Tribute to Claude Vess
By Jody Griffin
Avery and Mitchell Counties
Matthew 25:23a “His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant;”
A Memorial Tribute: Avery Mitchell Correctional Institution has been shaped since its opening by the lives of those who have given of themselves to bring hope to the men incarcerated within its boundaries. One gentleman who left an imprint of faith on this place through his faithful service was Mr. Claude Vess. On May 23, 2021, Claude left his beloved wife Pat and their family to enter the gates of Heaven. There is no doubt that his contributions of time and energy brought the Light of God’s Love to the men who have spent time in this place. For years Claude taught Sunday School and led worship for offenders wishing to attend. Therein, they would hear of Claude’s love for Christ and his earnest hope that they be encouraged to trust the Lord and to learn and grow in keeping with the Holy Scriptures. He truly wanted them to experience the Love and Grace of God and to find the Peace of Christ that passes all understanding.
For several years, Claude led the AMCI Community Resource Council (CRC), a group made up of a few facility staff and several ‘outside’ community members who worked to sponsor events designed to foster hope in men who were facing the oft felt hopelessness associated with incarceration. Claude led this group with confidence that God would bless and provide for the ‘team effort’ of providing each offender a gift bag of a few pieces of fresh fruit, some small candies, other snacks, a copy of selections of Scripture, and more. Then Claude would assist as we filled these bags with these small tokens of kindness and personally handed them to each individual offender, along with a smile and a personal greeting.
The CRC also sponsors events meant to boost staff morale. One such event is an Ice Cream Social wherein staff members are served a bowl of ice cream complete with a choice of toppings.
Claude also served on the Board for High Country Prison Ministry who sponsor the Community Funded Chaplain position at AMCI. He supported and prayed and encouraged the efforts of those who work to make it possible for this ministry to be available. There too he served with determination to bring the message of reconciliation between God Almighty and fallen humanity through the atoning sacrifice of God’s Son Jesus to all he encountered.
As Chaplain, I was blessed to serve with Claude in these activities. He and his beloved wife Pat would bring a spirit of joy to the tasks of procuring and then providing these gifts to the population and staff at AMCI. Having been given the privilege to share life and this mission with Claude, and having witnessed his heart’s desire to serve in a spirit of excellence, I am convinced that on the day he drew his last breath on this earth that he heard words very much like those expressed in the verse above.
Grateful to have served beside you, our Brother! We pledge to continue the work of spreading the Good News of Christ in the place most people would never go and to do so with the same commitment to excellence that you displayed. Together, all who knew you and were blessed by your service declare, “Well done!”
Jody Griffin is pastor of Central Baptist Church in Spruce Pine and Community Funded Chaplin at Avery-Mitchell Correctional Institution. If you would like more information contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more good Christian news from Jody HERE.