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‘Pay It Forward Friday’

SOS, St. Paul encourage kindness on anniversary of beloved pastor’s death

-Messenger photo by Chad Thompson
TJ Pingel, president of Serving Our Servants, left, and the Rev. Kendall Meyer, pose in Meyer’s office at St. Paul Lutheran Church. Both are holding a Rev. Al Henderson Pay It Forward Friday card. SOS and St. Paul have planned Friday as a day for anyone in the community to spread kindness in any way. Friday marks the one-year anniversary of Henderson’s death. The silver cross in the background of this photo belonged to Henderson.

The late Rev. Al Henderson did a lot of big things for the Fort Dodge community — whether that was providing support and compassion as a pastor at St. Paul Lutheran Church or being a listening ear for first responders as a founding member of Serving Our Servants. But sometimes it was small gestures or moments of kindness displayed by Henderson that had the largest impact on people’s lives, according to TJ Pingel, president of SOS.

So on Friday, on the anniversary of Henderson’s death, that’s what SOS and St. Paul Lutheran Church are asking from the community.

The two organizations have planned what they are calling, “Pay It Forward Friday,” as a way to honor Henderson, who was killed on Oct. 2, 2019.

“SOS has teamed up with St. Paul to make a day of kindness, honor Pastor Al and spread the joy of Jesus as Pastor Al did,” Pingel said. “The goodness that he was always doing. Spread the message that there is goodness in this world. To be able to spread that kindness and show that this is a good town.”

The idea of Pay It Forward Friday is to demonstrate an act of kindness — whether big or small, somewhere in the community, Pingel said.

If people wish, they can post something they did or something someone did for them on social media using the hashtag #PayItForwardFriday.

“There’s a lot of negativity right now on social media,” Pingel said. “It would be nice if we could brighten up some news feeds with some positive news.”

Pingel said it’s completely up to the community how they choose to spread kindness.

“It can be anything, especially with COVID going on, you don’t have to go to a certain place,” Pingel said. “It can be as simple as donating to a charity or helping your neighbor out. It can be something that doesn’t cost any money. A big gesture or little gesture, you don’t know what can make someone’s day. Pastor Al did a lot of good things. Personally, it was not the biggest gesture in the world, it was just a conversation that he helped me with.”

When the Rev. Kendall Meyer first met Henderson in 2005, Henderson greeted him with a handshake.

“He gave me a big handshake (at an Iowa District West pastors conference),” Meyer recalled. “He was a big guy.”

At the time, Meyer was working at a Lutheran church in Urbandale.

In the coming years, the two got to know each other very well. One of Meyer’s favorite events was the Iowa District West Pastor’s Golf Outing, which has since been renamed the Pastor Henderson Memorial Golf Outing.

“We played golf together,” Meyer said. “I got to know his bark very well, after he hit a good shot.”

Eventually, in September of 2019, Meyer was called upon to be senior pastor at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Fort Dodge.

“I appreciated the opportunity to work together when I accepted the call to be senior pastor,” Meyer said. “I still have his text messages on my phone. There’s a message that said, “Carry on.’” That was something he encouraged us to do. And we are carrying on. That’s something we wish to celebrate.”

Henderson died Oct. 2, 2019, after he was assaulted.

Joshua Pendleton, 37, is charged with first-degree murder and robbery in Henderson’s death. A trial has not yet been scheduled for Pendleton. He will face trial in Scott County after a judge granted a July request for a change of venue.

And while Friday’s events are being planned as a way to pay tribute to Henderson, Meyer said the cause is just as much about Jesus Christ, which is the way Henderson would want it.

“While we are remembering Pastor Al, we also know Pastor Al was all about Jesus,” Meyer said. “So we wanted to make it about Jesus and how he helped people in the community, who he was and how he served the community.”

Pay It Forward cards that feature Henderson’s name and one of his favorite Bible verses can be picked up at St. Paul Lutheran Church, Shimkat Motor Co., The Dariette or The Wellness Project. Meyer encourages people to hand out the cards on Friday.

A candlelight vigil will be held Friday night at City Square Park in remembrance of Henderson. The vigil begins at 7:30 p.m.

SOS and St. Paul will also be delivering meals to first responders on Friday.

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