A Tribute to My Friend, Raymond Harville

June 18, 2010

You perhaps have noticed that the subtitle of Leon’s Message Board is “Bible History and Geography and More.”  Today’s post is in the “More” category. It is in the “Personal” genre, but something I wish to share with those who would be interested.

Yesterday (June 17), Jackie Richardson and I conducted funeral services for our dear friend, Raymond Harville.  I thought I’d share a couple of photos, as well as my notes prepared for yesterday’s funeral sermon.

I remember bro. Homer Hailey, in class lectures in the Proverbs, making the observation that in life one may have many acquaintances, but will have very few intimate friends (of the nature referenced in Prov. 17:17; 18:24).

In this post I want to pay tribute to Raymond, one of my closest friends.

Raymond & Anne Harville. They were married 54 years. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Funeral Sermon for Raymond Harville

by Leon Mauldin

When Abner died, 2Sa 3:38 states,”Then the king said to his servants, Do you not know that a prince and a great man has fallen this day in Israel?”

The world tracks its heroes: entertainment stars that don’t know the Lord, that call good evil and call evil good, that boldly have children out of wedlock, and flaunt God’s covenant of marriage.  But God knows who the real heroes are. I want my children and grandchildren to look up to men just like brother Harville.  He was one of my heroes.

We don’t have to look far to count our blessings. Prayers have not been in vain.  We prayed that he might be healed, but if that were not the case, that he would not continue to suffer, and we prayed that God’s will be done. It is a blessing that the Alzheimer’s nightmare is over.  No one would have wished for him a continuation of what he endured for the past years and especially the past several months.

Paul said in Phil. 1:27: “having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.” It is “very much better” (NASB).  “Better by far” (NIV).  That is always true for the faithful Christian, but especially when one’s work here is done, when one can no longer function with clarity of mind.

I first met bro. Harville more than 34 years ago. Nathan Hagood was preaching in Valdosta, Ga.; we were in Blackshear.  Raymond had called Nathan regarding a newly established congregation in Hohenwald, Tn.; Nathan did not want to move there, but he told Raymond about me.  When we talked by phone, and I told him a bit about my background, etc., I mentioned I had studied under Bob Waldron, Irvin Lee’s son-in-law.  I learned later that Raymond made one call to Irvin Lee.  Then he told the folks at Hohenwald, “I’ve got you a preacher.”

During those years when we were in Hohenwald and the Harville’s in Mt. Pleasant, Tn., our lives became intertwined in so many ways. During those years a friendship was forged like that described in Prov. 18:24: “But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”  Proverbs 17:17 “A friend loves at all times, And a brother is born for adversity.” That friendship was manifested in many ways.

Brother Harville was an encouragement to me in the preaching of the Gospel. In radio Q&A work; in the local works in TN and AL; in Gospel meeting work.  “Blest be the tie that binds Our hearts in Christian love; The fellowship of kindred minds Is like to that above.”  In Raymond I found a kindred mind, my kindred spirit.

When the Harville’s moved to Midway in Lauderdale Co., Al, and we moved to Lexington, Al., we were only 10 miles apart.  Typically on Tuesdays we would meet for breakfast or lunch.  Often our Bibles would be spread on the table as we studied.  From there we would often make hospital calls or other visits together.  During those days is was rare for a day to go by without contact of some kind.

My lessons became punctuated with illustrations from Raymond. If I were teaching on some subject which was not a present pressing issue, I would say, Raymond says to preach on modesty in the cold of December.  I.e., you teach and prepare before some topic becomes an emotionally charged issue. On the simplicity of the Gospel: I was present when a “Jehovah’s Witness” after talking a while, and perceiving she was dealing with someone who knew the Bible, defensively said, “I’m not trying to force this on you; why, you couldn’t become a Jehovah’s Witness tonight if you wanted to.”  Raymond immediately replied, “I know that, but if you were teaching people how to become New Testament Christians, they could do that the same hour of the night.”

In 1992, there were four of us who together made our “maiden voyage” for overseas’ evangelism, Raymond, Johnny Felker, Bob Waldron and myself.  That trip was to Czechoslovakia. I’ve said several times there were no three  men on earth I’d rather have taken that trip with.

What has brought us here today is truth. That’s what brought Raymond and me together. Like John and the elect lady (2 John), and John and Gaius (3 John).  Sometime read those short epistles and see how much emphasis is placed on the truth.  Note 2 John 2: “because of the truth which abides in us, and will be with us forever.”  Death ends our relationship on earth, but if we have the truth in common, we have something that we will possess together forever!

As I sum up my personal reflections there are especially three lessons I learned from Raymond. I am happy to say that I shared this with him years ago.

  1. Do right by your family.
  2. The purpose of study is people.
  3. Pay attention to people that might otherwise go unnoticed.

Prov. 10:7 says, “The memory of the righteous is blessed, But the name of the wicked will rot.”

I’ll remember Raymond’s sense of humor. Once while standing in the back with him to greet folks entering the building at Southern Boulevard in Sheffield, a lady asked Raymond, “Is this your brother?” With a straight face he answered, “No ma’am, he’s my son.”  To which she replied, “I could tell there was a strong resemblance.”

Raymond loved the Lord, and loved the church of the Lord. Not a “big shot.”  He was all about souls; about pleasing God. His one purpose in life was pleasing God.

I’ll remember his work ethic. “Do it right, do it fast, and get on to the next job.”

I’ll remember His love for his family.

I’m thankful for the hope we have, Titus 1:2. The promises of God: Remission of sins as one obeys the Gospel.  Jesus’ promise of the resurrection in John 11:25,26.

Jesus cares, Heb. 4:14-16. Promised to be with us Heb. 13:5,6.  In life and in death! 2 Cor. 5:8— We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.

Before our Father’s throne We pour our ardent prayers; Our fears, our hopes, our aims are one, Our comforts and our cares.  We share our mutual woes, Our mutual burdens bear; And often for each other flows The sympathizing tear.  When we asunder part, It gives us inward pain; But we shall still be joined in heart, And hope to meet again.

I am thankful that Raymond lived in the Lord; that when he died, died in faith. That he died in the Lord. That he died in hope. May God help each one present today, to partake of the salvation which is in Jesus Christ.

(The two photos used in our post were taken Jan/Feb 2008.  Remember to click on image for higher resolution and larger view.)

Raymond, Leon & Anne. Early 2008. Photo by Linda Mauldin.

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