KELLERVILLE - Many people in Juniata County associate the name Jimmy Neimond with revival-style preaching and praying in hospital rooms.
It was a revival preacher's story about a dying man in a hospital room that led the 68 year-old from the Richfield area into evangelizing as a teenager. And after serving 40 years as senior pastor and later associate pastor at Stony Run Mission Church in Kellerville, he is going back to that revival setting.
Neimond is now a travelling evangelist, called to preach at meetings in Pennsylvania and parts of the South.
Sentinel photo by TABITHA GOODLING
Pastor Jimmy Neimond, who began his ministry at age 17 and recently retired from his Richfield church, is now traveling as an evangelist throughout Pennsylvania and parts of the South.
Neimond officially retired from Stony Run Mission Church on June 12.
"That time (at Stony Run) flew," the pastor shared with a chuckle.
Neimond was 17 years old when he was asked to lead the congregation at Stony Run. The young minister spent two years leading youth ministry and filling the pulpit for Saturday night prayer meetings at a Snyder County church known as Village Chapel. When Pastor Tom Nipple left Stony Run in 1960 to minister in Arizona, the church board requested the young Neimond to be their shepherd.
"I remember saying to them, 'But I'm only 17,'" and at that point a board member placed his hand on Neimond's and promised they would be there for him because they believed God was going to use him at this church. Neimond served the congregation for a decade until he was called to Wayside Bible Church in Middleburg for nine years. He then went back to Stony Run to fill a vacancy temporarily.
"I was supposed to help out until they found someone," he said, "but they never did," he added with a laugh. It was 25 years later when Neimond's nephew Nick Smith took over as senior pastor at the church that Neimond lightened his load to associate pastor. He held that role for five years, but something pulled him back to the revivals.
Neimond travelled with a gospel music group in 1970 between his pastorates. That time evangelizing in different churches each night sparked an interest in him that never left.
"I got a taste of that evangelistic feel," the father of three and grandfather of four recalled.
Neimond was able to minister in song and preaching in every state on the continental east coast. The South, he said, is where he really noticed the ministry's effects.
"They really respond down there," he noted.
As Neimond thought about retiring from his home church a few years ago he also thought about sitting back and relaxing during those years.
"But the Lord had other plans," Neimond shared with another hearty laugh.
Neimond's love for the travelling ministry is evident as his face lights up recalling moments of watching people accept Christ as their Savior.
"Seeing people converted (to Christ) ... seeing how people are so open to me because I am not their pastor," but a visiting evangelist who does not know them or their families, he said, that was where he felt led by God.
Back home in Kellerville and all over Juniata County is where many people know "Jimmy." In fact, it is not unusual for Neimond's name to come up at the request of a patient near death.
Hospital visiting, Neimond shared, "is so precious to me." Those moments of condensing the Gospel into a matter of minutes for someone fearing his or her last breath gives Neimond a joy in knowing they will see Jesus if they truly accept His forgiveness.
Tent meetings and hospital visits are what brought Neimond himself to know Jesus Christ, which is perhaps the reason he seems to find himself ministering in those forms.
It was at a revival service on Feb. 18, 1958 when a pastor's words spoke to the heart of 15-year-old Neimond. The pastor who presented the message also had been working at a hospital. He shared with the congregation that he spoke to a young patient about Christ and offered to pray with him. The young man told the pastor, "The next time you come visit me ... then I'll accept the Lord."
The pastor came back that next night and made his way through the morgue of the hospital.
"There lay that young man," Neimond recalled the pastor's words. "It was then it was like God was saying, 'Jimmy, that could be you.'"
Neimond began preaching a few short months after his conversion. His plans to graduate East Juniata High School and become a state trooper were no longer a reality. Upon telling his guidance counselor he could not join the police because God was calling him to be a pastor, the counselor gasped.
It didn't make sense to the educator, Neimond said. How could God call a 15-year-old boy to become a pastor? Neimond then told him the story he heard at revival about the patient who missed his opportunity.
The guidance counselor no longer asked why.
"Tears rolled down his cheeks," Neimond said.
The teenager gave up his senior year in an actual class setting for homeschooled classes so he could tend the pastoral duties at Stony Run while obtaining his diploma and Bible school studies. While it didn't make sense to many, it made sense to Neimond.
Such is the case now at age 68 when he should be sitting on his front porch and planning vacations. God has called him out again, he believes, to preach.
The pastor and former owner of Jimmy's Carpets in Evendale returned from ministering in Kentucky and Tennessee recently and is gearing up for a series of revival meetings across the state of Pennsylvania in September through November. He expects to head south again next year.
He and his bride, Sandra "Pink" Spade Neimond, will celebrate 50 years of marriage this November. She joins him at as many of the revivals as she is physically able.
But Neimond has not lost sight of ministering opportunities locally. And no one lets him forget that he is a pastor who visits.
"I just had a lady call me the other day to visit someone in the hospital."
But you won't hear Neimond complain.
"That's alright by me," he said, adding that the highlight of his ministry has been seeing his own family members and people in his community come to Jesus.
"These are the people I grew up with. It's just so precious to me."