PROFILE: Saved from sin: Aaron Knight overcomes obstacles to gain redemption as pastor
By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Staff Writer
Aaron Knight was recently named the pastor at Redemption Church in Chelsea, an opportunity that excited him, but the path to how he got there is a long, dark and disturbing roller coaster that most of us wouldn’t make it off alive.
His story starts during his late teens when he decided to run away from home for the second time, at which point his dad told him not to come back.
The dark days
He lived off and on with friends until their families got tired of him and threw him back to the wild. This would go on for about a year and a half before he reached his lowest point at 18-years-old.
“It was really my lowest point for two reasons, I lived in 25 places over those two years and you eventually wear out your welcome, so I found myself in a situation where I didn’t have a place to live at all anymore,” Knight said.
This is when Knight found himself living in the woods off of Bradley Drive inside of a Plymouth Reliant K.
“I’m not the tallest fella, but there’s not a whole lot of room in the back of one of those things,” he said. “I would go days at a time without bathing or eating.”
Next to having no home, Knight found himself on the wrong side of the law being arrested seven times throughout his juvenile and early adult life.
In 1990 he spray-painted what he said was pretty much everything in the city of Chelsea including the Old Weldon Store, the rock outside of Highland Lakes and the press box at the football stadium. He also went to jail for shoplifting a pair of jeans from McCray’s in the Galleria.
In 1991 he left Chelsea on first degree kidnapping charges when he took a girl over state lines without parental consent. Knight, 18, and her, 15, planned to run away with each other, but neither was aware of the repercussions. The charges ended up being dropped later on.
“We laugh about it now when I see her, but her picture was all over town here for a while and everybody knew she and I were hanging out, so people started thinking I had done something to her,” Knight said.
He was also arrested in Leeds at one point when he and a buddy decided to play chicken with a cop by attempting to run him off the road. Even worse, they were on their way to pick up cocaine in Auburn when it happened, which leads us into Knight’s dark days of drug abuse.
“I used everything but heroine because I was terrified of needles,” Knight said. “Crack cocaine, pills, marijuana, crystal meth when it first came out, ecstasy and there’s no telling what else. There were times we mixed up some stuff that was really-really bad.”
Knight’s onset to his drug obsession began by driving his friends to pick up cocaine or other drugs before he eventually got the urge to try it, which hooked him immediately.
“Next thing you know I was strung out on all of these different drugs and living in the woods,” he said.
The drugs made Knight desperate for money so he could afford to support his addiction and in 1991, there was an excessive amount of copper wire theft in Chelsea, something Knight was responsible for.
“My friend Eric and I were stealing copper from all over Chelsea,” Knight said. “We knew where all of the electricians and plumbers that dealt with copper lived, so we would go out during the day while people were at work and steal everything we could steal.”
Knight was also in the weed business, selling dope for 10 years until the age of 30, and it wasn’t until one day in 2003, on 19th street in Bessemer in front of the Pipe Shop where he sold weed that he finally got a wake-up call.
The day it all changed
“It was a man named Charles Diffee that changed my life forever,” he said.
On that day in 2003 at 5:30 a.m., Diffee pulled out in front of him causing Knight to hit him with his Nissan Altima.
“I got out of my car to see if he was okay, but here is where it gets crazy, he didn’t even ask me if I was okay,” Knight said. “Instead he got out and handed me a handwritten letter and said, ‘God wants you to have this.’ It was crazy, almost like God had him do that to turn my life around.”
The letter that 80-year-old man handed Knight was already written out before the accident occurred and talked about how much time he had spent wasting in life running away from God. To this day Knight still has the letter at his dad’s house.
“I would’ve believed he was an angel had he not seen me giving that testimony a month later,” he said.
He ended up going to Church of the Highlands in his late 30’s, which he actually didn’t like at the time, saying he only went there because he wanted to go to a big church so not many people would know he was a new member and ask why he was there.
During his time there, he got involved in Highlands Haven and prison ministry with the church and enjoyed the impact he was having.
It also led him to running into Kellie Wigley on Friday the 13th at a bar.
“That was the time period I was still somewhat running from the Lord, but God started putting pieces of my life back together and she was one of them,” Knight said. “We were in a bar drinking with friends and at one point I set my drink down and just started talking to her. We ended up talking for two and a half hours about nothing but God.”
Knight mentioned that Wigley “stirred” something up inside of him that he thought was “dead and dormant.”
“She told me I was going to preach someday and I told her ‘You are crazy, if only you knew how much stuff I have messed up in my life you would not be saying that,’” he said. “I thought there was no way God would trust me with a church after everything I did wrong.”
On Oct. 25, 2015, the two got married, which led Knight to chase after his newfound dream of becoming a preacher.
He started his adventure with Church of the Highlands at Highlands College at the age of 40. Knight felt that he went unnoticed and flew under the radar throughout his time in the program.
“I was never asked to participate in small groups or really do anything special like that while I was there,” Knight said.
March 20, 2016, Knight was given that opportunity when he was voted to become the pastor of Redemption Church at K Springs in Chelsea, a vote that passed making Knight the only graduate of Highlands College who is a senior pastor in the metro area.
“I couldn’t help but think how unreal and dumb that was at the time. I had just gotten married, I had been homeless, I dealt and was taking drugs for almost a quarter of my life, I went through a marriage the wheels fell off of; I just thought to myself ‘Why on earth would they do this,’” Knight said.
His first official day to give a sermon was March 27, 2016, better known as Easter Sunday.
“I believe God is intentional with certain things like numbers,” Knight said.
When he first started in March the church had 43 members, a number that has grown to currently reach around 150 members.
A quarter of a mile walk through the woods behind Redemption Church lies Bradley Drive and the area where he slept in that old Plymouth Reliant K.
“It all happened right here,” Knight said. “I remember driving by this church strung out on cocaine with copper wire in the back of the truck, and now 25 years later, God has brought me full circle back to this same area to not only give me redemption, but give me the opportunity to help other people have a chance at redemption as well.”