Home Features Spiritual HELICOPTER PILOT FLIES HIGH WITH ENTHUSIASM OVER RESPONSE TO...DAMASCUS ROAD MINISTRIES CHURCH
HELICOPTER PILOT FLIES HIGH WITH ENTHUSIASM OVER RESPONSE TO...DAMASCUS ROAD MINISTRIES CHURCH
By Dave Stave
Observer Staff Writer
Pilot Kemit Knight escaped from a fiery helicopter crash in the Grande Ronde Valley July 4 with only cuts on his fingers. He knows it could have been much worse.
Knight, owner of Americopter Aviation Services, a crop-spraying business based at the Union County Airport, does not view his close call as a matter of good luck. He sees the hand of God in what happened.
"The loss of an aircraft is nothing," Knight said. "But to have the gift of life is something. God choreographed the whole thing."
Knight, who has been pastor of Damascus Road Ministries church on C Avenue for 2 years, calls the accident a "wake-up call," in that he now is thinking about giving more of his time to the church he founded.
The pilot said conditions were calm and cool early on the morning of Independence Day. He was making turns, spraying a potato field off Highway 237 about five miles east of Island City.
Knight, who has flown a helicopter for more than 23 years but has been around the aircraft since he was a boy, said he was making a tight turn near a residence when a part failed in the drive shaft, causing the blade to lose power.
"I managed to get through the turn," said Knight, 46. "I missed the pavement by about 15 feet."
He crash-landed in a dirt patch. The helicopter landed on its side and started to burn. Knight was able to get away from the aircraft, escaping without injury except for cuts on a finger on each hand.
Knight knew the law of averages meant that an accident could occur after so many years of flying.
"I was amazed to get out of the wreck virtually unscathed. I considered it a wake-up call for getting into the ministry more."
Knight said he has seen steady growth in the church that he and his wife, Linda, got started with some friends in the old Open Bible Church building at 905 C Ave.
A group of eight people started meeting on Sunday evenings, but then added a morning service.
Atten-dance is now running at about 65 people for the 10:30 a.m. worship service. An adult Sunday school is held at 9:30 a.m., and a children's church is held during the 10:30 service. The church also continues to offer a 6:30 p.m. service.
Knight said a combination of things has attracted people to the new church. The focus of the ministry is to take all of God's Word seriously and reach out to meet the needs of the people in the church and community.
People also have been attracted to the casual dress of those attending the services.
"We started a church where non-church people can feel comfortable attending," the pastor said. "People can come as they are."
Knight said he recalls an older woman once asking him what the church was like.
"I told her, Â‘If you want to come in your pajamas and fuzzy slippers, feel free.' "
The woman did not take him up on the offer, however.
The Bible is central at Damascus Road Ministries, Knight said, explaining that the goal is not simply to hear what the Scripture says, but to "do what God commands."
"It's taking the Scripture as a whole and knowing what God's heart is," he said.
J.P. Garringer, who is active in youth ministries and is an elder at the church, agreed that the Bible is a major focus at Damascus Road.
"This church teaches and believes what the Bible says," Garringer said, "and God is here."
Knight, who was around helicopters with his father Bill's Rambling Rotors business since age 6, graduated from La Grande High School in 1975.
Knight said he made a commitment to Jesus Christ in 1985 at La Grande's Evangelical Methodist Church, now Grande Ronde Community Church.
But it was in the 1990s when he was active at the Pioneer Park Church of God in northwest La Grande that Knight began to ponder the possibility of starting a church. He was ordained a minister in 1998.
"The drive to follow the Lord totally consumed me," he said. "For three or four years I wrestled with starting a church." Knight said the decision was difficult because he didn't feel the community needed more churches. Damas-cus Road, he said, enjoys a good relationship with other area churches.
"I downplayed it," Knight said of the idea of starting a church. "But the Lord kept prodding me to do this. It was a big step."
Knight said the way God has been blessing the people at Damascus Road has confirmed he made the right decision.
"Our heart has been to reach out to people who are hurting, and we've been able to get a good response. The love and the fellowship has been good."
In July, following the helicopter crash, 22 people were baptized as believers in Christ.
Knight said Garringer and others in the congregation have stepped up to serve in various ways, including ministering to children and doing practical things like keeping up the building and grounds.
Still, Knight, who does not draw any pay as minister, is mulling whether to shift away a little more from his helicopter business and spend more time with the church.
He said he'd like to see even more good things happen at Damascus Road Ministries.
People at the church have been challenged to "go where God sends them and do what He wants them to do," the pastor said.
"Some people have been healed, and we're still standing back and saying, Â‘Wow!' It makes me want to desire even more."