I Kept On Seeking, and I Found It
—As told by William Roddis
He fought in Vietnam and took drugs to escape war’s horrors. An accident left him a quadriplegic, and he took more drugs to escape the trauma of life in a wheelchair. He inherited some money, and along with it got friends who were not real friends. He sought truth from philosophers and intellectuals and found only empty words. Only when he sought from the right source did he find what he was searching for.
THE structure of my life came unstuck when I was 14. My folks got divorced. What I’d taken for granted as being stable and normal was no longer stable and normal. I was shuttled back and forth between a father in Wisconsin and a mother in Arizona. By my late teens I no longer wanted to be involved in this ruptured family life. So in 1967 I joined the army.
I went to Vietnam, served on a helicopter combat assault team as a door gunner and then came back and worked on experimental aircraft for the army. My ambition was to be a bush pilot in Alaska. But these plans were blasted in a moment’s time. In 1969, during a weekend leave in Panama City, Florida, I ran down the beach, dived into the surf and hit a sandbar with my head. In that instant I became a quadriplegic. Eight months later I left the VA hospital in Long Beach, California, and took up my life in a wheelchair.
I got an apartment in Long Beach, fell in with some unsavory characters and ended up operating a shop with them on Sunset Boulevard. It’s what was called a head shop—psychedelic posters, hash pipes, dope-smoking paraphernalia, black lights and all the other crazy things that go along with the drug culture. To help me cope with life in a wheelchair, I got into drugs—marijuana, cocaine, hashish, mescaline and others. I had used drugs in Vietnam to escape the horrors. Now I used them to endure life in a wheelchair.
Along with my so-called friends, I got involved in circulating petitions to legalize marijuana, and we, along with others, actually did get the marijuana initiative on the ballot in California. We published an underground newspaper, The Long Beach Free Press.
Well, that’s the direction my life was taking in the early ’70’s. It was also during those years that three things started happening. One of them would completely change my life.
Number One: I inherited some three quarters of a million dollars. Along with it came many new friends, attracted by the money and the drugs I could buy. With other investors I got a restaurant and several wine stores. The businesses didn’t prosper and finally went under. As my bankroll dwindled so did my friends. I became skeptical, leery of forming close attachments. I withdrew into a shell, began reading Nietzsche and other philosophers, and started associating with some of the intellectuals at the University of California at Santa Barbara.
I was searching for truth. I didn’t know it then, but I was on my way to experiencing the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise: “Keep on asking, and it will be given you; keep on seeking, and you will find; keep on knocking, and it will be opened to you.”—Luke 11:9.
Number Two: I was beginning to realize that my drug use was ruining my body. Cocaine made me not want to eat. If I didn’t eat, I’d get thin and, in my condition, if I got thin, I’d get bedsores. I knew I had to quit the drugs—ah, yes, easier said than done!
Number Three: Jehovah’s Witnesses began to call. I was living in what is considered an exclusive neighborhood near Los Angeles, the Palos Verdes Estates. A law said that nobody was to solicit in our fine community. So when Jehovah’s Witnesses called, I called the police.
“They have a constitutional right to preach from door to door,” I was told. “In fact, they won the right in the Supreme Court of the United States.”
I was impressed. I started taking their Watchtower and Awake! magazines. Then one of the men didn’t just leave the magazines with me—he started a discussion. Well, I could handle this! He was a janitor, he was black, and I had recently read a book on Bible prophecy. So I knew plenty! More than enough to cope with this man!
Well, as it turned out, I didn’t know enough. He supported everything he said from the Bible, and I always had deep respect for the Bible. But now what this man showed me from God’s Word turned a light on in my head! The discussions led to a study in the book The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life.
“We can talk, but I’m not about to become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses,” I warned him at the outset. He didn’t seem disturbed. He had heard that before.
The first three chapters didn’t interest me. The fourth one, “Why We Grow Old and Die,” did. But it was the next chapter, “Where Are the Dead,” that grabbed me. Something clicked. I’d been getting involved in philosophy and man’s concept of truth, seeking answers to the ultimate questions: Who are we? Why are we here? Where are we going? Who is God?
When philosophers discuss that last question, they quickly bog down in theorizings. Not accepting God’s Word as a source of information, their talk becomes an exercise in futility. I’d always believed in God, but just who he was—that I didn’t know. I had no close relationship with him. How could I? I knew nothing about him.
So when the Witness got to the chapter “Where Are the Dead?” I came to life. Who can say where the dead are? No man, no philosopher. Their speculations are empty. But now, finally, I was getting the answers from God’s Word.
