Pastor Knox, for God and Country

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Today I’d like to share with you about my dear friend Pastor Knox Herndon. I believe he is a fine example of a life well-lived. Even though we have become very close friends, I’m not sure of exact dates and places in his life, so don’t put too much faith in my noting those details.

I do know this: he is the son of a career military chaplain. His dad was a chaplain in the U.S. Army. As an “army brat” he lived with his mom and dad and his sister many places around the world. He went to high school in Germany and experienced the terrifying reality of the Berlin Wall, which kept the Germans living in East Berlin in terrible captivity, but he also enjoyed living there and made the best of it.

He lived back in Atlanta in his 20s. Here’s an interesting fact: at that time Knox was the drummer in a rock and roll band that won the “Battle of The Bands” for all of Atlanta. I know this, he was surely the most well-behaved “rocker” that ever played. That’s for sure. He then met and married his lovely bride Dee, who was working in Atlanta after earning her doctorate degree from Duke University.

I believe the timeline for Knox is that after graduating college he enlisted in the Army, served a stint, got out, went to Seminary to become a pastor, and then re-enlisted in the Army as a chaplain. The life of a pastor is always one of sacrifice and service, but those realities are even more advanced as a military chaplain. I say here, Thank You to all of our military chaplains, both of the past and present.

Chaplain Herndon’s assignment was serving as a chaplain in the 82nd Airborne Division. Wikipedia gives us this information. “The 82nd Airborne Division is an airborne infantry division of the United States Army, specializing in parachute assault operations into denied areas with a U.S. Department of Defense requirement to respond to crisis contingencies anywhere in the world within 18 hours.” Big job!

Pastor Knox often tell his “war stories” about his parachute jumps with the troops as they trained at Fort Benning. Yes, he jumped with them every time, and says the more nervous young soldiers making their first jump were very eager to “sit by the chaplain” for some extra divine intervention for courage and safety. Amen.

Chaplain Herndon was part of the 1983 Invasion of Grenada, regaining the island, which had fallen to communists, and restoring democracy for its people. It was a true war-time battle experience.

I know of three other specific assignments. Chaplain Herndon served a very large military congregation in Korea. He often refers to the blessing of his work there with the phrase, “We had 5 choirs!”

He and his wife and two kids also were assigned to Berlin, Germany, again experiencing the horrors of the Berlin Wall, but also enjoying the beauty of West Germany and the culture of the people.

Then there was Alaska, of which Knox speaks with great love and respect. He tells of the perils of living in that extreme climate, but lights up with joy at recounting his love for the fishing and hunting he did there. And he has returned many times to re-kindle that love.

Since retiring from the Army, he has served in many capacities as a Retired Chaplain.

Upon retiring from the Army, he and family moved to Fayetteville and eventually started a new church in our community. For many years that church, His House Church, met in the log cabin just off the square here in Fayetteville. Pastor Knox grew the church to the point where they bought land on Hwy. 85 in Senoia and built their beautiful church building there.

It was at that time that Knox and I met and became friends as a group of pastors had an informal prayer breakfast every Tuesday morning at IHOP. The two of us, along with several other pastors from Fayette County and thousands of pastors from around the country, attended the Promise Keepers event for pastors at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

We were encouraged at that event to identify another pastor as a prayer and accountability partner. Knox and I looked at each other and said we’d be that for each other. That was in 1996, and we’ve held true to that ever since, meeting almost every Friday at Waffle House for prayer, accountability, and saving the world “one egg at a time.” Amen.

When Pastor Knox retired from pastoring his church, he and Dee began worshipping with us at Prince of Peace Lutheran here in Fayetteville. They jumped right in and became members, and eventually the lay leadership decided to add Pastor Knox to the staff as “my assistant.” I was thrilled. He always described his job description as that of Aaron, Moses’ brother who held up Moses’ arms so he could keep blessing the people. I can attest that he did that faithfully until the day I retired just this year. Again, Amen.

So now I’m retired and Pastor Knox is officially retired, and we maintain our friendship and partnership.

Let me say this, to quote my wife, “We don’t have a better friend than Knox Herndon.” He’s never literally given me the shirt off his back, but I know he would. The closest he came to that was one Christmas Eve I admired his red Poinsettia tie, so he took it off right then and there and gave it to me. I’ve worn it at least once every Christmas season since. And Dee, well, she has a “shopping ministry,” which gives her the joy of both purchasing and giving.

A man of God. A man of prayer. A man of the Bible. A preacher of the Gospel. A legacy of ministry. A life of service to both God and Country. A Patriot. A loving family man. An outdoorsman. A steward of God’s creation. A kind and gentle soul. A brother. I love you, Pastor Knox. Let’s keep on keeping on and keep praying and looking out for one another. God’s not finished with us yet. Amen and Amen.

[Kollmeyer is Pastor Emeritus of Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Fayetteville. Follow this church and its fine new Pastor Scott Ness at www.princeofpeacefayette.org. Kollmeyer is also Interim Pastor at Word of God Lutheran Church in Sharpsburg, www.woglutheran.org. The subject of this column — Knox Herndon — for several years wrote a continuing column for The Citizen newspaper.]