- Grew up in a strict Christian home
- His family immigrated to America
- Became a member of the high school track team
- “Zamperini’s success on the track began in high school when he set a ratified U.S. high school Mile record of 4:21.2 on May 19, 1934, winning the Southern California Track & Field Championship at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum; his HS Mile record lasted 19 years!”
- “He was a leading candidate to break the 4-minute barrier in the Mile.”
- Olympic track star – to compete on the 1936 team
- 5,000 meters: came in 8th — 14 minutes, 46.8 seconds.
- Enlists in the US Army Air Corps
- Served in the Pacific Theater
- Survived the crash of his plane over the Pacific
- Spent 47 days on a raft
- Captured and a prisoner of war by the Japanese for 2 – 1/2 years.
- “Louie was awarded three Purple Hearts, a Distinguished Flying Cross and a Prisoner of War Medal for his WWII service.”
- “died at age 97 of pneumonia in Los Angeles on Wednesday, July 2, .”
- Multiple books have been written, and the film “Unbroken” tells this amazing story.
Louis: Oh, that’s all I did. I just figured the more I drank, the better I’d sleep at night. I was out every night drunk. My wife refused to go with me, so she decided to get a divorce. Had every right to a divorce, then someone had talked her into going to hear a new evangelist called Billy Graham.
Andrew [reporting]: His wife came to Christ at the crusade and had good news for Louis.
Louis: She said, “Because of my conversion, Louis, I’m not gonna get a divorce.” Boy I was happy. Then she had a new group of Christian friends all over me, and I avoided them like the plague!
Andrew [reporting]: But he was desperate to save his marriage, so he reluctantly agreed to attend the next Billy Graham meeting.
Louis: He talked about one person only, the person of Jesus Christ, for 30 minutes. He read the Scriptures. “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” “The wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Well, I knew I was a sinner but I didn’t like the idea of someone else reminding me. If anyone had ever asked me if I believed that Christ was the Son of God, I would have said yes. My whole life I believed it, but [in] the heart no. I knew somehow if I’d believed it in my heart, my life would have been different. So I knew I didn’t posses the Savior but I still didn’t want to do it. I think the best description to that is the Bible says that men prefer darkness rather than light. Here I was preferring my rotten life to the light. Then I started having a flashback to the life raft and prison camp, all those thousands and thousands of prayers “God spare my life through the war, and I’ll seek You and serve You.” I kept thinking I came back from the war alive, and I never even thought about those prayers. I never tried to keep one prayer.
Andrew [reporting]: That night, Louis gave his life to Jesus Christ.
Louis: I got off my knees and somehow I knew I was through getting drunk. I knew it. I also knew that I forgave all my guards including “The Bird.” I think proof of that is I had nightmares every night about “The Bird” since the war. The night I made my decision for Christ, I haven’t had a nightmare since — 1949 till now! That is some kind of a miracle. — CBN interview
Key Biblical Thoughts:
- changed life
- all things work together
- the Gospel
- God’s grace
Sermonic Example: There are several distinct ways to use illustrative material.
(use whatever you find useful in the above details)
His name was Louis Zamperini, and he was headed for fame as an Olympic track athlete. Many believed he would be the one to break the four-minute mile . . . . .However, WWII ended that trajectory. Louis enlisted in the U.S> Air Corp and was part of the Pacific front against the Japanese. . . . . .
[include whatever details you find helpful]
He had no peace in his life — mentally, relationally, or with the world around him. . . . . He was broken, angry, bitter, an alcoholic, and on the verge of being divorced by his wife, Cynthia! It is said . . .
“The two lived on in grim co-existence, each one out of answers.”
Louis Zamperini and his wife were out of answers . . . . until someone invited his wife to a revival meeting in California . . . .
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