On My Desk
The Testimony of John Duckhorn
On my desk is a picture of a family. The husband is dressed in a military uniform, a good-looking man, proud and smiling. But he was an alcoholic. The woman next to him is sad and unhappy. The children, a girl of seven is smiling because she hasn’t seen her dad in a long while. The boy about four years old looks bewildered. He has never seen his father. This is the only photo I have of the four of us together. World War II was on, and many families were separated. The family in the photo was separated by war and a three-year old divorce. Mom worked making airplane parts. After the war, when the men came home, women were let go. She took other jobs. Soon she married a recently divorced soldier. The man in the photo, my father, remarried, but wanted to be a part of the lives of his children. My mother objected and so the battle began for the children’s affections. It would be a battle that eventually led me to the Savior.
For some reason I was the designated church goer in our family. As a seven-year old boy I was sent off to the local Catholic Church on Sundays. Both sides of my family were staunch Roman Catholics and they were pleased that “Jack” went to church. We moved around Wisconsin a lot and the first move was to the country where I made my first confession and first communion. We lived for seven years in a veterans housing project in Milwaukee where I made lifelong friends, and years later, was able to lead one of them to Jesus Christ. At one point, I attended a one room schoolhouse with only eleven students while the next two schools were parochial.
I continued my religious activities during public high school. Confession and communion were weekly habits. The frequency of practicing the “ordinances” made me wonder about their effect on my life. Two things started to bother me and prepared me for the events of the next few years. My friends and I began to make fun of confession by timing the length of each other’s confession. If one of us was too long, we would tease him about the length of his penance. The second matter was the devotion that both sides of the family showed to the Church, along with strong insistence that it was the only true way of salvation. Both families were rife with divorce and drinking. By this time my father was kicked out of his second marriage, lost his job, and was a hopeless alcoholic. Questions started to bother me. Was religion not to be life-changing? What good was it if I stubbornly held on to something that did little for me?
I developed good communication skills in high school and was encouraged by my teachers to pursue radio announcing. I even did standup comedy routines during the band breaks at our school dances. So, I set my future hopes on being a disc-jockey and was accepted at a communications school in Minneapolis. The summer before my senior year, God began to track me down. Two classmates went to a Bible camp that summer and one of them, a girl, came back and told me I needed to be saved, to be “born again.” The other one a boy, had often previously told off color jokes with me, but now when I began to tell him one, he cut me off, saying that he was “born again.” I was upset and confused. This was the beginning of the Lord working to convict me and I struggled with this during my senior year. I tried hard to understand the Roman Catholic Church with many significant things happening that year where I saw God’s patience in dealing with me.
I graduated in 1959 and took a job to save money for broadcasting school. I thought I was now free from having to listen to the “Holy Rollers,” but I was mistaken. I met the youth worker at the Evangelical Free Church where both the campers attended. He had heard of me and tried to get me to attend their youth meetings. I went to a couple but was more of a wise guy than a good listener.
That summer my father came back to Milwaukee. He wanted me to join him, to find work, and live with him in California. He was working small jobs and living with old drinking buddies from Milwaukee. I took a leave of absence from my job to go with him but had little desire to be around him for very long. I went to California, not to get a job, but to get away from the stress of life in Milwaukee. While travelling to California on Route 66, on the first night there was a Bible on the table in the motel opened at John 3, which had the only verses I knew. I was curious and actually thought of taking it with me, but how could God forgive someone for stealing a Bible? At the next motel on the second night I was shocked to see a Gideons Bible opened to Psalm 23. Although I wanted a Bible, this one said it was not to be taken from the room. We finished our trip at the end of Route 66, and we then headed north to Oakland.
We spent a day walking around a famous mission in Santa Barbara. I wanted to find literature that would answer all my questions, but I found nothing in the free literature rack. In Oakland, the Lord continued to hound me. My dad’s friends were all drunks, womanizers, and lost money betting on the horses. I was not interested in being with them. One night we were in the bar below their apartment and two young women came in and talked to my dad. He came over to me and said, “It’s time to try some new things kid, and grow up.” He went upstairs with one of the girls, but I grabbed the car keys off the bar and took a drive. I saw a flashing sign on a church that said: “Jesus Saves.” I exploded in a rage of anger, pulled the car over, and began to swear at God. It was a horrible outburst of profanity, and then I suddenly stopped. I decided to take the train home the next day and find the youth worker and get his help to receive the Lord as my Savior, to be sure I did it right.
The next morning, I left California and thought about everything that had happened over the last few years of my life. I had slept little, smoked too many cigarettes and ate only a couple of meals per day. Once home, I was able to contact the youth worker, and on October 7, 1959, I came to know the Lord as my Savior.
I soon decided to go to a Bible school to catch up for lost years. Although I was hoping to wait a year and first go to the school of broadcasting, I never got there. After the year of Bible study, I wanted my life to be used as the Lord willed. The Lord pursued me, in His grace followed me, and tenderly received me into His eternal kingdom.