Thursday, July 03, 2014

Our Friend, Louis Zamperini, Has Died

Universal pictures released word this morning from California that our friend Louis Zamperini has died. Louis is one of the most remarkable men I've ever had the pleasure of knowing. His incredible story has been written by Laura Hillenbrand in her sensational bestseller Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption. I consider Hillenbrand's book one of the top five best non-fiction books I've ever read. One of Louis' last public speaking engagements before a fall ended his ability to travel was at Emmanuel Enid. We hope to place that remarkable speech on YouTube shortly. Angelina Jolie is the director of the Hollywood major motion about Louis' life which is scheduled to be released Christmas Day 2014. I would encourage you to watch the trailer narrated by Tom Brokaw: it will give you chills. I know where I will be Christmas Day.

Louis once asked me about some of the history of northwestern Oklahoma and I told him about Indian Territory, the establishment of Carlisle Indian School by the American military, and I mentioned the legendary Jim Thorpe, the greatest athlete to ever live, a native of Oklahoma and graduate of Carlisle. I'll never forget that when I finished the story of what I believed to be ancient history, Louis paused, and said, "Jim Thorpe. I knew him well. We were once roommates. I'll never forget how sorry I felt for the way they made him put an a Indian headdress to promote he was from Oklahoma." Startled, I realized that I was in the presence of a 95-year-old man who had been born close to Oklahoma statehood.  He then proceeded to tell me how he shared Christ to Jim Thorpe. Louis shook hands with Adolph Hitler, roomed with Jim Thorpe, and is at the center of one of the 20th century's most amazing stories. The indomitable spirit, deep faith, and extraordinary wit of this true American hero have enriched the lives of millions.

Good-bye friend. You displayed for us all that courage and conviction are no match for others' selfishness and fear. My prayer is that when millions of people who are unfamiliar with your life become gripped by it this Christmas, they will know that the power within to forgive Japanese torturers comes from the knowledge and experience that our Creator forgives us through the grace that is found in His Son, Jesus Christ. We are working on that video, with your permission, that will insure your love for Christ is not lost on others this Christmas Day.

I look forward to hearing more stories from you in heaven. See you on the other side.


Victorious said...

The Associated Press has covered the story as well.

Rex Ray said...

I just saw a movie from our church library on Zamperini.

He survived 47 days without food in a life raft.

Captured by Japanese, he went from 169 pounds to 69 pounds. He refused to eat spoiled fish with maggots until a gun was put to his head.

After the war, he said his hardest decision in life was to accept Jesus as his personal savior under the preaching of Billy Graham.

He said his hardest decision in life was to accept Jesus as his personal savior under the preaching of Billy Graham.

Rex Ray said...

In high school, it looked like Zamperini was headed for a life of crime until someone got him interested in track. In his first race he came in last.

The way he ran was unusual because he stayed far behind then would pass everyone like they were in slow motion. That made his races exciting. Hitler described him as the runner that finished fast.

When his plane sunk in the ocean he was trapped with no hope of surviving. Far below the surface he knew of no explanation why he was released other than God did it. When he came up there were two in a raft.

When they had no water, they prayed for rain and were surprised that it rained. After the third time, they were no longer surprised but expected the rain.

Mistaking a Japanese plane for an American one, they put yellow dye on the water and was answered with bullets.

Zamperini was the only one strong enough to jump in the water where he hit sharks on their noses.

One of the men died before they were taken by Japanese.

After the war he became a heavy drinker. His wife was saved at a Billy Graham tent revival. After much pleading, he attended but said he would never go back.

He did go back but was leaving in anger when he realized the sawdust isle was like the crossroad of life. To the right was Jesus and to the left was his sorry unhappy life.

Ramon Elkins said...

Yhank you for posting tbis story. It is inspiring and we should never forget those who served our country!