Harvey John Kneisel, Jr.
Pearland, TX - Pastor, missionary, evangelist, church planter. Harvey John Kneisel, Jr., loving husband, father of four daughters, grandfather, and a friend of many went to be with his Lord, April 8, 2021, at the age of 90. He fought a courageous 25-year battle with Leukemia, and died at his home in Pearland, Texas, surrounded by family.
Born January 17, 1931, in Shawnee, Oklahoma, Harvey was the youngest of three boys born to the late Harvey Kneisel, Sr., and Dena (Smith) Kneisel. As a preteen, his family moved to Richmond, California, where his world was shaped by the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the influence of a young minister. Hard work was a normal part of the Kneisel family, and Harvey's brother enlisted in the Navy while his parents worked in the shipyards, leaving Kneisel largely on his own. His adventurous personality plus opportunity made him an "at-risk" youth, but the course of his life would be forever changed by the influence of two young men, Rev. Ross F. Hidy and Russ Ferguson. Pastor Hidy was a neighbor who took Kneisel and other boys to church and taught Harvey to play the trumpet. Together, they played trumpet duets in church, at youth events, and for the christening of a Navy ship, beginning a lifelong love of music. Hidy helped Harvey and two friends get jobs at Yosemite National Park for three summers and drove the young men one-hundred sixty-seven miles each summer and picked them up when summer ended—all during a time of gas rationing!
Ferguson, an older teen, was Harvey's youth minister and Boy Scout leader. He led the youth to memorize large numbers of Bible verses. Harvey came to know Jesus and to love the word of God. During the war years, the exuberance of youthful adventure intertwined with the serious realities of life and eternity. Harvey sold newspapers and was the first each morning to read about world events of the war. Harvey's mentor and friend, Ferguson, joined the Navy in 1945. After two weeks in the war, he lost his life on the ill-fated USS Indianapolis.
As a preteen Harvey's love for geography led to a hobby collecting stamps and coins and to a desire to see and learn about the world he was discovering. Love for God and a call to tell people about Jesus led Kneisel into full-time ministry his senior year of college. On June 10, 1951, he married the love of his life, Charlene, beginning seven decades of ministry on three continents. Harvey's childhood experiences gave him compassion for "at-risk" teens and adults. College sports like running track and boxing would later lead to opportunities to share the gospel, and he was privileged to help numbers of people with emotional scars from war find peace with God and with their past.
Kneisel graduated from Richmond (California) High School; received a Bachelor of Arts in English from Oklahoma Baptist University, Shawnee (Oklahoma); and Master of Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth (Texas).
Harvey served as a Southern Baptist pastor at Sumner and Crescent Baptist (Oklahoma); and MacArthur Boulevard, Irving (Texas), before his family moved overseas to pastor four churches in the Cayman Islands. While waiting to be appointed by the International Mission Board, SBC, Harvey pastored Sunset, Ponca City (Oklahoma), then moved overseas in 1963 to serve as a missionary in Guyana, South America. After returning to the US, he pastored Annaville Baptist, Corpus Christi (Texas); Associate Pastor/Director of Ministries at Houston's First Baptist Church, (Texas); First Pearland (Texas); and Oak Ridge, Spring (Texas). Kneisel was interim pastor of International Baptist Church, Manila (Philippines), and Evangelism and Church Growth trainer (India) before returning to Houston's First Baptist Church, (Texas) as Minister of Missions from 1985 to 1996. He left a legacy of missions and a love for all peoples everywhere he went. Houston's First partnered to start or revitalize 86 churches in the Houston area during Kneisel's tenure, starting Vietnamese, Laotian, Filipino, Eritrean, and Spanish congregations. Kneisel led churches and individuals to experience the joy of cross-cultural missions by leading mission trips all over the world. He loved people, trained pastors, and mentored young leaders wherever God led him.
Harvey and his wife, Charlene, founded Macedonian Call Foundation. For over 40 years this non-profit ministry has provided free transportation to missionaries living temporarily in the US. Kneisel, full of energy and drive, and with a love for cars, always carried a pocket full of car keys ready to provide transportation to a missionary. A passion to see declining churches return to vital ministries led Harvey to write about strategies for church growth. He co-authored Multi-housing Congregations: How to Start and Grow Christian Congregations in Multi-housing Communities; and wrote The Lazarus Effect: New Life for Declining Churches.
Along with his parents, Harvey was preceded in death by his brothers, Edgar and George (Quentin) Kneisel. He is survived by his wife and ministry partner of 70 years, Charlene Ada (Lewis) Kneisel, four daughters — Diana Clark and husband Robert; Debbie Floyd and husband Doug; Tresa Hightower and husband Greg; Denise Alcover and husband Aaris; nine grandchildren, fifteen great-grandchildren, two great-great-grandchildren and numerous cousins and family.
Visitation will be Thursday, April 15, 2021, from 5 to 8 p.m. at Memorial Oaks Funeral Home, 13001 Katy Freeway, Houston, Texas at 281-497-2210. A celebration of Harvey's life will be 11 a.m., Friday, April 16, 2021, at Houston's First Baptist Church, 7401 Katy Freeway, Houston, Texas. Social distancing and masks are requested.
Online condolences may be expressed at https://legcy.co/3d0v2Va. Flowers can be sent to Memorial Oaks Funeral Home or memorial donations to Macedonian Call Foundation, 10101 Southwest Freeway, Suite 103, Houston, Texas 77074, or online at mcftx.org, or International Mission Board, 3806 Monument Avenue, Richmond, VA 23230, or online at imb.org/give.
Posted online on April 11, 2021