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Marine finds vision, purpose in Yuma

By Lance Cpl. Dustin M. Rawls | | May 29, 2003

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You can often see an "old Corps" Marine taking a young Marine under his wing and mentoring him. They pass on traditions of the Marine Corps, good morals and core values with hopes that the young Marine will reach his potential as a great leader of Marines. If the young Marine chooses to, he can devote his time to using and displaying all that he learns from his mentor, but it can be difficult.

One Marine on station accepts the challenge of following closely in his mentor's steps, but it's a different type of mentorship  it's discipleship.

Corporal Luke R. Abplanalp, ordnance guard, provost marshal's office, received orders to Yuma last year not knowing what was in store for him there, but then he found Pastor Brian Goheen, assistant pastor, Generations Church, and ex-Marine.

"I came here in May 2002, and I was a little angry," said Abplanalp. "Then, I got to thinking   'I know God's got something out here for me.'"

It didn't take long after arriving on station for Abplanalp to find what it was God had for him here. When he found it, it was maybe a little more than he had bargained for.

"The night I got here I dropped my sea bag off in my room and my roommate said, 'Hey, you want to go to church on Saturday?'" explained Abplanalp. "That Saturday when I went to church. I met Brian for the first time,  and I had never seen a church like that or a pastor like that  it was awesome!"

He had found what he needed in Yuma, but hadn't decided to commit fully to it right away. It took a little time for everything to sink in.

"After a month or so, something clicked in my head," said Abplanalp. "I went to Brian and told him, 'I want to do this for real.'"

Goheen accepted Abplanalp with open arms and joy, but the days ahead were not the easiest and were filled with life-changing experiences.

"He really challenged my thinking and my actions. The things I was doing at that time were not the best things to be doing," explained Abplanalp.

As Abplanalp learned from Goheen, he developed not only spiritually, but as a Marine also.

"Being involved with the church and learning from Brian has helped me become a much better (non-commissioned officer). There are many great leadership principles and techniques taught at Generations," said Abplanalp.

In addition to his duties as a Marine, Abplanalp accepts a lot of responsibility with the church.

"I play guitar and sing with the worship team at the church. We practice Wednesday nights and lead worship Saturday nights and Sunday mornings," said Abplanalp.

He added, "I'm also going to be an intern this year, which involves serving the church by getting things ready for services and pretty much being available to help out at the church whenever they need it."

Learning to preach, teach and study the bible is also a big part of serving as an intern, said Abplanalp.

Generations is a "cell" church, which calls for cell leaders. Abplanalp has recently accomplished the task of opening his own cell.

"I have my own cell that I teach at the barracks, and I'm in a cell where I go to learn from Brian," said Abplanalp. "Having a cell is like bringing church home. We no longer are just going to church on Sunday mornings and then forgetting everybody we met and everything we learned the next day."

According to Abplanalp, a lot of people get "weirded out" when they hear the word, "cell," but they are, more often than not, making a snap judgement without experiencing what a cell actually is.

"Pretty much it's a bunch of guys hanging out, eating some food and learning about Jesus," explained Abplanalp.

While, of course, wanting to uphold all standards as a Marine, Abplanalp also has another focus in mind that goes hand-in-hand with  always looking out for the Marine to your right and left.

Abplanalp explained, "the Bible says the greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself and as Jesus loves you. I just want to see Marines loving Jesus and loving one another. That's all I'm about."`

Living the life of a devout Christian can be difficult at times, but just like in the Marine Corps, if there are good NCOs and staff NCOs looking after junior Marines everything can always move forward. For Abplanalp, his staff NCOs lead him as a Marine and Pastor Goheen leads him as a man loving God.

"He's a more mature Christian, he's a pastor and he's teaching me how to live my life by the Bible," said Abplanalp. "He's pointing these things out to me and leading me along."

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