La Verne Magazine
Randy Miller's World Vision
by Jacqueline Sandoval
photography by Vicky Martinez
A collector of stories for his publication, Randy Miller, serves World Vision
International as editor of Global Future. His fact-finding travel for world
vision has taken him to Thailand, Vietnam, Africa and South America.
His wristwatch alarm beeps at 4 a.m., local time. He opens his eyes,
and it's pitch black. Where the hell am I? He wonders. Then the details
begin to surface: 12,000 feet up, and 200 miles south of La Paz, Bolivia,
freezing, despite long underwear and 20 pounds of blankets, in a sagging
bed in a $2-a-night hotel in which there is one toilet for four rooms, but
no shower and no light, and several bugs that don't speak the language,
and you have to use a bucket to flush the toilet, which the last person
apparently forgot to do, solet's just go back to the room and get dressed.
This is the life of Randy Miller. An unassuming man with liquid blue
eyes, wire frame glasses, wavy brown hair, and an easy-going demeanor, dressed
just as casually in a denim button up shirt from the Hard Rock Café
in Bangkok, who wears his travels proudly, like a badge.
Randy Miller is the editor of World Vision's magazine, "Global
Future" and a part-time professor at the University of La Verne. Miller
has a tremendous passion for travel, which has ultimately led him to his
current position at World Vision International. Working for World Vision,
a humanitarian relief and development organization, ensures that Miller
will journey on business to the far corners of the world-places most people
never think about, let alone visit. He travels to impoverished countries
looking for noteworthy writers to contribute stories to Global Future. The
quarterly magazine serves as a vehicle for World Vision International to
position itself among policy makers, such as the World Trade Organization,
the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
As Miller sits relaxed and confident, he explains, "Global Future
attempts to be a voice for those who may not have a voice in the developing
world." Global Future is used to some degree to change existing policies
and to help shape and to get the perspective of the poor into the discussion
about policies that will affect the developing world. Miller's work for
Global Future sends him to various exotic locales up to three times a year.
The editor says with compassion, "I find it a privilege to get to go
to those places, to travel, to see the people and to talk to them."
His office at World Vision conveys the sense of how much Miller enjoys
and appreciates his opportunities to travel the world. There are gifts and
souvenirs from Bangkok-a toy three-wheeled motorized taxi called a "tuk
tuk," a bronze miniature gong from Indonesia, and a stone carving of
the national bird of Zimbabwe. A shelf full of National Geographic magazines,
his favorite magazine, reveal his desire to go on these sorts of assignments.
There is also an array of travelogues detailing facts about the corners
of the world, where he has traveled. Photographs adorn his office wall.
A mother and child from Ecuador. An old woman from Thailand. An endearing
photo of a tiny Thai baby swaddled in a white blanket on a hammock. Published
in the various publications of World Vision, the photographs are memories
of Miller's extensive travels.
"The wise man travels to discover himself." -James Lowell
Miller found this quote by Lowell useful in explaining his love of travel.
"When a person gets out and sees the world, he is learning and experiencing
life to its fullest, just by witnessing how another culture lives."
Miller has journeyed to many exotic locales, such as the busy streets of
Vietnam, the indigenous villages in Brazil, the heavenly high plains of
Bolivia, the rural towns of Guatemala, and his favorite place, Thailand,
for his work at World Vision. International travel intrigues Miller to such
an extent that he rarely gets out to venture areas in his own backyard.
Miller says, "I've been to Bangkok more times than Los Angeles in the
last 10 years."
The editor proudly reminisces about his time spent in Brazil. He recalls
traveling with the "floating clinic," a former tour boat filled
with generous health care workers, such as doctors, interns, dentists, on
their weekly trek up the Rio Negro. He marvels at the amazing site where
the dark iced tea looking waters of the Rio Negro and the milk chocolate
waters of the Amazon River march side-by-side for several miles before joining
in a turbulent maelstrom in forming the largest river in the world. On Friday,
when the work week ends for most, the health care workers visit the riverside
villages bursting with people who have no access to medical services. Miller
was able to spend the weekend on the boat cruising down the Amazon.
This trip and others like it, help keep Miller informed about international
issues to which most people, especially in the United States, are oblivious.
