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Alumnus brings new life to fellow grad by donating kidney

March 13, 2014 : By Drew Menard/Liberty University News Service

Liberty University graduates Todd Lamphere (’87, left) and Randal Miller (’83).

It began as a burden to pray for another man’s need.

Liberty University alumnus Randal Miller (’83), an evangelist from Altamonte Springs, Fla., had been suffering for years due to kidney failure and was in need of a transplant. While on a mission trip to Germany in 2012, his teammates prayed for him. But one teammate, his pastor, Todd Lamphere (’87) felt God call him to do more than just pray; he decided to find out if he was a match to Miller so he could donate his own kidney.

Though both men had attended Liberty at the same time (Lamphere first came to Liberty in 1980 before taking a break to join the military), their paths had only crossed when Miller and his wife, Dwan, became members of Lamphere’s church, First Baptist Church Altamonte Springs, in 2010.

Though the kidney ailment and treatment had robbed Miller of his energy — to the point that he was unable to preach and work full time — Miller suffered in relative silence.

“I never asked God ‘Why?’” Miller said. “I clung to God’s promises and truly believed that God knew what He was doing.”

Before the trip, Lamphere was aware of Miller’s affliction, but the severity of it became evident as the two ministered overseas. Lamphere witnessed the struggles of dialysis, and during the night he heard the sounds of Miller’s discomfort coming from the room next door.

“The process God took me through was to see it, feel it, fill it,” Lamphere said of Miller’s need. “It was in Germany that I really felt for him.”

After feeling the call to action, Lamphere approached Miller and asked if there was anything more he could do. Miller asked if he would consider being tested as a kidney donor. Lamphere said yes.

“It is one thing to be tested; it is another thing to get the call that you are a match,” Lamphere said. “At that point it is put up or shut up. It’s the real deal, either don’t string this friend along, or do what God placed on your heart to do.”

Lamphere prays with Miller in the hospital after the transplant.

Though Lamphere’s sacrifice was a clear call from God — “the body I have is His,” he said — the decision still carried many implications. He said he wondered what might happen if one of his own family members needed a kidney one day. But God gave Him comfort through Luke 6:38, which talks about receiving back in the measure in which you give.

“It is a great example not to mimic but to practice the art of giving sacrificially in ways (that extend beyond) family or best friends,” Miller said. “It just shows you what God, in taking over somebody’s life, instilling His love (and) compassion, can do. There is only one thing bigger than Todd’s giving heart and that is his love for Jesus.”

The transplant took place on Oct. 25, 2013. Miller was in the hospital for about 10 days and Lamphere for about three days. Since then, the recovery has been miraculous for both.

“Everything is great. I have not had one day’s worth of complications from any one of those major surgeries,” Miller said, noting he had nine kidney-related surgeries before the transplant.

He said he had a friend who received a transplant around the same time but died after the transplant was rejected.

“That really hit me hard because I know that it wasn’t just a walk-in-the-woods surgery — it’s major surgery,” Miller said. “I came through it with such flying colors that I had taken the possibility that stuff could always go drastically wrong for granted. … I see it as God giving me a second chance to complete His will for my life.”

For Lamphere, it was another test of his faith. The surgery came while he was in the midst of adding satellite locations to his growing new church. He faced the possibility that he would be unable to work for up to three months as he recovered.

“After one week I woke up (and) I knew I was completely better,” Lamphere said. “For me this really was a God thing.”

Both Miller and Lamphere say their time at Liberty was important in shaping them for the rest of their lives. They each emphasized the incredible sense of vision Liberty’s founder, Dr. Jerry Falwell, instilled in those around him and that still motivates them to this day.

“What we all took away (from Liberty) was Jerry’s dream to produce Champions for Christ,” Miller said. “It equipped me for ministry big time.”

“I learned to be a person of vision and a person of courage to fulfill everything God has placed on your heart to do,” Lamphere added.

Randal Miller speaking at the Venue Church.
On Jan. 26, 2014, Miller preached for the first time since the transplant. He shared his testimony at Lamphere's church.

On Jan. 26, Miller preached for the first time since the transplant, sharing his testimony at Lamphere’s new church, The Venue Church. More than 30 people came forward to accept Christ that day. Though he is not yet able to do any all-day events, Miller is speaking regularly again and said his strength is returning more and more each day.

Though Lamphere is considered to be a hero by many — to Miller especially — he humbly dodges the accolades.

“The real heroes are the Randal Millers of the world,” he said. “Those beautiful people who battle day in and day out with life-threatening, life-altering illnesses and choose to suit up each day, put a smile on their face, love their God, and serve their world.”

He hopes their story will increase awareness of the need for organ donors.

“There is no reason why Christians shouldn’t at least be signing the donor card,” Lamphere said. “For me it is all worth it. The big picture is that Miller is back preaching the Word, and people are coming to know Jesus. Life is good.”