Longing For Eden is comprised of Philip Thomas (guitars, vocals), Jeanne Miller (keyboards, lead vocals), Gene Miller (bass), Kevin Yoder (drums), and Lydia Yoder (vocals). These five members played together on a worship team years earlier. Eric Turner (keyboards, lead vocals) and Marie Williams (vocals) were later added to the mix. Every band member is involved in ministry at the four local churches they attend.
Philip Thomas and his wife, Terri, attend City Reach Church in Cumberland where a large focus of the church outreach is geared toward recovering addicts. Philip spent years struggling with a drug addiction and knows firsthand the chaos and trauma that addiction causes to the user and family members. The greatest tragedy of addiction struck on Wednesday, April 13, 2016, when Derek Christian Thomas, 25, Philip’s son, suddenly passed away of a drug overdose. While we knew that Derek was struggling, this was what every parent fears when a child is caught in an addictive cycle. Philip has seen God restore relationship between him and his 3 adult children.
During the last two years, Philip has begun sharing his story of struggle with same-sex attraction. Philip and Terri have started a LiFE group ministering to the LGBTQ community.
Gene and Jeanne Miller attend New Day Church in Cumberland where they are both involved in leading worship. The Millers began the journey of foster parenting in 2000 and have had numerous children placed in their home. They have adopted 5 children over the past several years. In 2007, Gene fell nearly 30 feet from a ladder and shattered his left arm among other injuries. He was told that he would never have full mobility of that arm again and that his days of playing the bass were over, but Gene’s determination combined with God’s grace has proven the physicians wrong.
In 2012 the Millers began to be bombarded with multiple issues surrounding their adopted and foster children. In the midst of it, their oldest daughter abruptly left home and has not returned. Jeanne penned the song “Little Girl Lost” during this time which addresses some of the common threads that foster children experience. Gene wrote “Even in This” from the father’s perspective.
The road continues to be bumpy even now. Jeanne had a sudden onset of serious health issues starting at the end of 2014. Then in February of 2015 while Jeanne was at work, Gene and 3 of their children found themselves running for their lives when an electrical malfunction caused their house to catch fire. The Millers are back in their home but still dealing with the aftermath. In spite of one hardship after another, they proclaim that God is still in control and use every opportunity to encourage others who are struggling. Jeanne and her 11 year old daughter, Emily, have been able to address an entire elementary school as well as speak on a local radio station about having a fire safety plan. The Millers recognize God’s hand on their lives and are open with sharing their story with anyone who will listen.
Kevin and Lydia Yoder: Kevin grew up in the church, but it wasn’t until he was almost 18 years of age that he had a life-changing encounter with Jesus. Lydia grew up in the Amish community, but her childhood was difficult since her father died in a farming accident when she was just a little girl. When Kevin and Lydia met as young adults, Lydia was beginning to break away from her traditional upbringing and their friendship grew as part of that journey. They later married and had two children, Garrett and Alexis. In the past few years, their family has grown by bringing into their home two more children, Kallena and Keith. Recently, Lydia has taken an active role of advocacy in the community for foster/adoptive children and for people with mental health needs. Kevin’s ministry focus has typically been with the younger generation. Together, they have also become involved in the recovery community through their current church, Lighthouse of Hope, in Cumberland.
Eric Turner attends New Day Church along with his wife, Mandi, and their 2 children. Eric is involved with the worship team. Eric’s journey has not been an easy one. He was adopted out of foster care as an infant and spent his youth struggling with a drug addiction that nearly took his life and almost cost him his family. He was an accomplished pianist and composed his own music as a teenager, but an automobile accident caused him to lose the ability to play due to head trauma. Over the past two years, Eric has worked hard at trying to recall those gifts and has been writing lyrics and music to share his story. Eric has been given several opportunities to speak about his journey and how the grace of God has impacted his life.
Marie Williams was brought up in a strict religious background where the only exposure to music was singing A’ Capella. Later, she married her husband, Paul, and they ministered in special music. They have a 12 year old son, Jaryd, who also has a gift for singing. On May 11, 2015 while Longing For Eden was recording demos for their next project, Paul fell at their home and struck his head. The next day while he was at work an hour away, he began to experience an excruciating headache and called 911. Paul was taken to the hospital where it was discovered that his brain was hemorrhaging. By the time Marie arrived he had slipped into a coma and was placed on life support. Paul died on May 14 leaving everyone in shock. Longing For Eden sang “It is Well” through tears at his memorial service which held hundreds of mourners. Even in the midst of unthinkable pain, Marie has continued to be a part of the Longing For Eden family. Her pain is felt by all of the band members as they walk together supporting her and Jaryd. Presently, Marie is worshiping at New Venture Church.