Covenant Pastor Named Naval Chaplain of the Year

Post a Comment » Written on May 28th, 2007     
Filed under: News
WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 28, 2007) – U.S. Navy Chaplain Lt. John Anderson has been chosen for the military branch’s Distinguished Chaplain Award—the equivalent of chaplain of the year.

Anderson is an ordained Evangelical Covenant Church minister who formerly served as associate pastor at Redeemer Covenant Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The Military Chaplains Association chose Anderson based on a nomination by the Navy’s Chief of Chaplains. A chaplain in each branch of the service is honored annually.

Awards were presented during a special service May 17 in San Antonio, Texas, but Anderson was unable to attend because he recently was transferred to the Naval Station in Rota, Spain. The station, which the Navy calls the “Gateway to the Mediterranean” is located near the Strait of Gibraltar and services the U.S. Sixth fleet.

Anderson has been a Navy chaplain only since 2002, but his creative service in Iraq attracted international attention. Media outlets featured stories on him leading worship in the “Soul Train,” an old railroad car he converted into a chapel, and his “He-Brews” coffee shop.

He served free coffee to thousands of Marines in the hotly contested war zone of Al Anbar Province. Covenant churches helped supply him the coffee.

He did far more than serve “a cup of Joe,” however, having accompanied soldiers during four combat operations. The nominating letter submitted by his supervisory chaplain stated, “His presence during an attack on an assault amphibious vehicle during Operation Matador proved to be invaluable as he assisted corpsmen in getting water and burn gel to burn victims, helped coordinate getting men to the evacuation site, and provided spiritual comfort and care to wounded and dying men.”

The nominating documents also note his writings that have been used by the Navy for suicide prevention and focusing on maintaining morality in a combat zone. He co-produced an addendum to the Navy Suicide Prevention Training program and “used this new approach to train small-unit leaders in the battalion, resulting in 0 suicide incidents with only 1 individual needing command-level intervention.”

Additionally, the documents state, “He single-handedly developed a ‘Moral Compass’ pocket card that his Commanding Officer requires all his marines and sailors to review (as they prepare for their tour of combat duty).

He was the sole chaplain for 1,100 people in the 3D Battalion 2D Marines. “How many churches would have only one pastor for 1,100 people?” asks Covenant minister James Erickson, a rear admiral with the U.S. Public Health Service.

The Marine battalion with which Anderson served during his first deployment in Iraq appreciated his ministry so much that they made the unusual request he be re-assigned to them during his second tour.

In response to the request, Anderson said at the time, “I know that they appreciate the spiritual care that I provide them and, having known me for this long, the men trust me and are very comfortable approaching me. They also know that I love them, love being their chaplain, and would do anything to provide care for them. But they also know that I’m not going to get them in a circle and sing Kumbaya or hold hands and hum Feelings.  Basically, it’s spiritual care on testosterone!”

Anderson still maintains close ties with the congregation he formerly served. Steve Larson, pastor of Redeemer Covenant, says, “This congregation is just endeared to him.”

During a recent visit, Anderson presented the church with the American flag that flew over the command center to which he was deployed in Iraq. The flag currently is displayed in the church’s central hallway and later will be moved to the prayer room.

Anderson’s wife, Pamela, and daughter, Tiffany, have moved to Spain with him.

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