October 21, 2018
By David Miller |
In the Fall of 2013, I attended the first class held at Kilns College. In the backroom of a Bend, Oregon storefront, a children’s pastor, an under-employed graphic designer, a Greek Orthodox maverick, a couple of redheads from the midwest, a counselor in his late 40s, a yoga instructor from Portland, and a graduate from Bob Jones University (that’s me and that story is too long to tell in a post like this) all convened for an experience that would humble and change us all. In my time at Kilns, I met dozens of thought leaders and world changers that have both sobered and illuminated me. I graduated from Kilns in 2015 with a Master’s in Social Justice, and I also served on staff for a couple of years as a teacher’s assistant and online course administrator.
I have since returned to South Carolina where I live with my wife and two boys. Today, I am the Operations Director for Set Free Alliance headquartered in Simpsonville, South Carolina. Set Free Alliance works in partnership with a group of pastors in India to rescue children from slavery. Since it’s conception, Set Free Alliance has supported the rescue of over 22,000 children.
Of the 22,000 kids rescued, over 12,000 children have been reunited with their families. 400 children have graduated from our vocational training program. The remaining 9700 kids remain in our care, and they receive nurture, education, and age appropriate vocational training access. Set Free Alliance operates on the same model as Charity Water; 100% of donations go to fund our programs and not to pay staff salaries and other over head. (We have a separate fund where generous donors support the lean operations budget.) The other distinctive is that the Set Free graduates voluntarily give back to support the rescue and care of other children. To date our graduates have given back over $300,000. We’ve crossed some crazy milestones, and we’re just getting warmed up.
Our organization employs 5 people stateside so as in most small non-profits, we all have wide job descriptions. I use the things I was taught in classes at Kilns College to creatively tackle the problems we encounter everyday. My classes equipped me to understand social complexity and to survive the paradoxes present in our work. The theology classes taught me how to understand who God is in the midst of suffering and chaos. The history classes gave me context for the injustices of the present day and models for how to move forward. The professors and guest speakers provided me with resources and answered questions that in many cases I didn’t know I had. Finally, President Emeritus, Ken Wytsma, focused on innovation and creativity which encouraged me to push the limits of what I knew creativity to be and what I expected of myself artistically.
In September, Set Free Alliance hosted our annual fundraising gala, and I took creative license to a new level in local fundraisers. To celebrate the 22,000 rescued children, my coworker and I with some help from volunteers created an art installation with over 50 miles of string. 22,000 strings to represent 22,000 children freed from slavery. Three colors represented the kids who have been reunited, the kids in our care and the kids who have graduated.
But Kilns didn’t only prepare me to be better at the work I do. Since arriving, Set Free Alliance has increased the diversity of the speakers at our gala. I’m currently on a mission to diversify our board and our staff as we grow. I teach 2 days a week, and I share a new understanding of the world as I teach. Kilns has changed who I am and has directly impacted how Set Free Alliance wants to change the world. I am grateful for how Kilns began in that storefront, and I am excited to see the new iterations as it matures.
If you want to get to know me, I post way too many pictures of my kids and garden on instagram @davidclarkmiller or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.