ATLANTA, Texas—War was indescribable, he said. No carefully penned, heartstring tugging or gut-wrenching sentence could begin to convey the realities of war.
Yet war could not begin to describe the raucous turmoil that brought Joe Anderson to his knees in a Fort Hood barracks.
“I had run as long as I could,” Anderson said. “I hadn’t slept in three nights before that. When I finally gave in I slept like a baby.”
After ignoring God for years, the power and persistence of his Creator finally overtook Anderson, leading him to surrender his life to the ministry from his bunk on the military base.
“I just gave into the Lord,” Anderson said. “‘Whatever you want me to do, I’m willing to do,’ I told him.”
That was 1965.
Anderson enlisted in the Navy at 17 to serve in World War II after trying earlier to get in. Several years later he re-enlisted, this time in the Army, and went on to retire, but not before serving in combat once more—during the early Vietnam War.
After he returned home from Vietnam in the mid-1960s, Anderson began working nights to provide for his wife and children while he attended East Texas Baptist College (now East Texas Baptist University) in Marshall. The rigorous schedule battered his health, though, and God graciously called Anderson to serve as a pastor after three years at the school.
Anderson went on to pastor five churches, and it was during this phase of life that Anderson said he felt the blessing of living in the Lord’s will.
“The Lord just blessed our willingness,” Anderson said. “I loved every bit of it. I just try to do what the Lord wants me to do and he does the rest. When I was pastoring, I tried to be a pastor for the whole community, not just my church.”
After he retired from the pastorate, Anderson became a regular among supply preachers, filling pulpits and continuing in his service to the Lord. His work was far from winding down, though. He organized a group of retirees to travel the country building and restoring churches.
“We had a travel trailer and we were like gypsies,” Anderson said. “The churches would give us places to park our RVs and we would start from the ground up. We would give them three weeks of free labor. During that time we either built or assisted over 100 churches throughout the U.S.”
Often the churches would ask Anderson and his crew to stay for two or three days after the building projects were completed to have impromptu revival services.
Now, at 85 years old and several months beyond hip surgery, Anderson said he is ready for what the Lord has for him next.
“Right now I’ve been asking the Lord to lead me to a church to start pastoring again,” Anderson said.
Anderson’s pastor at First Baptist Church of Queen City, Mike Lovely, said when he has visited Anderson in the hospital in the past, the man is always ready to get right back to work—the Lord’s work.
“He will say, ‘As soon as I get on my feet I’ll be preaching.’ In fact, I think if they called him to preach today, he would,” Lovely said.
Lovely said the veteran-turned-preacher is “tough as a boot. He’s a pillar in our church without a doubt.”
Anderson, who has three grown children, remarried after his wife Bobbie died from breast cancer. He met Jackie, his second wife, in church and said she has been a blessing from the Lord.
“I’ll tell you, you can’t out-do the Lord,” Anderson said.
Outrunning him, Anderson said, is out of the question too. After trying to elude the Lord for years and finally losing that battle at Fort Hood, Anderson he would offer to anyone this advice: “If [you] feel like the Lord is telling you to do it, do it,” Anderson said. “You can’t run from God. He’ll get you and he will put you where he wants you.”