Tribute to Kermit Harpold
By Jody Griffin
Avery and Mitchell Counties
“If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25)
There was a man once whose spiritual walk was so incredibly refreshing that every time one spent time with him, you walked away feeling as though you had been in the Presence of the Lord. He wasn’t rich and famous, nor was he flashy and attention-grabbing. No, this man walked in true humility and served God in the best sense of the word, by living and walking in the Spirit of God.
As Chaplain, I met Kermit Harpold over six years ago and I knew instantly that I liked him. He was a religious volunteer who ministered to the men on the evening that I worked the later schedule for the Chaplain ministry. Kermit challenged these men to live, walk, and be led by the Spirit of God and to find their own Spirit-filled voice. The men would always leave their worship time with Kermit with the sure knowledge of his prayers and support of them to receive and employ their spiritual gifts.
There were occasions when he would speak directly to me amid his teaching/preaching. I found myself drawn to him just like the crowd of incarcerated men he shared the Word of God with and encouraged with his wisdom, love, and faithfulness. On those nights I would step out of my office and sit among them as we listened to his words. And I knew, I KNEW that they (we) were truly privileged to witness the Holy Spirit move among us!
My friend Kermit ‘fell off the radar’ as they say sometime after the pandemic began and volunteers were no longer able to enter the facility. But then, not too long ago he called and explained to me why I had not heard from him in a bit. He was sick and likely leaving this earthly life behind. He didn’t know how to tell me his news because he knew that I would grieve. But then he said, “Jody, I’m not afraid of dying. The Holy Spirit has given me the truest sense of peace. And the Holy Spirit wants you to have peace too.”
That was Kermit. No fluff or fanfare. Just pure, solid Truth from God delivered through his dearest companion, the Spirit of the Living God. And he knew the Holy Spirit personally. Then on August 13, 2021, Kermit left his earthly home and ministry to enter the glorious Promise of his eternal home.
I wept when I heard of it, not because I was sad for Kermit, but because I was selfishly sad for me and for the countless incarcerated men who had sat under his gifted teaching through the years. To be honest, I’m still grieving. It has taken me several weeks now to sit and write these words. But then today, I heard what sounded like Kermit’s voice say to me, “The Holy Spirit says it’s time you loosen your grip on me and take hold of His hand.” (But we were going to have dinner and I was going to get to drink from the fountain of spiritual wisdom that characterized my friend!)
Following the evening services Kermit led inside the prison walls, I would walk out of the facility each week as we both went to our cars. And as we walked, we talked of the incredible things we had both seen God do through the Holy Spirit. I realize now that of all those things, perhaps the greatest thing for me was teaching this old Baptist preacher that there is an abundance of power found in the gifts Holy Spirit brings!
I am indebted to God for the gift of sharing your walk with the Holy Spirit!
Your love for your wife and family and for ALL people lives on in the Holy Spirit’s power! Your ministry to those who are often overlooked continues to bear fruit in the lives of the incarcerated! Your contribution to the Kingdom will bless, and will be fully known when we meet at Heaven’s Banquet table! Your friendship carries me forward each day as I serve those who live and work behind the walls…Thanks, Be to God. Amen.
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.