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The vital role of the military chaplain

Lieutenant Commander Paul A. Anderson, a Navy Chaplain and pastor from Perham's New Creation Lutheran Church, blesses Marines at an outpost in Iraq during a communion service over Thanksgiving weekend. Anderson left for Iraq in September, and expects to return by August 2009.

Lieutenant Commander Paul A. Anderson is currently serving with the 1st Marines Wing Support Squadron unit on the Ramadi base in Iraq.

Rev. Anderson has served as pastor of New Creation Lutheran Church in Perham, since its inception in 2006. Anderson left for Iraq in September. In January, he will move to the Al Asad base. He plans to be home on leave for two weeks in February, and hopes to be home for good by August 2009.

Paul has been a Navy Reserve chaplain serving Marine units for over 15 years. He was commissioned June 13, 1993, is on a 20-year military commitment; this is his first deployment. Paul's chaplain experience includes extensive military chaplain training, working with the Becker County chaplain program, and working in the Twin Cities metro area as a police chaplain.

He feels that this experience and his pastoral responsibilities, such as leading worship, evangelism and counseling, along with his Hospice training, help him minister to the Marines in Iraq.

As a chaplain, Paul is responsible for leadership, morale and evangelism among the young Marines. On the base, there is only one chapel, so each denomination takes a turn at holding worship services on Sundays. Paul finds that there is an incredible opportunity for evangelism, since the attendance at the services by all faiths combined represents only 2 percent of the Marines on the base. He wishes that the numbers were higher, but realizes that his job is to plant the seeds - God will take care of the harvest.

Hopefully now at Christmas time, attendance will increase as young soldiers miss their families and being home for the holidays. Paul and five other chaplains from several denominations will conduct numerous Christmas candlelight services on the base and various outposts in Iraq this holiday season.

The young Marines, 80 percent of whom are ages 18-25, are a needy group. Much of Paul's counseling involves marital issues, but he has had the opportunity to bring at least three young men to the Lord. One young Marine had been in a fight, and spent three hours talking with Paul. The Marine was not a Christian - he had heard about living a Christian lifestyle, but never experienced it. After talking with Paul, the Marine came back later that day, invited himself to dinner with Paul and talked some more. He followed Paul like a little lost puppy and eventually said he would like to live this Christian life. . . what should he do? Paul said it was a powerful experience to pray with the young Marine and see him transformed.

Pastor Paul's wife Kimberly is busy keeping the "boat afloat" at home with their five children and her own career as an auctioneer.

"We are trying to stay focused on the positives," she said. "This is temporary; it is not cancer or death, we are not the first military family to be alone at Christmas, and I know that Paul is doing very good ministry in Iraq! God called him there at this time for a reason and through the power of the Holy Spirit, he captures the hearts of young Marines and relates well to them! Paul is down to earth, spiritually driven and super grounded scripturally, as a chaplain and as a husband and father. Paul is old enough at 44 to be most of the young Marine's dads, and through Christ, will provide them a pillar of strength in his leadership as a chaplain, especially now at Christmas time."

Anderson is originally from Ada, the son of Dr. Clayton and Lila Anderson, and is a 1987 graduate of Concordia College, Moorhead and Luther Seminary, St. Paul in 1991.