John Schlitt

John Schlitt's Testimony    ( ... big thanks to Kathy Bentley from PETRA World Ministries 1993)  

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John grew up in a loving home with parents who had strong ethical and moral standards. Although there was no regular religious instruction John's parents instilled in him a strong belief in God. Through high school John, a good student, was busy as the leader of a rock band that played at local dances. When John entered the University of Illinois in 1968 he continued to be involved in music despite them demands of studying for an engineering degree. It was while in college he joined the group HEAD EAST. Upon graduation in 1972 John chose music over engineering and began his singing career.

John married his high school sweetheart in 1971 and despite the demands of touring and a musician's life had a strong marriage. As his wife, Dorla, says, "God's grace was there for us even when we didn't know Him--keeping us together through some very rough times."

John was a member of HEAD EAST from 1973 to January 1980. During that time HEAD EAST made 6 albums one of which went gold. Climbing the secular music ladder of success, however, did have its price. John says he went from a kid who just wanted to sing and entertain people to an alcoholic and cocaine addict who was killing to put music and his career before anything -- including his own health and his wife and family. John says, "The enemy had me so deceived. I didn't start out drinking that much but I was playing into Satan's hand. Little by little the temptations came and I ended up trapped. It was the same with cocaine. What started out as a so-called "cool" thing to do ended up almost breaking me. I was willing to sacrifice everything that was really important for the promise of fame and fortune. I always thought that after I obtained that I'd be able to make up for all the wrongs I'd done."

In January 1980 HEAD EAST had internal problems and three of the original members left - John included. What looked like the end was actually a new beginning. God was at work setting people in their path. God had placed two 3rd grade Christian team teachers with Dorla in a public school and a Christian neighbour was witnessing to her. She and John had even attended church regularly months prior to HEAD EAST break up to have their 2nd child, Kyle, baptized. They both were surprised that after not attending church for years they actually enjoyed the message and looked forward to going. God was drawing them by His Holy Spirit and planting seed in their hearts.

"When I made the decision to leave HEAD EAST is was like our entire world fell in. HEAD EAST and its success had been my entire focal point for 7 years," says John. "I remember so well standing at the kitchen window and saying, "God, please show us what to do with our lives. We can't afford to make another mistake like this (finally and starting over with two children)", recalls Dorla. "Looking back, it was like that simple prayer opened the way for God to truly come into our lives and order events and our steps so that we'd be ready to turn our lives over to Jesus--making Him not only our saviour but our Lord, as well."

With absolutely no savings and no "irons in the fire" for other singing work John and Dorla moves from St. Louis back to their hometown where they were able to live in their in-laws vacant home. God was providing for their needs while directing their steps.

While living in his in-laws home John wanted to start his own band and "do it right this time". Things didn't turn out quite like that. The new band involved four guys moving into their basement and "living" there, going into debt to "get things going", signing a management contract with a guy who had a very successful lighting company but had no idea how to manage. "He had us touring in an old bread truck, sleeping on floors, and getting exactly $1 each for breakfast on the road. No one but the Lord could understand how low and depressed I felt at that time. But looking back now, I see that God knew what it would take to get my attention", says John. After about six months John was so discouraged and disgusted with himself and his family to live that way that he even contemplated suicide. He had really his bottom.

In the meantime Dorla had made a trip to the library and come across a book that caught her attention HOW TO BE BORN AGAIN by Billy Graham. "I wanted to know what that meant -- to be "born again". I had heard my neighbour speak of it and I was curious, "says Dorla. "God directed my steps in that library to find it. I was like the words jumped off the page as I read it. "Hungry for more of god she read THE HELPER by Catherine Marshall and learned about the person of the Holy Spirit and his work in the believer's life. "During John's lowest emotional time, I was on a spiritual "high". I had just given my life to Jesus and experienced his touch, was talking to him in prayer all the time and "seeing" Him alive in my live through answered prayer, and I was attending a weekly Bible study and local church. I was being taught the Word of God I was growing leaps and bounds." Six months after Dorla gave her life to Jesus John did, too. It took four more months and lots of intercession until John finally decided to leave secular music. "I knew God had something for John to do someday and it wasn't in secular music. It took a lot of prayer to break the strongholds that secular music had on his life, "says Dorla.

After leaving music altogether in January 1981 John was again unemployed. I tried to get an engineering job but with no experience, except being a quote "rock star" for 8 years - funny, no one wanted to hire me. I finally got a job at a small tool and dye company. I rode my bike to work and swept floors most of the time for 6 months. After that though the Lord gave me a progression of jobs that within four years I ended up a cost and scheduling engineer with m own office and name plate on the door! I've spent time sweeping floors, digging draining ditches, working in an oil shale mine in Utah 2 miles underground as an engineer, and the head of my own dept. at the home office working with computers. Every step of the way God was building character in me and something it was really hard to "stick in there". I had a pretty high opinion of myself prior to 1980. All of this was pretty different from riding in limos, having people flatter me, and "being cool" with alcohol and cocaine."

Dorla adds, "God has done such a healing in our marriage and in John's life. Not only do I love him but I respect and admire him. We both have a long way to go but it's so good to look back and see what God has done." Five years passed before John used his voice in a concert situation again - this time for the Lord!

"For five years I worked at the jobs the Lord gave me. I read His Word and attended a local church regularly. At times I thought about singing again but down deep I knew it was my idea not God's. So I just concentrated on growing in Christ and learning more about how to please Him. It was good preparation."

"At the end of 1985 Bob Hartman called my home just "out of the blue". When he asked me if I'd consider singing for PETRA I was shocked. When I was first born again I heard WASHES WHITER THAN. I had never heard Christian music like that before and something inside went "Yeah, I’d like to sing with a group like that someday." Little did I know then that I would."

"Being with PETRA has given me the opportunity to share from fist hand experience that God has a plan for every person's life. Each one of us are important to Him. Each is unique for His special purposes. The things we go through in life can not only teach and strengthen us but also can be used to help others as we share God's love for them. He's a God of love and restoration. Not only did He forgive me for all I had done but He also gave me back my life, my family, and my chance to sing again."