Fun Facts About Paul Anderson
Paul Anderson is the general manager of the Shrine of Christ’s Passion in St. John, Indiana.
Favorite Bible verse:
“The Lord is my shepherd. I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside quiet waters. He refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. Your rod and staff, they comfort me.”
Hometown: Hammond, Indiana
Favorite Destination: Anderson’s favorite place at the Shrine of Christ’s Passion is the Garden of Gethsemane. He finds it a peaceful place where he can reflect about how Jesus’ path to the cross first started.
Hobbies: Golf, grandkids and traveling
When Paul Anderson first began contemplating a career change, he hardly expected to switch from owning a car rental agency to managing an internationally known religious site. But after a conversation with his friends Frank and Shirley Schilling, his path became clear.
The couple wanted to create a free, nondenominational religious site that would walk people through the story of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Before construction even began, Anderson signed up as general manager of the Shrine of Christ’s Passion in St. John, Indiana.
“My wife and I were ready for a change in our lives,” said Anderson. “When they asked me to manage the site, it seemed like something we would like to do. We had lived in St. John for many years, then had moved 30 minutes away. Once this opportunity came up, we sold our house and moved back. The rest is history.”
Despite moving from one industry to another, Anderson knew his experience owning the car rental agency gave him the tools he needed for the job.
“My business background is why Frank chose me,” said Anderson. “I run it as a business, but a totally different business because it is dealing with so many people’s lives instead of cars. It is still a business and has to be run like a business.”
Anderson worked with the Schilling couple to organize the massive project, which took about six years to plan and construct. Anderson helped shape the flat piece of farmland into an area resembling the Holy Land.
“They brought in clay and boulders to make it look as close to the Holy Land as they could,” said Anderson. “We couldn’t use the same plants, but we chose grasses and trees that looked similar to ones in the Holy Land.”
After items for the on-site gift shop were purchased in July 2007, the site opened in December. Groups can now walk a half-mile path to see bronze sculptures depicting 18 scenes from the Passion of Jesus. The first scene is the Garden of Gethsemane, and the last depicts the empty tomb. Each scene has audio narration telling the story of Jesus’ journey to Mount Calgary with a meditation at the end to encourage reflection on what happened 2,000 years ago.
“Frank and Shirley Schilling are the ones that founded this,” said Anderson. “It was their dream to do it. They’ve been very blessed in their lives and wanted to give back. They get nothing from this except for seeing thousands of people come here and enjoy what’s been created.”
The gift shop supports the site and has become its own destination. Anderson has overseen five expansions to accommodate the 17,000 religious items for sale, ranging in price from under $1 to $4,000. The gift shop sells spiritual gifts, such as religious statues, jewelry and artwork.
“Our dream was to be a worldwide destination,” said Anderson. “When we opened the store in 2007, we wanted to get the bugs worked out. The path wasn’t opened yet. One day, a bus pulled into the parking lot. A lady introduced herself and her group.”
The woman asked if her group could see the shrine even though Anderson explained the path wasn’t open yet. Anderson agreed to show the group the statues that were already in place. He then watched as people from the Philippines, Japan, Italy, Mexico and all over the world walked out of the bus.
“The first bus that ever pulled in fulfilled our dream of welcoming people from all over the world,” said Anderson. “It’s been a wild ride ever since.”
People from 40 different countries and every U.S. state have now visited. Last year, the site welcomed over 150,000 people. The shrine has since been expanded to include a sculpture of Moses on Mount Sinai holding the 10 Commandments.
“It’s so great to be involved in something that touches people’s lives,” said Anderson. “People tell me it is even more peaceful than the Holy Land because we are away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It is a very spiritual experience.”
Schedule enough time at each destination to be sure that you can leisurely digest all that a destination has to offer. For instance, whenever we promote the Shrine to groups, we recommend that they spend at least three and a half to four hours at our location.