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Perham's Pastor Anderson ships out to Iraq as Marine Chaplain

With a wife, five kids, and a newly formed church to pastor--and a recent call to serve our country in Iraq for a year-- it appears that timing is not on Rev. Paul Anderson's side.

Yet, despite the difficulties and heartache of leaving both family and flock behind, Anderson is determined to look at his deployment with an upward focus. "The timing is not perfect, but I believe in God's timing," he says of the situation.

Ever since the church's inception over two years ago, Anderson has served as pastor of New Creation Lutheran Church in Perham. The congregation is currently embarking on a building project to construct their own facility in town, making for an especially critical time for the church.

Although he readily admits to some anxiety about leaving during this time of transition, Anderson adds, "I believe that God has a call for me and a reason to go. I believe my church and family will come through this even stronger."

Anderson is scheduled to leave Minnesota on September 1, to start training in North Carolina. He will then go on to California for a few weeks, before being sent to Iraq on September 22.

In Iraq, Anderson will be serving with the 1st Marines as a RCT-1 Deputy Chaplain. He will not be engaged in active combat, but rather working with the Marines to provide them support and guidance.

The unit Anderson will be going to Iraq with is not his normal unit. There are 663 people in the Marine Wing Support Squadron unit he will be serving with, and half of the unit has already been deployed. Anderson is actually a chaplain with the Navy, which supplies the staff core for the Marines.

From what Anderson understands, he will be primarily working on base, traveling out on occasion. Although the majority of his time will be spent ministering to the Marines, he will also play a role in helping the surrounding communities in Iraq to rebuild.

"The Marines get tagged as fighting machines--trained to kill," Anderson says of the group he will be working with, "but also I hope they're trained to stay alive."

In order to best meet some of the complex needs of those who are involved in the military, Anderson says he will rely heavily on his experience as a pastor. With over 15 years of serving in a chaplain capacity, Anderson also sees his military experience as benefitting him in his role in the church.

"I feel that my military experience has helped my parish experience, and vice versa," says Anderson. He explained how responsibilities such as leading worship, counseling individuals, and learning to be an effective listener have helped to make him a better chaplain. Anderson also credits the Hospice training that he went through.

Locally, Anderson serves as pastor at New Creation, and previously as the pastor of Calvary Lutheran Church, both in Perham. He has also been involved in the Becker County chaplain program, and has experience working in the metro area as a police chaplain.

On the home front, Anderson and his wife Kimberly are currently in the process of adopting a 10-year-old girl from Nicaragua. She will be the sixth child in the family, joining the rest of the Anderson crew--whose ages range from 1 to 13.

Reflecting on both his family and congregation, Anderson hopes to be back home to Perham in less than a year. "My orders are for 365 days or less," he says, adding how those orders can be extended for up to 24 months total. Yet, Anderson says it's highly likely that he will be able to return home to his family, community, and congregation in a year or less.