January 18, 2013–Mildred Case celebrates her 100th birthday today and has the distinction of being the oldest living Church of God missionary.
Sister Case has lived through two World Wars, witnessed transportation advance from Model T Fords to spaceships reaching Mars, saw the invention of the computer, and has experienced hundreds of changes, innovations, and inventions during the span of 100 years.
With her late husband, Hoyle Luther Case, Mildred accepted an assignment to India in 1938 while it was still a British colony. They served in India until the events of World War II forced their return to the United States. After serving in the local pastorate, they were sent by the World Missions Board to Cuba, where they served on two occasions. The rise of Castro required Americans—including the Cases—to leave the island nation.
As part of the celebration of this historic milestone, Jackie Walker, state director of Church of God Tennessee State Women’s Ministries, is developing a special tribute to Sister Case during the 2013 Camp Meeting Ladies Day, on Friday, June 21, 2013. Mildred Case is the eldest living female credentialed Church of God minister of Tennessee. Mildred’s daughter, Sylvia Case King, will participate in this featured portion of the service.
With her rich background and distinct memory, Mildred Case was recently interviewed. The following is a transcript:
Q: What one event in your childhood do you believe shaped your future more than any other?
When I was just seven years old my parents and I all received the baptism of the Holy Spirit in a revival in Missouri, a revival with Brother D.P. Barnett. That experience has been real with me all my life. I appreciate so much the fact that the Lord touched us. I admire my parents, respect them. The Lord has just welded us together and used us all together in his work. My father became a minister in the church, so all I know is living for Christ and working for him. Ministerial life is all I know. My earliest memory is the death my little brother before I was saved. He played in the rain and caught pneumonia or something, and back then they didn’t have too much to help people so he died. He was only four years old and that just tore me up. I was six. Later, I had a little sister, and she also died, and that was tragic. I also have another brother and two older sisters. I am the oldest. Several of my younger sisters have told me, “Yeah, Mama always used to say, ‘You look at Mildred, she doesn’t do that.” She made an example for the rest. They do depend on me, but of course I keep telling them that I’m not perfect.
Persecution in the church was so bad no one would rent us a building to have church in so my father said, “Well, that’s all right. We will just meet at my house.” So we emptied our living room, put some benches in there and had services there for a year. My father was the leader; there was no pastor per say. During that time not one soul came in to the service a sinner and left a sinner. Every one accepted the Lord that whole year. One time our neighbor next door came by and came in and he was drunk. He thought he was going in this home next door and he came in to our service. So he sat down on the front bench there. My father carried on right through the service as usual, singing and preaching and everything. When he gave the altar call the man fell down on his knees at the altar and came up sober and saved. Wonderful things we could tell about those early days of ministry.
Q: How far did you go in school?
I have a master’s degree in education. I began teaching right here in Cleveland, Tennessee. At that time my father and mother lived in Ohio, right on the border of West Virginia. I came here when I was just 19 and taught high school subjects in our Bible Training School (Lee University now). They never had any high school subjects taught here; it was all just grade school because back then our ministers didn’t have the opportunity to go to school. So this was my first teaching. I finished junior college and then came here. Later I finished my BA and MA degrees.
Q: How did you meet your husband?
It was here in B.T.S (Bible Training School) that I met Hoyle Luther Case, my husband. He was from Greenville, SC, and we met here. At that time, the rules were so strict about the girls and the boys. They had to keep separate. Even though I was the teacher, I wasn’t under the rule, but still he was. So I would not do anything to harm him, but we were friends. I’ll tell you what most attracted me to him first. My parents lived down the street from the Bible School. We had study hall at the Bible School every night and I was to teach the study hall. A lawyer in Atlanta sent his 12 year old son up here to school because he couldn’t control him at home. This 12 year old boy had stolen a car and nobody knew where he was. He was in school, and that shows you why his father couldn’t do anything. So that night one of the students came in and said that they had seen him, this 12 year old, in the car just recently. So everybody swept out of the study hall, and we were going to go and find that boy because that was important. So out they all went. Just as the last one was going, my husband, Hoyle, came in. He was a little late for study hall, and he looked around and said, “Where is everybody,” and so I told him. Well, naturally he said he would go look, too. So I went out on the street too. As I said, my parent lived just down the street, and my father was coming out of the house to go across the street to use the telephone. I said, “What is it, Daddy?” And he said, “There’s a drunken man asleep in our back yard against the shed back there, and I’m going to call the police.” And Hoyle was near enough that he heard what was going on. And he just very respectfully said, “If I were he I wouldn’t do that (call the police on the drunk man) and so I didn’t know why, but I just said to Dad, “This boy here says that he wouldn’t do that if he were you, so why don’t you just go by what this boy said.” Of course my father was taken back, but the Lord just had him go along with Hoyle’s suggestion. Hoyle said, “He’s asleep now; he’s not doing anything to anybody and when he wakes up he won’t do any harm. He’ll be ashamed.” The reason he knew all that was because his father was a drunkard, and he understood how to hand them. After Hoyle got saved, so did his father and he because a preacher too in South Carolina.
