Story Jennifer Thorburn '04
Photo Courtesy of Milton Chen '02
MILTON CHEN '02
When Milton "Milo" Chen '02 was 11, his father walked out of his life, and Milo became the sole provider for his family--his mother and a younger brother and sister. They lived in Queens, New York, and Milo turned to selling drugs to help the family survive. At 16 he was kicked out of his school and not allowed to return for a diploma. In fact, almost no school in New York City would take him in--except for Manhattan Christian Academy in Harlem, which had admitted many students in similar situations.
His classmates were ex-prostitutes and drug dealers, and his teachers really cared about their students. His principal, in fact, shared the gospel with him, and knowing Christ made an immediate impact on Milo's life. He went back to the streets where he formerly had made drug deals and shared his story with friends who were still involved in gangs and the drug trade. Many became Christians, their lives changing dramatically--though there were sometimes serious consequences stemming from their conversions. One of his friends left his gang and was subsequently killed by his fellow gang members.
Even so, Milo's passion for evangelism grew. His pastor told him about Gordon's youth ministry program, and despite low high school GPA and SAT scores, Milo was accepted. States Silvio Vasquez, Gordon's vice president for admissions and enrollment, "When evaluating admissions files, we are not just looking at academic achievement, but at the promise that a student demonstrates--especially when that student's life has been dramatically changed by an encounter with Jesus Christ. Milton's life is certainly an example of this kind of transformation."
Throughout his time at Gordon Milo never wavered in his desire to pursue youth ministry, and upon graduation he worked as a youth minister in Houston, first at Hope for Youth, an outreach ministry to inner-city youth, and then at Living Word Fellowship, a church in Houston that had a vision for family involvement in youth outreach.
While at Living Word, Milo got to know Ken, a 17-year-old who was paid by a local drug dealer to be on the lookout for cops. Through Milo's influence Ken became a Christian. One night at a Bible study, however, Ken disappeared during a break. After searching the neighborhood, Milo and some of the other students found Ken lying in a pool of blood, mortally wounded. Milo held Ken as he died. His last words to Milo were, "I know where I'm going."
After two years of service in Houston, Milo sensed a call to a new ministry. Hollywood Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles was looking for a new student ministries director, and Milo applied just to see what would happen. He got the job, and he and his wife, Tiffany, moved to Los Angeles. Although the church is located in the Hollywood zip code, the area surrounding the church reminded Milo more of inner-city Houston than of glamorous Hollywood. The church's demographics, however, were white and upper-middle class; most of the teens in the youth group had never ventured into areas beyond their affluent suburbs.
Milo's goal for this youth ministry has been to fill it with students who are passionate about serving Christ. At first he found the youth group members apathetic, but now parents are complaining about having their children hang out with kids from the streets. Milo takes this as a compliment; it means he is finally getting them to reach out.
Photo Milton Chen and his wife, Tiffany, live and minister in Los Angeles.