by Paul Duff, guest writer
‘What made you become a Christian, Paul?’ I asked. Paul had been a follower of Christ for most of his life. There had to be a reason for him to remain as true to Jesus as he had.
Paul’s story is amazing, interesting and moving, so much so that others want to find what he has and change their lives as well.
‘I have an older brother,’ Paul begins his story. ‘When I was seven years old, he was invited to a birthday party. I had to tag along, I was the kid in the corner. The teenagers, just to have a bit of fun got out the Ouija board. My life was impacted by that ‘bit of fun’ over the next few years with a lot of demonic activity. I became aware of a spirit world, it seemed a black world – evil – because of that night. I recognized this spirit world but thought it all bad, hateful.
I was now ten years old and already a broken personality. My family life was highly dysfunctional. My parents told me there was no such thing as love. I grew into an angry, swearing, hateful person who steal his grandmother’s socks. Nobody wanted to know me.
The incident was normal for a year five boy. It was the era when teachers wrote notes up on the board and students had to copy them into their books. It was called learning, it was also boring so I began drawing cartoons in the back of my book. The boy sitting next to me stopped writing up the notes and watched me draw. It was a big risk for him if we were caught. Before long half the class was watching me.
The teacher, Mr Nancarrow, turned around and saw half the class watching me.
‘Paul, bring that to me,’ he said.
I took it to him, showed him the cartoon.
‘Where are the notes?’
‘I didn’t do them, they were too boring.’
‘Paul, you know what is going to happen?’
Remember this is 1968 and caning is still practised.
‘Yes. You’re going to send me to the office and I’m going to get the cane. You’re going to send a note home to Mum.’
‘No. I’ve tried that so many times and it hasn’t worked. No! I’m going to do something different.’
‘O-K. ‘I wondered what that ‘different’ was going to be and felt very wary. Mr. Nancarrow had my full attention now.
‘What we are going to do, Paul, is you are going to go back to your desk and write up the notes and whatever time is left over I will give you a stick of chalk and you can show the class how you draw cartoons.’
I raced back to my desk and scribbled down the worst written notes in the world. The boy next to me said,
‘What are you doing?’
‘Be quiet, I’m busy,’ I said.
I hurried back to Mr Nancarrow with the notes and five minutes to spare. He couldn’t read them but he kept his word.
‘Books down, Paul is going to show us how he draws cartoons.’ He passed me a stick of chalk.
I then ran the first of many thousands of workshops in the Banksia Park Primary School.
‘Paul,’ the Lord said, ‘anyone who knows you has no hope for you. But I have a hope for you, I have a plan for you, I have a future. If you come with me, I will stay with you and it will involve a lot of cartooning. Today, you’ve learnt the power of Grace, you didn’t deserve it over the justice you did deserve. Paul, I’m all about grace not about what you deserve, but what I want to give you.’ This was the first time God spoke to me.
Of course, I ignored God for eight or nine years until after a failed suicide attempt.
I was outside of the Piccadilly Theatre, North Adelaide, on a bus. At eighteen years of age I had reached rock-bottom and there was nowhere to go except to God.
‘Lord, I can’t do this anymore. My life is dark with all sorts of horrible things which started when I was seven. I can’t do this anymore, I can’t even kill myself. I don’t know what to do.’
‘Paul,’ the Lord was quick to reply, ‘I’m here for you. Just remember, I never left you, you left me. If we do this, I don’t do trial runs. It’s all or nothing from today. Let’s do this.’
‘You can have it all,’ I said. ‘I am nothing, I have nothing to give. You can have all of that’.
Even though for many years of my life, I’d caught that bus and as corny as it sounds, for the first time that day I noticed the trees were green, the birds were singing and the sky was blue. I was eighteen years old but had never noticed the colours before. I had no idea what had happened to me. I’d had to teaching, or training, no Bible before.
Not knowing what had happened to me I went back to do the same old things with the same people in the same old places. There was a difference though, I didn’t fit in. I felt like a turnip in a fruit salad. It just wasn’t the same anymore. My life changed instantly. All the demonic activity just fled and the darkness immediately lifted. I had been born again on that bus and the year was 1976. God had come into my life and changed me completely. I was freaked out. Just prior to the experience on the bus, I had been investigating with my drawing all kinds of dark, unusual areas. God removed all that from me.
The Lord spoke again, ‘Paul, I don’t want you to do anymore drawing until I say so. When you draw again you will do it for me.’
Eighteen month later, when I was praying, God spoke,
‘Paul I want to start drawing for me.’
‘OK,’ I said, ‘what will that look like?’
Next day I received a phone call from a guy, ‘Paul, I hear you can draw. I’m designing a gospel tract to be used in Estonia. I need such and such a design on the cover Could you do that for me?’
It’s now fifty years later and God has been true to his word. I haven’t always been true to his word but he has been true, faithful and loyal.
I’ve drawn an unusual number of cartoons in that time just as he said I would.