A praying woman|Eunice Phillips’ friends say she has hotline to heaven

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 18, 2010

Don’t call Eunice Phillips on a Friday. She’ll be busy. That’s her day for fasting and prayer.

Eunice is a firm believer in theScripture that says some things come to pass because of fasting and prayer. She doesn’t eat from Thursday night until Friday night. She begins her prayers about 7 in the morning, and the next three or so hours she spends in prayer.

“First, I pray for my family, then my church family and then for others,” she said. Her intercessory prayers are for numerous people with problems, not just from this area. Calls come in every week, she said.

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Some of her friends believe that she has a hotline to heaven, for her prayers always get answers — though not necessarily what you might want.

Gordon Cotton is an author and historian who lives in Vicksburg.

“I discovered America on May 14, 1911, in Sunflower County, Miss.,” she said, so she’ll be 99 in less than a month. That makes her the second oldest member of the Church of the Nazarene — her friend Annie Stanford will soon be 100.

Eunice joined the church in 1937, and the only singing she has ever done was for the children in the Sunday school classes she taught. “I don’t sing, but I try to,” she said.

“I’ve always loved children. My stepmother had 12 — there were six in my own family — so there were 17, as one died,” she said.

Of course, their ages were staggered, so she was often the baby sitter. “I was more interested in the children than in boys. So, instead of going on a date, I’d take care of the children.”

That changed, however, when the family moved to Blytheville, Ark., and she met her future husband, Barney Phillips, at a baseball game. They soon married — it was love at first sight — she said. The family was going to return to Mississippi, and Barney said, “We’d better get married. I can’t let you go back down there.”

Someone asked her why they married during the Depression, and Eunice replied, “I didn’t know what a depression was, but I soon found out.”

Her husband had been a bus driver, and he got a job driving a truck in Memphis, so they went there.

In 1942, Eunice moved to Vicksburg several months after her husband was killed in a wreck. Her brother, Bill Sheffield, said he’d help her get a job. She went to work at the garment factory, but began taking business courses in night school “because I didn’t intend to work at the garment factory all my life.”

After completing school, she worked in a department store in Meridian, then was payroll clerk for a Jackson company for 13 years before joining the Stanley Homes Products staff for 17 years, living in Greenwood. In 1969, she moved to New Orleans where she worked in the office of the Southern Baptist hospital.

She also worked in Nashville for three years for Warner Mack, a Vicksburg-born country music star, but left when he switched from selling musical instruments to men’s clothing.

Eunice remembers sitting on the porch at Ruleville with her brothers and sisters watching as their mother taught herself how to drive, using an instruction book.

“She’d go up and down the road and dared us to get off that porch, because if she turned into the yard she might run over us,” Eunice said.

She was born in “the dark ages, a premature child, and they didn’t think I was going to live,” Eunice said, “but I showed ’em.”

Her health hasn’t always been good. In 1944, she had cancer that was so bad “the doctors just sewed me back up. They said there was no way I could live,” but in a few months she was back at work.

In recent months she’s had problems with seeing and hearing, and she gets around with a walker and a scooter. She’s always eaten healthy foods and doesn’t eat junk food or drink pop drinks because “God made water.” It only takes eight minutes to have a frozen dinner ready in the microwave, and she fixes her own coffee.

Church and related activities remain high on her list. She goes to both Sunday services, and for years was active in the Explorers Bible study group.

She first noticed she was having seeing problems while teaching Sunday school, she said, and kept telling folks at church, “I need a larger light bulb — it’s too dark in here.”

She doesn’t complain about her few physical infirmities and is looking forward to her 99th birthday party May 16, hosted by her nephew, Billy Sheffield.

“Every morning, I thank the Lord for the night’s rest and that I can get up and walk.” she said. “All that is good about me came from God. He has been so good to me. I can’t do anything but praise him. He takes care of his children.”