Jul 15, 2014

When a war hero found Jesus

Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner and World War II prisoner of war, found Jesus at a Billy Graham crusade in 1949. His life was a wreck after the war. It was changed in that encounter.

"I went forward in that meeting and asked God to forgive me, " Zamperini said. "I acknowledged to God that I was a sinner. I asked the Lord Jesus Christ to come into my heart and save me, and of course he did."

Graham brought Zamperini to another crusade, almost a decade later, to talk about his conversion. Facing criticism that those who came forward at his crusades didn't become faithful Christians, that his evangelistic work was ineffective, Graham used Zamperini as an example of the power of the gospel.

"I know that there are thousands of others that do last," Graham said in San Francisco in 1958. "And this room tonight is filled with hundred of people that have found Christ in the last few days, and you're carrying your Bibles. You've already identified yourself with a church, or you've renewed your church vow and dedication, and now your life is completely transformed."

There is video of that meeting in '58:

The year after his conversion, Zamperini returned to Japan to meet with his former captors, telling them he forgave them and giving them Gideon Bibles.

Zamperini died earlier this month at the age of 97.

His life story is being turned into a film, Unbroken, directed by Angelina Jolie. It is scheduled for release on Christmas Day. There is no sign that Zamperini's conversion at the Billy Graham crusade has made it into the film, though it is a part of the bestselling book the film is based on. There are religious elements featured in the first trailer, however, and the film is likely to be very popular with evangelical audiences.