such a scholarly work. In many respects, he was a great man. Dave was a natural born leader. I think he could have become Governor of Massachusetts or even President of the United States if he'd have aspired to one of those positions. Dave was the first Boston Teen Challenge director way back in the early 1960s. He personally knew early leaders in that wonderful organization such as the Rev. David Wilkerson [author of The Cross and the Switchblade] and a famous early convert of Wilkerson's ministry, Nicky Cruz. David Milley later pastored one of the key Assemblies of God churches in northern New Jersey, and subsequently he became pastor of Walpole (MA) Assembly of God [the name was changed to Christian Life Center] at a critical juncture in the church's history. Milley led numerous short-term missions trips to foreign countries, and inspired many to become ministers and missionaries. He was a charismatic personality, and a gifted church leader.
Dave Milley did not see people as they were; he saw people as what they could become. I know that when he hired me as an assistant pastor, there were people who wondered how a guy who was seemingly afraid of his own shadow (i.e. me) could possibly serve in such an important position. Milley told skeptics that I'd never really been given a chance at leadership, but that with the proper mentoring and instruction I'd rise to the challenge. I honestly don't think anyone else would have granted a timid young man such an opportunity! (Note: for you Bible scholars, I guess those skeptics forgot about the Apostle Paul mentoring the timid young man named Timothy.) I'd graduated from Central Bible College, yes, but I truly don't believe I'd ever have served as an Assemblies of God pastor without the care and foresight of Dave Milley.
Dave went through some pain and difficulties in his own life following his years of ministry in Walpole, Massachusetts. I believe the "older" Dave Milley was a far greater man than the charismatic leader of the eighties. The D.C.M. of the years following 2000 had compassion, empathy, and spiritual depth much like that of his late father, Norman Milley, Sr. I will never forget a morning in June of 2009 in which I was in deep emotional pain and frankly in what could be described as "a very dark place". The warmth, wisdom and deep concern he showed me that day was quite special and most helpful and meaningful. That morning was a turning point for me.
I had my final visit with Dave at his residence in early November of 2013. He told me his heart condition was very serious and that he'd made all his funeral arrangements. I prayed with him that afternoon. That day, there was a deep friendship love between us on the level of what you hear in Elton John's The Last Song.
It's been two years. I just don't want Dave Milley to be forgotten!