Then we got into the subject of truth: What is truth? Is it always in agreement with itself? I learned that Satan is the god of this present world, and the mess it’s in became understandable. A whole new awareness dawned on me. Past history and present events fell into place as I learned of Satan’s organization and of God’s promised Kingdom under Christ, that it is soon to cause God’s will to be done on earth. Just as I had prayed in the Lord’s Prayer! Truth became real. Jesus came to bear witness to the truth. What is truth? Speaking to God in prayer, Jesus said: “Your word is truth.” (John 17:17) From that time onward “scales” fell from my eyes!
I began to use the newfound Bible truth as a touchstone to examine everything. I had been associating some with the Pentecostals. I was attracted by their warmth. It was an emotionally stirring religion. But now I recalled that they had told me, “Wine is the tool of the Devil!” Using the Bible as the touchstone, I realized this could not be true since Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine.
I also went to the Episcopal priest with questions on Revelation. “I studied the book of Revelation for two years in theology school,” he said. “You can’t understand it and shouldn’t bother with it at all. Get into politics. Improve the world.”
Again, the Bible as the touchstone came into my mind: “Do not be loving either the world or the things in the world.” “The whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” “Friendship with the world is enmity with God.”—1 John 2:15; 5:19; James 4:4.
There was, incidentally, a psychological problem that had to be overcome en route to this point. Egotistically, I found it hard to handle the fact that this black janitor was coming to my house and teaching me so much. The man himself sensed the problem and solved it. One evening he came with another Witness and said:
“You know, we’re not any great geniuses on the Bible. There’s lots we don’t know. We have to study for our meetings. If you don’t mind, we’ll study here too.”
So they sat in my living room and studied for their Tuesday evening Congregation Book Study while I prepared for my lesson in the Truth book. Now I felt comfortable. My ego was appeased. We were all students. They had to study too!
And this accomplished something else. It made me curious about their Tuesday night meeting. So I started attending that meeting. Then I went to their Sunday meeting, and after that their Thursday night meeting that trained the Witnesses for field service. Soon I was witnessing from door to door myself.
For me, what really distinguished this religion from any other was the door-to-door preaching. I felt it was important for me personally to do it, notwithstanding my handicap. After all, in our present, imperfect state everyone is disabled. Some are just more disabled than others. So I’d go out with the group, I in the wheelchair. At most doors I couldn’t get close enough to push the doorbell, so I carried a long stick to push it with.
I often worked with one Witness in the congregation who was old and disabled. He had had a stroke, his sight was very poor, his hearing wasn’t good, but he’d been witnessing for almost 40 years. We often worked together in the preaching work. He’d push my wheelchair and I’d drive the car and be his eyes and ears. It seemed I was only a half and he was the other half, but together we made a whole Witness!
By now my third aim was accomplished—and more. What was easier said than done was now done: To become a Witness I gave up all drugs. To this another blessing was added: Because of quitting the drugs my health improved and my strength increased so much that I could walk with crutches!
It was about this time that I got engaged to marry. Patsy was one of the pioneers—full-time ministers—in the congregation. When the group went out witnessing, she and I often worked together. Eventually we got married and pioneered together.
Things had moved fast for me since the Witnesses first called on me. In January of 1974 I started talking to the Witnesses. In February I began the study with them. In May I went out in the field service for the first time. In June I finished my study in the Truth book. In July I went to my first district convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses. In August I got baptized. In September I proposed. In December I got married. In January ’75 I was pioneering. A busy 13 months!
In 1977 my wife and I and our daughter, Dolores, moved to northern California, to Calistoga in the heart of the wine country. I bought 35 acres of wooded hills—including a small valley with 3 acres of grapevines. I started making some wine, and eventually I got bonded and began selling wine commercially. Using a golf cart to get around while working in the vineyard and my crutches in the winery, I am able to do the work necessary in spite of my disability.
Now, in 1984, I am selling this property and the wine business and relocating in the same area. I am doing this to free my wife and me so that we can spend more time witnessing to others about God’s Kingdom. It is our hope that by Jehovah’s undeserved kindness we may live to see the fulfillment on the Paradise earth of Jehovah’s promise to “prepare a banquet for all the nations of the world—a banquet of the richest food and the finest wine. Here he will suddenly remove the cloud of sorrow that has been hanging over all the nations. The Sovereign LORD will destroy death forever! He will wipe away the tears from everyone’s eyes.”—Isaiah 25:6-8, Today’s English Version.
So I am glad I kept on seeking, for I found the truth and the satisfaction and contentment that it brings.
[Blurb on page 12]
As my bankroll dwindled so did the number of my friends
[Blurb on page 12]
When Jehovah’s Witnesses called, I called the police
[Blurb on page 13]
We can talk, but I’m not about to become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses
[Blurb on page 14]
At most doors I couldn’t get close enough to push the doorbell, so I carried a long stick to push it with