Floyd Miles Jr. grew up on the hard streets of Harlem. It was the late 1940s when Floyd Jr. started using heroin, and before he knew what was happening, heroin had him – slowly claiming his life, shot by shot. But that didn’t stop him from falling in love. He met a beautiful young woman, Naomi, in the neighborhood and they eventually got married. Sadly, not long after, Naomi also started using heroin. She died at the age of 28 of an overdose, but not before she and Floyd Jr. had two children.
Floyd Jr. was in jail for drugs when his wife died in 1963. Although his mother-in-law was a hardworking, Christian woman, she was bitter toward Floyd Jr. and blamed him for her daughter’s drug addiction and death.
Floyd III was five years old when his mother died of an overdose. He and his 6-year-old sister, Denise, were separated; Floyd III went to live with their maternal grandmother, while Denise went to live with her maternal grandmother’s sister.
“My grandmother worked hard to put food on the table – I really only saw her at night, Saturdays when she wasn’t working, and when we went to church on Sundays,” Floyd III says. “My aunt, who lived with my grandmother, had the responsibility to take care of me and her two children. She did her very best, however, she drank a lot. I had very few male role models. The men in the streets were the ones who took the place of my dad. To be truthful, as I look back on my life, in their own strange way these ‘men of the street’ looked out for me.”
Floyd III was a bright youngster and was placed in the gifted program at school. Although it seemed his future held potential, he began hanging out on the streets. Unknown to him, he was following in his father’s footsteps as he began hustling drugs and working in the numbers gambling racket.
“I would see my dad from time to time on the street,” Floyd III recalls, “but when he would see me, sometimes he would turn and run – embarrassed at what he had become.” Floyd III also came to believe his father was racked with guilt over the death of Naomi, as he introduced her to heroin.
But then something remarkable happened. As Floyd III was beginning to learn the “street game,” Floyd Jr., who had been homeless and on the streets for years, visited the food outreach ministry of The Soul Saving Station in Harlem. This small but powerful church had long been associated with Teen Challenge (now known as Adult and Teen Challenge, an AG U.S. Missions ministry).
There, Teen Challenge graduate Alonzo Smalls, a friend of and former heroin addict with Floyd Jr, helped get him into Teen Challenge. (Smalls later founded Pivot Ministries, which is still serving those with addictions in South Norwalk and Bridgeport, Connecticut.)
“The deal was that you would receive a free hot meal, but you had to attend the service first,” Floyd III explains. “I don’t know exactly what was preached that day, but when the altar call came, my dad responded and as he tells it, in seconds he went from a 19-year heroin addict to a born-again follower of Christ.”
In the late 60s, with the help of Smalls, Floyd Jr. entered the original Brooklyn Teen Challenge program started by David Wilkerson, graduated, and began working as a counselor for Teen Challenge. He remarried in 1970, but he could see that his now teenage son and daughter were being pulled into the mean streets of Harlem.
Yet even his father’s undeniable transformation couldn’t convince Floyd III to seek help. He was sniffing cocaine and then started using Angel Dust (also known as PCP, a hallucinogenic).
“Eventually, I knew my life was going nowhere, so I decided to sign up for the military,” Floyd III says. “I had a send-off party and I was set to be flown to San Antonio for training, but when I arrived at Fort Dix in New Jersey, as I recall I weighed in about six pounds overweight. They sent me home – I was crushed.”
With that rejection, Floyd III turned even more heavily to drinking and drugs. His father, as he had in the past, urged him to go to Teen Challenge, but he refused to listen. Depression and drugs began to consume him, just as they had his father.
“I lost my way,” Floyd III admits. “My life rattled out of control and I found myself living in an abandoned building in Harlem. But that day, in that building, I couldn’t be any lower and I used a shoe polish applicator to write the word ‘Help’ on the wall . . . the Lord heard my cry — just as in Psalm 40:1-3 — and suddenly all the things my dad was telling me about Teen Challenge started sounding pretty good to me.”
It was 1982 when Floyd III entered the Brooklyn Teen Challenge — the same one his father had attended. There Floyd accepted Christ as his Lord and Savior. As he was preparing to graduate from Teen Challenge, however, he was heavily considering going into the military, though ministry was another option.
“I attended a Morris Cerullo evangelistic event,” he recalls. “While praying at the altar, God had given Brother Cerullo a Word of Knowledge. He came up to me and said, ‘You’ve been debating whether to go into the armed forces or the ministry — God called you to the ministry.’”
Floyd III followed God’s undeniably clear leading and headed to Bible school. First, he attended Youth Challenge Bible Institute, formerly Teen Challenge Bible Institute, which was started by David Wilkerson. Wilkerson even helped Floyd III financially to get started in Bible school.
Afterwards, Floyd III earned an undergraduate degree and then a master’s from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, located in South Hamilton, Massachusetts. He was ordained as an AG minister in 1991, then became a licensed counselor.
Floyd III has used his life experiences and education to reach those trapped in addiction, just as he once was. He and his wife, Mary, served at the Teen Challenge in Brockton, Massachusetts, for 10 years. They then pioneered the first Teen Challenge in Connecticut (New Haven). Following that, God used them to pastor an inner-city Assembly of God church in Indianapolis, Indiana, for seven years. In 2011, Floyd III accepted a position at the Adult and Teen Challenge of Texas where he serves today in the corporate office, located in San Antonio, as the director of Training.
Floyd Jr. passed away at the age of 60 in 1988 of emphysema, but even though he didn’t get to witness it on Earth, his daughter, Denise (Floyd III’s sister), came to the Lord and went through Philadelphia Teen Challenge program in 1990. She is now an ordained minister, an elder in her church, and currently works in a program serving troubled women.
Before Floyd Jr. died, he wrote a book, giving his testimony, called Black Tracks: 19 Years on the Main Line. Floyd III, inspired by his father’s efforts, followed suit, sharing his testimony in his own recent book called Harlem is Where I Began: The Journey of Floyd A. Miles III, with the forward written by his “spiritual father,” Adult and Teen Challenge co-founder, Don Wilkerson.
Floyd III says he looks back and can see where God was working in his life, drawing him, even while he was steeped in drugs, sex, and crime.
“I remember I was on a street corner with some of my friends, a cigarette in my mouth, and a beer in my hand,” he recalls. “A guy who had just become a Muslim was telling us what he believed and one of my friends asked me what did I believe. Out of my mouth came the words, ‘I believe Jesus Christ is God’s Son. He loves me, He’s my Savior, and He died for my sins.’ The entire corner got quiet and they just looked at me as if to be saying, ‘What are you doing out here?’”
A few years ago, Floyd III went back into the projects and some of his friends were still in the neighborhood doing the same things. “I got them into a circle and prayed for them and hugged them,” he says.
Floyd III says that the influence of Smalls on his father’s life, and the impact of his grandmother and Teen Challenge on his and his sister’s lives, has had him praying since 1989 for a miracle — for an Adult and Teen Challenge center to open in central Harlem.
Today, the generational cycle of poverty and drug addiction has been broken in the Miles’ family and replaced with compassion and ministry. Floyd III and Mary have been happily married for 36 years. Mary is a licensed AG minister and children’s pastor at Bethel Covenant AG in San Antonio, where she and Floyd III also serve as elders. They have four children and five grandchildren.
“I give God all the glory — for what He has done, is doing, and what He is going to do . . . as I continue to stay in faith,” Floyd III says.