- Associated Press - Sunday, January 4, 2015

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - Publishing his autobiography at age 49 wasn’t even close to the best thing that happened to Alfred Milan in 2014.

His wife, Audrey, gave birth to Joshua, his fourth child.

He sold his church in Greenlaw to another pastor he just happened to meet one day at lunch.

He hosted a fundraiser at Stax, with the help of Erling Jensen and other Memphis chefs.

And several weeks ago, he leased an old Downtown storage building that once housed a Buick dealership.

Early this year, it will be the new home for the Dream Church, which Milan founded with his wife in their living room in 2011.

“People ask me why good things keep happening to me,” he told his congregation, now meeting temporarily in the basement of the Crowne Plaza Memphis.

“I shouldn’t even be here. But give your life to cocaine for 20 years, then give your life to Christ and see what happens.”

Several years ago, Milan began to talk about his mess of a life. He spoke at one church, then another, at first as a lay person, eventually as a pastor.

His mess became his message, then his ministry.

“He has a heart for people,” said Stacey Luper, a member of Dream Church. “Because of the life he led, he has compassion for people and he knows you have to meet people where they are.”

Where Milan was isn’t far from where he is most days, on the south side of Downtown working to transform the old Memphis Machine Works warehouse into a spiritual transformation center.

“He has a vision, and we’re fortunate to be able to help him with it,” said Neilson Taylor, the foundry’s fourth-generation owner.

The sign in front of the 30,000-square-foot building cautions drivers on South Second Street that the “Road Narrows.”

For Milan, it’s a cautionary reminder of a bible passage he has read and preached many times.

“For the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it,” Jesus says in the Gospel According to Matthew.

“For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

Milan once traveled the wide, easy road.

It led to addiction, divorce, depression and near self-destruction.

By the time he was 30, Milan was a college graduate making six figures as a sale rep. By the time he was 35, he was jobless, homeless and hopelessly addicted to cocaine.

He emptied his bank accounts and retirement fund. He sold his own possessions, and then those belonging to his dying mother. He stole money from family and friends and total strangers. He got high at work. He got high at home. He got high 30 minutes after he rushed his cancer-ridden mother to the ER.

He was a grown man sleeping on his mother’s couch, then in a car. He hid drugs in his shoes and belts and the cassette deck in his car. He roamed the streets of South Memphis, Orange Mound, downtown like a man possessed.

“My dreams and desires had disappeared up my nose,” he wrote in his book, “Favor Found Me.”

“I was the walking dead and I knew that I would die this way - alone, addicted and lost.”

Then he found a narrow gate. His brother helped him go through it and into rehab.

That led to recovery, restoration, redemption and vocation.

“I was struck by his confidence,” City Council member Lee Harris said about the first time he heard Milan preach. “It was authentic. He spoke from the heart. He didn’t judge those in the crowd and wasn’t afraid to be judged.

“He also talked about social activism, which always strikes a chord with me. But, not in some vague way, like a lot of preachers. He was very specific. He talked about building a drug counseling center.”

Drug counseling is just one of Milan’s dreams for his Dream Church.

Others include job training, tutoring, mentoring, housing and other ministries for those who are - like he was - homeless, alone, addicted, lost.

“We want to provide a place where everyone has a chance to dream,” he said.

___

Information from: The Commercial Appeal, https://www.commercialappeal.com

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