I only met Herb once, at a book signing he did in the Augsburg Fortress Bookstore at the ELCA Youth Gathering in St. Louis in 2000. Sometimes I tell that story when I'm playing a concert, and I always say "I felt like I was meeting Paul McCartney."
Herb has been a role model of mine since the LBW was published in 1978 and I heard his hymn "Earth and All Stars" for the first time. Not long after that I began to hear stories about Herb at Fortune Lake Lutheran Camp, where I was a camper. Our camp director, Pastor Cy Warmanen, would frequently tell stories about his adventures with Herb on trips behind the Iron Curtain, when they'd play guitar and sing illegal hymns out in public and in the East Berlin subway system, despite armed guards standing around. Those kinds of stories made a big impression on me when I was in middle school.
Later on, when I was in my early 20s, I had the opportunity to make a couple trips myself over to former East Germany and Poland. Frequently when I'd arrive in a village, the locals would show me around and say "Herb Brokering and a group of American youth built this church building" or youth center, or camp site, etc. Herb's impact was staggering, and everybody loved him.
Herb's hymn "Earth and All Stars" is probably the one hymn that I have sung most in my entire life. It's a huge favorite of mine, and I never get sick of it. I've played it in concert ever since I started playing solo two decades ago. In fact, there's even a clip on YouTube of me playing it...I'll post it below. Thanks Herb, for making the world a better place, and much more fun, joyous, and musical.