The 98-year-old Mary Gellerstedt — or “Mary G.” as she is affectionately known — started working at First Baptist Church Atlanta in 1944 as World War II raged.
Yes, she has served at the church for nearly eight decades.
“She started serving the church right out of high school and has been here ever since,” said pastor Anthony George. “I can almost assure you that there is not a church in America with a 98-year-old still on staff. She is greatly loved and appreciated by all of us.”
After high school she came to Atlanta in 1942 with the intention of continuing her education.
“I joined First Baptist on Pastor Ellis Fuller’s last Sunday,” she recalled. “Dr. Fuller resigned to become the sixth president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.
“I was active in the college department of the church when Dr. Jim Middleton became pastor, and when I was 18 years old I was asked to work at the church during the 1944 Christmas holidays.”
Her first full-time role involved keeping records, but through the years her responsibilities increased because of her effectiveness and passion to serve. She invested much of her ministry in high school, college students and senior adults.
In succeeding years her heart for missions was honored when she was elevated to the position of global missions director, the role in which she continues today.
“We have 82 missionaries the church supports through our ‘Faith Promise Missions’ offerings,” Mary G. said. “I try to keep up with our missionaries and pray for them as they serve our Lord at home and abroad. We also send out volunteer mission teams all over the world.”
Under Mary G’s leadership the church also has participated in mission endeavors like “Baskets of Hope,” in which gift baskets were taken to children in local hospitals. They also have participated in causes offered by Food Aid International and, under her leadership, sent 1,250,000 meals to Haiti after various natural disasters.
“She was always willing to do whatever was asked of her. She even mopped floors when umbrellas caused the tile to be wet!” noted Barb Sixsmith, executive assistant to the director of global missions.
“Mary was the one who asked me to be the local missions director at First Baptist,” added Paul Diamond, FBC associate pastor. “Mary and I go way back to our downtown location.
Mary G. noted, “Perhaps the greatest joys in ministry have been working with high school and college students.”
“There were hundreds of wonderful youth and young adults who came through our ministry,” she said, “many of whom are now serving the Lord as pastors, missionaries and church leaders.”
Mary G. now does most of her work from home because of physical issues.
She attributes her long life to God’s goodness, and is determined to continue serving Him.