Wednesday, August 4, 2010
From the back of the bus to the front lines...Rev Lee Anderson has been there.
While many ministers serve in elaborate buildings built of marble, stained glass and oak pews, Andersons house of worship is built of cement block, bullet proof glass and stainless steel.
It is the Wayne County Jail in Wooster Ohio.
Growing up in the deep south in the 1950s, Anderson said he knows what its like to ride “in the back of the bus".
Lee said he “bumped up” his age when he enlisted in the army when he was 17. Immediately after basic training he was shipped to the front lines of the Korean war where he served as a machine gunner. “ I was good at what I did, on one particular night some of our guys were pinned down. I was called on to fire upon a particular area so our soldiers could get out. All of them made it. I was pround to be able to serve my country”.
While he was serving in Korea army officials discovered that Anderson had lied about his age at the time he enlisted. Given a choice of a honorable discharge or stating in the Army, Anderson said he chose to stay and fight.
“I had made friends with my fellow soldiers, there were no race issues we were all equal. I could not stand the thought of leaving my buddies behind.”
Think about it. This man had a ticket out of the war zone but made a choice to stay.
Anderson shared another memorable Army story.
After returning to the USA he found himself at what is now called Fort Chaffie, in Arkansas. He and a bus load of service men stopped at a resturant for lunch. Anderson stated that the group entered the establishment but were not served. Eventually the commanding officer approached the owner who stated he would not serve the group due to a black man (Anderson) being with them.
The solution to feeding the troops was for Anderson to go into the back door of the restaurant and be served in the kitchen while the rest of the troops ate in the public dining area.
After serving in the Army, Anderson moved to Chicago with his brother. His plan was to enter the “mortuary business” and he did so for about 1 ½ years. Citing an occasion when one of his clients “sat up” during the embalming process, he quickly had second thoughts and left that profession.
Soon he found himself in the publishing business working for major publishing companies in both Chicago and Cleveland as a photographer and graphic artist.
Citing a passion to help people Anderson found himself in Canton Ohio as one of the founders of “operation positive” a program designed to help intercity youth learn valuable job skills.
“I started with nothing more than a chair and a telephone and soon found myself on a first name basis with some of the most powerful people in Canton. The program was extremely successful.”
Soon however politics began to take over and Anderson had enough and moved on.
Anderson credit’s a dead hog for allowing him to meet his wife Sharron. “I was working in a meet processing plant and a 200 pound hog fell on my leg, causing damage to my knee. This resulted in a trip to the hospital.
" I had been praying for a wife and while I was at the hospital I spotted the woman that I had prayed about. After six days of courtship we married. That was 40 years ago". Said Anderson
Anderson stated that he became a partime jail chaplain under Sheriff James Frost in 1976. And became fulltime after he retired from Smith dairy in 1999.
"This is my calling" Anderson said. “The men and women in this jail are at the lowest points of their lives. These people put themselves where they are. I see it as my job to help them find their way. We are all going to die but that is not the end. We must all make a decision on where we wish to spend eternity, I feel obligated to share what Jesus Christ did for us”.
Anderson said that over the years he has performed marriages for inmates, preached funerals for the families of prisoners, and has been by their sides as children are born.
He went on to say that he does his best to take Mondays and Fridays off, but is in the jail most of the week tending to his flock of over 100 inmates.
He is not paid for his services.
“This is a calling not a job” Anderson said.
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