The World War II plane dropped below the clouds. Louis Zamperini scanned the ocean for the downed bomber that had not reached its destination the day before. Suddenly, Louis felt a shudder and the engine on the far left of the plane shook violently, then stopped. The plane tipped to the left, then began to drop. Another engine failure sent the plane spiraling into the ocean. Eight of the eleven men were killed. Louis survived 47 days on a raft. He floated over 2000 miles in the Pacific Ocean, drinking rainwater, eating birds and being circled by sharks. He promised God, “If you save me, I will serve you forever”. He was rescued but the worst was yet to come.
His rescue became his capture. He spent two years as a Japanese prisoner of war, enduring constant torture. One guard, nicknamed ‘The Bird’, singled Louis out and took a twisted delight in making his life a miserable existence. Louis remained unbroken, focusing all his efforts on staying alive.
When the war ended and he returned home, Louis’ life was a mess. He was a broken man. Flashbacks, nightmares, alcoholism, violence and anger culminated in one quest – to find ‘The Bird’ and kill him.
A preacher was having meetings in a tent nearby and reluctantly, Louis was persuaded to attend. He heard how God was interested in him, how God works miracles in peoples’ lives and what God asks of men is that they have faith in Him.
There were many instances in his past where Louis could see that his life had been miraculously spared. When he heard that God wants man’s faith, he felt angry to the point of violence and stood up to leave. The promise he had made to God on the raft flashed into his mind. He stopped, turned around and committed his life to Christ. At home, he poured all his liquor down the sink and slept peacefully for the first time in five years. In the morning, he felt cleansed and began reading his Bible. He had no more nightmares or flashbacks and instead of wanting to kill ‘The Bird’, he felt compassion and forgiveness towards him. He returned to Japan and met with hundreds of prison guards, forgiving them. When they saw his genuine love for those who had treated him so badly, many turned to Christ.
What brought about this drastic change in Louis’ life? Faith in Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new”. As he committed his life to serving Christ, fulfilling the promise he had made, he became like the One he followed. On the cross, the Lord Jesus forgave those who were crucifying Him (Luke 23:34). He offers forgiveness to all today, even though we are enemies of God. “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Will you accept His forgiveness and commit your life to Him? He will not disappoint you. He will make you a new creation.
Louis Zamperini followed Christ until his death in July 2014, at 97 years of age.
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