Miller says half jokingly, "We watch a half hour of Entertainment Tonight
and think we've got the news; there is so much going on out there in the
It is apparent that ignorance regarding global issues irritates him.
It is because of Miller's job with World Vision, that he is enlightened
about the plight of impoverished countries throughout the world. He has
been witness to the hardships of many countries, which is why his travels
are so unique. "What bothers me the most is seeing poverty brought
about by thoughtless acts of humanity, seeing victims of war, especially
children," says Miller, with a look of sorrow in his eyes.
He travels to enlighten and to be enlightened about the world outside
the United States. The tone in his voice as he speaks, reveals his genuine
sympathy for the children who do not have a voice. "The nature of my
travels is what takes me to places most people wouldn't go. I go to Uganda
to visit AIDS orphans; these are 12-year-olds who are looking after entire
families because both parents died of AIDS." Although he has been a
witness to hardship, he tends to remember the positive outcomes of his journeys.
He is able to explore the far reaches of the world, and he also educates
the policy makers who receive Global Future.
Miller has worked for World Vision since July 1982, when he started
as associate editor of World Vision Magazine. Following, in 1990, he worked
in the World Vision International office, in the Information and Communications
Department. In 1993, he began editing Together, a journal similar to Global
Future, which was discontinued in 1999. Miller started editing the latest
journal, Global Future, in the winter of 2000. Global Future features notable
guest writers such as Desmond Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, South
Africa, and includes such stories as the battle against AIDS in African
Miller's latest journey was a four-week venture around the world in
November 2000. He traveled to Entebbe, Uganda, then to London, Brussels,
and finally Bangkok. Although he has been to other parts of Africa in the
past, it was his first time in Uganda. As part of his job, he is required
to attend conferences that serve as a vehicle to promote the magazine and
to learn about the issues in various underprivileged countries. Miller heads
a staff to generate story ideas and produce photographs for publication
in Global Future. He modestly explains, "I do not feel that I personally
make a difference, but I hope that the magazine does."
Travel has always been a part of Randy Miller's life. He spent his childhood
moving from place to place. "I don't really have any roots; when someone
asks me where I'm from, I just say the United States." He was born
in Chicago, and lived there the first five years of his life. Miller grew
up the son of a trained plumber, who worked his way through seminary to
receive his doctorate. The Miller family also lived in Northern California
and Washington. Despite the numerous moves, Miller remembers when he was
5 years old, living on the family's 40-acre prune orchard in Gridley, Calif.
He was having dinner at his grandparents' house when the phone rang, and
the Miller family found out that a fire had destroyed their house. They
lost everything. Miller says, "The best thing about the fire is it
blew up the TV." It was in Gridley where his love of reading began.
The loss of the television left him with plenty of time to read and to appreciate
the art of writing.
Miller began his experience as a published writer for Messenger Magazine,
the Church of the Brethren's monthly magazine, while he was with Brethren
Volunteer Service. Brethren Volunteer Service is a program where young people
volunteer for one or two years and spend their time helping in hospitals,
retirement homes or soup kitchens. "I believe I was one of Messenger
Magazines first interns," Miller claims. For about one year, his project
consisted of working as a journalist, writing stories for the magazine.
On occasion, he still works on projects for Messenger Magazine, as a writer
or a photographer.
Miller's writing influences are as diverse as his travels. He attended
high school at Du Page Community School in Oak Brook, Ill. While attending
Du Page, Miller was able to meet Craig Vetter, a writer for Playboy Magazine,
on a trip to Playboy Headquarters in Chicago for an English composition
class. There, he received his best writing advice from Vetter. He told Miller,
"Take a lot of notes." Miller believes that a good writer must
use all of his senses. "Pay attention to detail, because it is the
detail that brings things to life," he advises. In his own writing,
Miller aspires to emulate writers such as Pico Iyer, P.J. O'Rourke and John
Steinbeck. He admires Steinbeck's ability to bring to life real people and
situations through his writings.
