At 101 years old, Edith Mitchell has always had a passion for music and serving the Lord.
Mitchell, who resides in Mountain Home, Arkansas, started piano lessons at age 9 and later taught herself how to play the organ. In high school she volunteered to play for her church’s services.
Mitchell went on to graduate from Flora MacDonald College in Red Springs, North Carolina, majoring in voice and music education and minoring in Bible and piano. She took her first job teaching in Richlands.
“Then war started, and I felt like I needed to serve my country,” Mitchell remembered.
She enlisted in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps in September 1943 and was sent to boot camp in what she called “the swamps” outside Daytona Beach, Florida.
“It was in the swamps and rained most of the time,” Mitchell recalled. “We were all in tents. You’d lay there feeling that mist falling on your face.”
Following boot camp she was assigned to Camp Stoneman, California, a major staging area for troops bound for the Pacific Theater. She served as a chaplain’s assistant and had several responsibilities including writing letters for the chaplains and playing piano or organ at Catholic, Protestant and Jewish worship services.
At one pre-embarkation service Mitchell played the organ and sang the hymn “The Ninety and Nine” — one of her favorites — before a chapel full of service members leaving for World War II operations. Her voice inspired some soldiers to make public professions of faith, and she remembers men walking up with water from their baptism dripping off their backpacks.
“That was one of the greatest experiences of my life,” Mitchell said. “I have had the opportunity since then to win several other people to the Lord.”
After completing military service, Mitchell used her GI Bill benefits to attend Columbia University in New York, where she earned a master’s degree in voice and public music. She eventually taught at Tift College in Forsyth, Georgia, and met the man who became her husband when he joined her choir at the First Baptist Church there.
Married Dec. 15, 1950, the couple eventually settled in Atlanta where they lived for 21 years. When they retired they relocated to Mountain Home to be near their granddaughter, continuing to serve the Lord and be active in their church.
While in her 80’s, God fulfilled a dream Mitchell had since she was 15 — to be an overseas missionary.
When a pastor invited her on a missions trip to a province in Russia, Mitchell did not think it would be possible.
“I thought, ‘I don’t have that money, I’m getting ready for hernia surgery and I haven’t had the training that I need,’” she said, noting her history of teaching English as a second language.
But God made it possible.
“It’s the only time that the Lord has spoken to me vocally,” Mitchell recalled. “I heard, ‘You can do that.’ I said, ‘Alright, Lord. If You’ll take care of everything else, I’ll be glad to do it.’”
Within three weeks her doctor cleared her for the trip, she received an opportunity to update her training and, without asking, people raised money to cover the costs.
“The Lord works in mysterious ways to allow us to perform,” Mitchell said. “Within those three weeks, everything had been taken care of that I was concerned about.”
So at 85, Mitchell finally fulfilled the dream she had at 15.
“I was just happy. It was such a marvelous experience,” she recalled. “They were wonderful people, so receptive and so kind. It was a great experience and I still correspond with a few of those folks, and I pray for them every day.”
Now at 101, Mitchell continues to serve the Lord and be involved in her church.
She assists with first- and second-graders on Wednesday nights at First Baptist Church Mountain Home and also is facilitator for a Woman’s Missionary Union Bible study. She taught Sunday school until a few years ago.
“Every time the doors open, I’ve got to go to church,” Mitchell says with a laugh.
She stressed the importance of having a time for Bible reading and prayer every day. Born and raised in a godly home in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, Mitchell said she cannot remember a day they did not have family devotions.
“I read my Bible through and when I get through, I start over again,” she said. “I don’t know how many times I’ve read it through.”
EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was written by Mary Alford and originally published by Arkansas Baptist News.