John Greenwood Mitchell (1892-1990)
“Don’t you folks ever read your Bibles?” He did. Few knew it better, though for John G. Mitchell, knowledge of the Bible was not an end in itself. He like few others went regularly beyond the printers ink to the Prince of Peace. He not only talked incessantly about “loving the Savior,” he did and it showed. If ever hauled into court charged with loving the Lord, he would be convicted immediately.
His eyes would get a far away look in them as he reflected on his early years of ministry as an itinerant evangelist on the Canadian prairies. Saved as a machinist, a tool and die maker, God called him to preach. His first sermon lasted all of three minutes. I can see him walking the prairies, praying all night. God alone knows how many trees, stumps, and stones, were evangelized as he practiced preaching. It was not unusual for him to sit up all night reading and rereading the Bible. God’s Word became such a part of him, he knew it so well, that he’d quote whole sections from memory.
With no financial support, trusting God alone, he’d travel to the most remote communities to tell of his Savior’s love. There were times when he had no other option but to head his little black Ford out toward another preaching point with the gas gauge on empty. He had not money, and the Canadian Depression was at its peak. Fully trusting his Lord to provide all his needs, he’d log mile after mile with no gas in his car. Sometimes appreciative farmers would give him a milk pail full of gasoline to help him on his way.
He’d pull into a tiny town, head for the telephone operator, and pay her a quarter to place a general call to all those who had phones in the area. His booming voice would come on the line and invite them to a revival service, often held in a Grange hall. Compelled to come, they’d hitch up their teams and come from miles around. The service would last several hours. Sometimes there was no light available, and he’d end up preaching in darkness.
Some threatened him. In the town of Radville they nailed the church door shut while he was preaching. Teaching in a remote area of Oregon, he found himself in the midst of a nest of suspicious moonshiners. Fearlessly he preached, and lives and destinies were changed.
Besides being one of the founders of Multnomah School of the Bible, (Now Multnomah University and Biblical Seminary), Dr. Mitchell founded and served as pastor of the Central Bible Church in Portland, Oregon. He was a pioneer radio speaker who was heard live, daily, on area radio stations. In those days there were no tape recorders. He and his organist had to be at the station five evenings of the week. The “Know Your Bible Hour” touched the hearts of countless thousands of listeners.
Dr. Mitchell and my father, Willard Aldrich, served together as partners in ministry for over fifty years. Their devotion to the Lord and to each other provided an outstanding illustration of what it means to dwell together in unity. Also standing with Dr. Mitchell through these decades of ministry was his beloved wife, Mary.
Everywhere he went the Savior was uplifted and people were drawn to Him. Throughout the years, Jesus was the main topic of his conversation. Finally, at ninety-seven years of age, the Lord he’s served so faithfully called him home. What a home coming it must have been! His “Jordy” accent, his knowledge of the Word, and his love for the Lord will not soon be forgotten.
“It is better,” Solomon writes, “To go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, for death is the destiny of every man, the living should take this to heart” (Ecclesiastes 7:2). And so we should. Spiritual success leaves clues. It is for us who remain to ponder–to reflect upon those who have gone before and to imitate their faith. “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith” (Hebrews 13:7).
- Joseph C. Aldrich, President (deceased)
*Taken from the foreword to An Everlasting Love: A Devotional Study of the Gospel of John by John G. Mitchell with Dick Bohrer, Multnomah Press, 1982.