Miller is also a great fan of narrative travel writer Pico Iyer for
his ability to make the reader feel as though he is beside Iyer in his observation
of places and events. Miller exclaims, "Iyer is one of the best writers
I've ever encountered." Miller and Iyer's lives are parallel in many
ways. Both travel to see how people in the world live their lives. They
both find it more humbling to go to the poorest parts of the world. Finally,
both have trouble telling people exactly where it is they come from. Iyer
believes that "home is something inside you." Miller first became
aware of Iyer in 1988, while preparing for his first international trip
to Thailand representing World Vision. He happened to find an essay, written
by Iyer, about Thailand that appeared in Time Magazine. Miller says, with
enthusiasm about Iyer, that he "encountered a writer who knows what
he's doing." Iyer writes with great detail about his travels and laces
it with his non-assuming, open-minded perspective on culture. Miller has
established a friendship via e-mail with Iyer and was instrumental in arranging
for him to speak at the University of La Verne April 2001.
Miller also enjoys the humor and satire of O'Rourke. He recently read
O'Rourke's book, "Eat the Rich," which focuses on economics and
takes a disdainful view of the subject. He appreciates O'Rourke's ability
to take a complex subject, such as economics, and present it in a way that
is both entertaining and educational. "I had to go to an economics
conference in Uganda in November, and so I read that [book] and it helped
me understand a little bit more of what was going on," laughs Miller.
Bangkok, the city once known as the "Venice of the East,"
now suffers from urbanization, and the canals have virtually disappeared.
Nevertheless, this is where Randy Miller feels the most comfortable, internationally.
He beams while admitting, "The last time I was in Bangkok, it felt
like coming home; I just love it there, and it's great to see old friends."
Indeed, Miller has made many friends in Bangkok and has many great memories
in a city where one can have a lunch of duck and a Coca-Cola for 50 cents
and stay in a four star hotel for just $35 a night. "Where else can
people be eating lunch and have a snake drop on your table, and slither
away," he laughs. Even though Bangkok has pressed ahead with the use
of cell phones, the sky train, and the other effects of modernization, Miller
still has a place in his heart for the place he calls his home away from
home. "It's fun to see the differences and notice the changes that
have occurred in the last 11 years," he notes.
One of the biggest contradictions in Miller's life is that since becoming
a husband and a father, he has remained in the same community for 27 years.
Because his childhood was spent moving from place to place, he and his
wife Sheri, a kindergarten teacher in Upland, feel it is their mission to
give their children Kayla, 14, and Tyler, 8, the roots that he never had
growing up. "I feel that to have a sense of belonging brings about
stability, and that it is important for children growing up," he says
Miller met his wife Sheri while attending the University of La Verne
in 1976, while she was conducting an experiment passing out chewing gum
for her sociology class. They became good friends, and eventually their
relationship turned more romantic in nature. "We used to spend late
nights drinking coffee and talking all night at Michael J's," Miller
says with a smile. Randy Miller is a 1978 graduate of ULV. He also served
as the second editor in chief of La Verne Magazine.
Miller finds time in his schedule to contribute to the community. He
is an active member of the Church of the Brethren. He recently participated
in a church performance with his son Tyler, playing the drums while his
son performed in a play with the other children. Music is not just a passion
but a method of relaxation for Miller, whether he is playing his guitar
by the warm glow of his fireplace or listening to the eclectic folk music
by his cousin Tom Waite.
Miller also teaches a course in public relations at the University of
La Verne. He has taught this course since 1995. Even though Miller is a
part of the public relations machine, the public relations he practices
serves to help disadvantaged people around the world. Miller does not believe
he is involved in the spin that others in the field perform, and he avows,
"Although I have a disdain for public relations, I think teaching it
keeps you up on things going on in the media." He feels it is crucial
that his students are educated in public relations campaigns that occur
in the mass media. He wants his students to see through the media message.
Like most loving fathers, Miller wants to teach his children to be caring,
responsible and learn to respect others. He has hopes that one day he can
help to enrich the lives of his children by taking them on an international
journey. His blue eyes light up, as he exclaims, "I would love to take
my children to a place like Bolivia or Brazil, so they can see how other
cultures live. He wants them to see and understand how most of the world
lives, without electricity, running water and telephones. Miller also wants
to give them some perspective on how privileged they are to live without
worrying about where their next meal is coming from, or about their safety.
Of all the things Miller can teach his children about the world, he says
it all comes down to being kind and respecting others, for "these are
the important life lessons."