Don't Look Back
Lillian S. Mitchell has cared for children since she was a child herself. A second-generation Daufuskie Island native, Lillian could plait hair and cook a full Sunday dinner at age seven. The eldest daughter amongst her four siblings, at age ten, Lillian assumed the role of mother, when her own mother died. The strongest armour her mother left her with was the powerful words and guidance of the Lord's Prayer. "She taught me that no matter what, to turn to the Lord's Prayer. Whenever you get in trouble, the one thing you can always do, is say 'Our Father who art in heaven'," Lillian said emphatically. This was the first of many mighty lessons that would prove to shape Lillian's life and destiny.
Moving to Hilton Head Island in 1968, Lillian soon married, found a job, and started her family. While she worked at the original Hilton Head Inn on South Forest Beach, her children stayed at daycare. On her days off, Lillian would volunteer at the daycare center to help care for other's children. She loved the children so much, and did such a wonderful job caring for them, she was offered a full-time position as the infant room teacher, and the opportunity to develop a plan for the infant room. Lo and behold, working her way up to site director, it was 30 years and thousands of children later when she and the Children's Center parted ways.
Her longevity and success can be attributed to her philosophy regarding childcare. "Most importantly is to love the children. If the child gets the right care, then that child will be productive. I love reading and singing to them and rocking them; seeing their little eyes. It makes you feel good about yourself because you're making a difference in that child's life," Lillian said with a tender smile. She is now working at Mt. Calvary Missionary Baptist Church Achievement School.
But her love for children goes even deeper. She is the Youth Minister at First African Baptist Church, which is celebrating their 150th anniversary this year. There are many scenarios in life where one is called into the ministry, but for Lillian, the call came through a recurring dream that would not leave her alone. "When I have a dream and don't act on it, it gets stronger and stronger. It's the Lord speaking to me, and I've learned to listen."
In the dream she heard these words: "Lillian, I've given you all the time I'm going to give you. Now it is my time." This dream became so overbearing that she could feel it coming in her sleep. "Lillian, I already gave you the warnings. If you do not make your mind up, you're going to become sick and no doctors are going to be able to heal you."
Unbelievably, this omen came to pass. Lillian fell ill and the doctors could not find anything wrong with her. One day, on her way to Savannah, she began to gasp for air, gagging, burning up hot. She looked at her husband and exclaimed, "This is that dream!"
That very night another dream came and this time she saw a bright light. "When the Holy Spirit let me go, I just started singing, and laughing, and celebrating. My husband thought I had gone crazy. The Lord told me to lift up the congregation and go abroad preaching His word," she exclaimed.
That's when she became a licensed minister, in 2000, and ultimately became the youth minister at the church. Wise and determined, Reverend Lillian accomplished all this with only a 10th grade education.
Sitting in the quaint fellowship hall of this historic, Civil War era, 150-year-old church on Beach City Road, my interest hung on Lillian's every word. In amazement, I had to ask why she thought God chose her. "I always thought you had to have that perfect life to do the work the Lord wants you to do, so I kept waiting. Maybe He chose me because all the trial and tribulations that I've faced. He brought me through them. To help other people who may encounter the same trials," Lillian replied thoughtfully.
In talking to Miss Lillian, for even a short time, it's clear that no obstacles, however tough, have ever stopped her. A kind, humble woman, who admits her short-comings, Lillian's journey has been a blessing to so many, and that's why she has been so blessed herself. As I get up to leave, we hug. We have connected. I can't wait to hear Reverend Lillian S. Mitchell from the pulpit. Amen!
Family: Charles Mitchell, husband of 42 years; 7 children; 18 grandchildren; 1 great-grand.
Above and beyond: She and Charles renewed their vows for their 25th anniversary with a big church wedding-beautiful homemade dress made by her cousin and all! (Her original wedding was at the courthouse.)
Her face totally lit up when: I ask her about preaching. This woman loves to preach!
People love her: Collard greens, rice and okra gumbo! She loves it too, and NY Strip!
Next sermon title: Don't Look Back
Favorite scripture: Philippians 4:13 "I can do everything through him who gives me strength."
Latest huge accomplishment: Earned her GED at age 61 in record time. She is now a high school graduate!
Of course: She sings in the choir, too!