By Sean Garbelman
MURRELLS INLET—“It’s good to be back,” Charles Duke said to the excited crowd at Belin Memorial United Methodist Church gathered to hear his testimonial July 29.
This Charles Duke is NASA astronaut and retired Brigadier General Charles Duke, a member of the original “Houston” mission control for the Apollo 11 moon landing, Lunar Module Pilot of Apollo 16 and the tenth, and youngest, person to walk on the moon.
Duke, a South Carolina native, started his story from the beginning.
“Growing up in Lancaster it wasn’t my thought that I would walk on the moon one day. Go out in the backyard and say ‘Momma, one day I’m going to walk on the moon’? I’d have ended up in the psychiatric hospital back when I was a kid. Wasn’t any space program!”
Duke said he wanted to serve his country, respecting the legacy of his heroes—WWII veterans—and being motivated by the early successes of the space race. He speaks to an audience peppered with scout uniforms because, in addition to all of his other accomplishments, he is also an Eagle Scout.
“Neil [Armstrong] was also an Eagle Scout. We had quite a few Eagle Scouts. Boys, you never know where it’s going to take you.”
In his testimony before the church, Duke described events one rarely hears firsthand, like seeing Earth from a shuttle window.
“It was the most beautiful, breathtaking sight I had every seen. This jewel of Earth. The white of the snow and the clouds. The brown of the land. The crystal blue of the ocean just hung there in the blackness of space.”
Duke’s memories of leaving Earth now go hand-in-hand with his, and wife Dotty’s, transformation after accepting Jesus into their life. “And in the Book of Job,” Duke said, “when God made the Earth he suspended it upon nothing. That’s exactly what it looks like.”
His Duke Ministry for Christ currently travels the world sharing their story of God’s amazing grace. “When I was going to the moon, I didn’t have a spiritual experience. I didn’t think I needed God. But I was wrong. We all need God.”
Those in attendance heard Duke narrate a 12-minute video of his Apollo 16 mission. The footage even captures some of Duke’s missteps, many of which were life-threatening. However, even through trials and tribulations unknown to the greater population, Duke remained an optimist.
“It was exciting being there. We never lost our excitement; we never lost our enthusiasm for being on the moon. We didn’t want to come back [to Earth].”
Duke’s testimony then transitions from his dream-like experiences in space to the realities of life that we all face on Earth. Duke retired from NASA four years after walking on the moon and his marriage began to struggle. His wife, Dotty, accepted Jesus Christ as her savior in 1976, and this was a watershed moment for Charlie.
“My wife went to our bedroom and closed the door and prayed, ‘God, if you’re real, I give you my life. If you’re not real, I want to die.’ And Jesus is real; he heard her cry. And he came into her life. And in the next two months I watched her change from sadness to joy.”
This began Duke’s journey of discovering the love of God and, in a few short years, Duke Ministry for Christ was formed. Charlie and Dotty now travel the world sharing their story of God’s amazing grace.
“As I became obedient to Him, things began to change,” Duke said. “Walking on the moon was great, but it was only three days. Walking with Jesus is forever. So that’s the best walk.”
By Sean Garbelman