“Persevere because the Lord is there.”
Charlie Duke was born in Charlotte, NC in 1935. Led by a desire to serve his country, Duke attended the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Following graduation, he was commissioned into the U.S. Air Force, and thus began a life-long love of flying. Over the years as a fighter pilot, test pilot, and then encouraged by his commandant Chuck Yeager to become an Apollo astronaut, this love of adventure grew to the pinnacle of achievement when on April 20, 1972, he, along with John Young, landed on the surface of the moon. Their stay on the moon was a record-setting seventy-one hours and fourteen minutes. During Apollo’s three-day return from the moon, Duke experienced a space walk with the third crewmember, Ken Mattingly.
Q. What experiences put you on your spiritual path?
A. First, was the obvious change I saw in my wife, Dotty, when she came to the Lord in October 1975. I watched her change from sadness to joy. Over the next two and a half years, she became the most loving wife even though I hadn’t changed. That was very significant. Second, I had grown up in church and had always known about Jesus but it wasn’t a personal relationship. It was more of a Sunday relationship based on head knowledge. Yes, Jesus is Lord but he is out there somewhere and I am basically in charge of my life. That changed in April 1978 after a weekend Bible study. There, I came to the realization that Jesus is either the Son of God or he is a liar. After studying the scriptures from Genesis to Revelation, it was obvious to me that Jesus is the Savior. I was sitting in my automobile and said, “Lord, I give you my life.” Then, a peace came over me and I knew it was real. Jesus had come from my head to my heart. After that, I had an insatiable desire to read the Bible and grow in the Lord. It’s been going for thirty years now.
Q. What changes are you noticing about your life?
A. Scripture says, “Don’t exasperate your children (Ephesians 6:4, Colossians 3:21).” As a father, there were times I expected too much from them—especially when they were very young. It’s hard to get a five-year-old to respond to military discipline and I was that kind of dad because I was trained in the armed forces. I had a critical spirit toward them and was speaking words of criticism. Then, I started reading Proverbs and James about the power of the tongue. (James 3:8-3:11, Proverbs 15:4, 18:21) I learned that words have power. God spoke the world into existence. So, my words can speak life or death to my children. Words of death are curses such as “You are stupid son. You will never learn.”
As husbands, fathers, and heads of the household our words have great power. The Lord showed me this and I repented and asked my boys for forgiveness. Then, I began speaking blessings into their lives while still disciplining in the way that the Lord instructs. Our relationships began to heal. Now, the boys are grown and we have nine wonderful grandchildren. We don’t always see eye-to-eye on every subject but we enjoy our family reunions and spend a lot of time together. It’s a terrific relationship and I am trying to be a good godly example to my sons and grandchildren. To sum up, watch the power of the tongue and be careful what you speak.
For the rest of the interview, please check out the book, Seek The Lover Within: Lessons from 50 Spiritual Leaders.