Morality in America
When studying the founding of the United States, you can’t help but encounter the faith of the nation’s forefathers. Time and again they recognized God’s hand in the shaping of America. You will find Him repeatedly mentioned in their words and documents. And you will find Him having an active, vibrant role in the country’s early history.
Today, God continues His work in America – but it’s in a nation that has clearly lost its moral compass. Every week, “Morality in America” will address the myriad of moral concerns facing the United States and undermining its Godly heritage. After you read, remember to intercede in prayer for America – that this nation will return to the Christian standards that once defined it.
Billy Graham and Louis Zamperini
One conversion saga out of five million
By Nikolas Grosfield
If you do not know the story of Louis Zamperini, you are missing out.
Born during World War I, the young Californian set several speed records on his way to running in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. His speed continued to increase. But before he could compete in any more games, World War II broke out and Zamperini joined the Army Air Corps.
He was assigned to the Pacific Theater, where he partook in many missions against the Japanese. He already had a record of barely surviving—such as when his plane received 594 holes from the enemy—when an old B-24 faltered and took him and his crew into the sea in May 1943. He and two others survived the crash, only to float in life rafts on the open sea for the next 47 days.
Their food was only what they could catch, and their water was only what fell from the sky. Both were scarce. Their enemies included Japanese planes, countless sharks, and deep despair. One of the men did not make it. After flirting with death for weeks, their Japanese rescuers eventually sent them to POW torture camps.
For some reason, the most feared and brutal man in the camp, Mutsuhiro Watanabe—nicknamed “The Bird”—took especially vicious interest in Zamperini from day one. The Bird seemed to like inflicting great undue physical and psychological torture. And when Zamperini was not suffering under his blows, he was having nightmare after nightmare about him—for years.
Zamperini remained a prisoner until Japan surrendered in August 1945. When he finally returned home, his memories of hell on earth eclipsed his ecstasy of freedom. He got married, but dreams of The Bird continued, as did a chronic drinking problem. He became infatuated with going back to Japan to murder The Bird.
By 1949, Zamperini’s marriage was in shambles. But his wife Cynthia convinced him to attend a Christian meeting led by a young evangelist named Billy Graham. Zamperini left the first session abruptly. But the second time, he made a physical and spiritual about-face, and submitted his life to the authority and grace of Jesus Christ.
The Bird immediately and permanently left his dreams as did Zamperini’s thoughts of revenge. On the contrary, he made his trip to Japan a few years later and forgave whatever former captors he could find. He never found The Bird, but wrote a note of forgiveness and Christian testimony for someone to give him.
Meanwhile, Zamperini’s marriage revived, lasting until Cynthia’s death in 2001. He recovered to excellent health and shared his faith with whoever would listen—culminating in Laura Hillenbrand’s recent best-seller “Unbroken”—and carried the Olympic torch in Nagano, Japan, in 1988. He left this world last July at the age of 97.
More than surviving World War II, Zamperini’s real legacy is faith, joy, and forgiveness. Yet his story depended on God’s work in the life of another man. Billy Graham has shared Christ around the world for more than 60 years. He has met with every U.S. President since Harry Truman. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA) recently reached five million decisions for Jesus, via its online wing called peacewithgod.net.
According to The Christian Post, 20,000 people visit peacewithgod.net each day. And in just one month this fall, 112,000 found the site in three strife-ridden Middle Eastern countries.
Graham passed his baton on to his family. His wife Ruth raised their five children and stayed his closest friend all through their more than six decades of marriage. She died in 2007. Son Franklin heads BGEA, and also the major international Christian aid organization Samaritan’s Purse. And so on and so forth…
Graham’s health has been poor in recent years. His family periodically issues medical updates. If he lives until next November, he will turn 97.
Few of the five million conversions through BGEA are as documented as Zamperini’s. But all of them are full of God and are celebrated in heaven. Moreover, few evangelists ever see more than dozens or maybe hundreds of transformed lives. But anybody who extends the light of Christ to a dark world is rewarded with unending riches and glory—no matter who responds.
Please pray that…
- Billy Graham’s ministry and legacy would carry on for decades more
- Louis Zamperini’s story—currently very popular—would draw many to Christ
- God would spur you and your church to ever more obedience in sharing the Good News
Nikolas Grosfield is a writer and rancher. He has written more than 120 articles for a variety of media outlets, lived five years in the Middle East and East Africa, and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in History from Cedarville University. A proud Montanan, Nik is a child of God, husband of Elsbeth, and father of Oliver.
The following expressions and comments are from our members and do not necessarily represent or reflect the biblical, world views or opinions of the Presidential Prayer Team
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