That is what made me notice Luther Hoyle Case. If he could be kind to a drunkard, then he could be kind to anybody. We went together for three years before we were married.
Q: So Hoyle was a student at BTS?
He had run away from home, which was Winston Salem, North Carolina, at the time, and he came to Greenville. His relatives lived there, and he went to the church there and got saved. So then he stayed with relatives, and he went to a wonderful mission school that is there in Greenville, Holmes Bible and Missionary Institute. He went there two years and then from there he came up here and graduated from here. (Church of God Bible Training School)
Q: What factors contributed to such a long-lasting marriage?
As I say we went together three years or more, but we were married 64 ½ years before he passed away. And if you ask me what factors contributed most to that, love. That’s all. It was not money, it was not looks, it was love in each of our hearts for one another.
Q: How did you both choose to be missionaries?
In the summertime when he went back to Greenville and worked he would come up for the weekend to visit me and I realized my heart was really for him. I prayed about it. When I was 12 years old the Lord called me to India to be a missionary to India. And I said, “Yes, Lord I will go whenever you open the way.” So I was praying and I said, “Now Lord you know I promised to be your missionary whenever you opened the way, and I don’t want to put any stumbling block in the way of my fulfilling your call. If Hoyle or anybody else will be in my way so that I can’t go when you say, go, to the mission field, well, I will sacrifice it.” So the next time he came up here, we were sitting in the porch swing and I said, “Hoyle I have something to tell you.” And he said, “Well, I have something to tell you, too.” So I told him first. Then he said, “Now you listen to me.” So I did. He said, “When I was 19 years old the Lord saved me when I was behind the barn praying and I looked up unto the heaven and said, ‘Dear Lord, you know I want to go to heaven’. And the Lord spoke back to me and said, ‘Will you go by way of India?” And so his response was I am just a young boy working in the cotton mills. I have no preparation whatsoever. So Hoyle said, “I will go if you go with me.” On October 14, 1937, we were sent forth to go to India at the last meeting of the General Assembly that year. Together they served in India for 4 ½ years where Sylvia Sue Case was born.
The Board asked us to continue our missionary service to Cuba, so we adjourned to Santiago, Cuba, where we were meeting on the porch until a church was established. There were 120 people at our first church. Hoyle with his own hands built the first church building. We served as missionaries to Cuba for 2 ½ years. We had the first Bible school right there in that church but we trained six, eight, or maybe even 12 workers, so they have gone out and established work. We felt led to come home because we hadn’t had a furlough yet at all, and we felt like our physical needed it. So we came home and we pastored in a lot of states all over for 12 years. After 12 years the Board called us to South Carolina. A unfortunate situation happened and the board called us to see if we were interested in returning to serve as missionaries in Cuba. We both felt like we should return and served five more years until Castro said no more and kicked us out.
When we returned the second time, we went with three children, Sylvia, is the oldest, Luther Hoyle was the middle son, and the youngest is James Franklin Case.
Q: What was the best advice your parents ever gave you?
To live for Jesus. They always had prayer with us and read the Bible too. That’s where I got my training from.
Favorite Scriptures are John 3:16 and Psalm 23.
Q: What word of advice would you like to leave?
I think I have stressed all along about the Lord being in your marriage. It’s all important, all important. If we disagreed on anything we would pray about it and ask the Lord to direct us, and it always worked ok. We didn’t get mad and fight because we didn’t have out way about it. So I would say to any couple that omitting the Lord from your marriage is like leaving the tires off of your car. The engine may sound the same, the car may look very much the same, but it really can’t go anywhere. In the same way, God created marriage and it can only be complete by complying with His will and with Him being the center of the home and the marriage itself. God’s principles and guidance are absolutely necessary.
Quote from Sylvia Case King:
“Mother’s strong faith in God since she accepted Him at an early age of seven, has carried her through many difficult circumstances. The challenges of life made her a strong believer in her Lord. Some people refer to her as a ‘saint’ because of the many involvements in the ministry. She raised a family with limited resources and under difficult times with the strength of her prayers. She still maintains a strength, confidence, and faith in God even at her age now. She prays for the needs of her family and others. I revere her as a prayer warrior, many hours of prayers asking God for help in time of need.”
Sylvia Sue Case King
Luther Hoyle Case
James Franklin Case
Great-Great- Grandchildren: 3