This past month, I read the story of a World War II veteran, Olympian, and POW. Louis Zamperini, born in Torrance, California, was a troubled child growing up with immigrant parents. He was often picked on by kids, got into many fights and acted rebelliously. With the encouragement of his brother to deter him from causing more trouble, he got back on track.
Louie became Torrance’s hero, breaking the interscholastic high school record and eventually participating in the Berlin Games. However, his aspiration to be a part of the next Olympics was cut short. As the world plunged into darkness during the Second World War with the United States entry on December 7th after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Louis’ life changed.
Olympian in Combat
Louie would soon join the Air Force; he would serve as bombardier on a B-24. On one of his missions, his plane would plunge into the sea killing most of his crew. The main pilot and the tail gunner survived the crash. Stranded at sea for a long time, Louie recommitted his life to the Lord while lying on the raft, hungry and lost. He told God that if he got out of this situation, he would serve the Lord forever.
Japanese soldiers soon captured him after spending 30 days drifting at sea. He was thrown into prison and tormented. Transported to mainland Japan, he met the man that would break him and haunt him in his dreams. Nicknamed the Bird, he often tortured and beat the POW left in his charge. Even with the Bird’s transfer to another POW camp, Zamperini and the Bird’s paths crossed again when Zamperini was transferred to another POW camp. Tormented and beaten to the point of death, Zamperini thought about giving up. However, without the ability to retaliate, he still stood his ground.
Standing Our Ground
Zamperini’s stance shows us that even when it is dark in the night, however dim our hopes, the light will always follow darkness. As many of our brothers and sisters on other campuses are being exiled from their campuses, we must stand firm and united in prayer because it may happen to us. As Louie stood and took the blows without knowing whether he would be liberated, we must take a stand. There will come a time when we must stand united on our campuses to pray with that same passion as Jesus lived out.
Zamperini was liberated and he returned home to California often suffering from post-traumatic stress. He would see the Bird in his dream beating him and tormenting him. He turned to alcohol to ease his pain and drown the sorrows. Only with the help and convincing of his wife, he attended a Billy Graham Crusade and he was radically saved, turning his life back to Christ.
Zamperini once felt rage and anger to punish the man who tormented his life. But one night, in his dreams he felt the lord calling him to forgive those who have harmed and tortured him. Louie eventually returned to Japan with that heart transformed by Jesus to forgive. We are all called to do the same with our enemies as well. Zamperini realized that in spite of the pain and suffering that came from his tormentor, there is a greater calling in our lives. That a moment of pain is worth a lifetime of glory. Jesus saw that when he walked on the road to Calvary knowing that He was sent on a mission for all of us to experience freedom.
Anthony Deng is the New York City Metro Campus Coordinator for Campus Renewal. He leads and coordinates volunteers for events such as One Cry and helps facilitate the New York City Metro Area student core team. Anthony was born and raised in New York City, graduated from CUNY the City College of New York, and has a B.A in History and Asian Studies. Anthony gives New York City tours to freshmen of various campuses. On his tour, he teaches and shows students various hidden gems of New York City. On the side, he loves to collect college sweatshirts and t-shirts. In addition, he loves to play and watch basketball and football. He an avid fan of the Pacers & Colts.