CBF chaplain serves Marines at legendary Parris Island
By Carla Wynn Davis

Published February 5, 2008

ATLANTA (ABP) -- When Marines return from Iraq -- their faith often shaken by what they have seen there -- they need someone to listen, to understand and to help.

That’s where Arthur Wiggins comes in.

“We're helping [a particular Marine] cope with why his life was spared while his buddy's life was taken,” said Wiggins, a Navy chaplain supported by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. “It's a profound question.”

It’s also a common question for Wiggins, stationed at the famous Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, S.C. He ministers to thousands of military recruits and the base's permanent staff, including many who have served in Iraq.

Wiggins became a Navy chaplain in 2004. After serving nearly two years in Cuba, he transferred to Parris Island in 2006. He will transfer again later this month -- this time to the USS George Bush in Norfolk, Va.

During the week, Wiggins teaches classes on core values, moral courage and ethics. He counsels both recruits and Marines, whether they're having difficulty with training or dealing with non-work issues.

While no two days on the base are the same for Wiggins, his message to recruits remains consistent: “If you know God, grow in God.” He leads Sunday chapel services, which many recruits attend. The message is anything but relaxed for a group of recruits who may soon deploy to Iraq.

“I, like many Christian ministers, preach a message of life and abundant life,” he said. “We don't forget that message, but the truth of the matter is, not everyone who goes over [to Iraq] will return. We do our best to spiritually prepare them for stresses of combat.”

Wiggins' message is more than a call to know Christ. It's a call for Marines to be spiritual leaders, knowing there won't always be chaplains around during a crisis on the battlefield. It's a call to take faith seriously by growing spiritually, he said.

Marines often seek Wiggins’ advice when making the difficult decision of whether someone is fit to continue on active duty.

“We assess whether recruits can handle being a Marine, and whether Marines can handle continued service,” he said. “We are dealing with people’s lives -- impressionable young men and women. And so while we are always concerned about the individual, we must base our recommendations on what is best for the Corps.”

Chaplaincy is a second career for Wiggins, who began his military service as a Marine Corps judge advocate general.

“I got to the point where going to court was drudgery,” he said. “I wanted to do the Lord’s work, and at church is where I found my joy.”