December 15, 2014
Dear Friends and Family of the Diocese of Eau Claire,
In 2010 Laura Hillenbrand (the author of Seabiscuit) wrote Unbroken. It is the story of Louie Zamperini who started as a juvenile delinquent. He turned his energy to track and went to the University of Southern California. Zamperini was a long distance runner at the Berlin Olympics in 1936. He met Hitler and later climbed a flagpole and stole Hitler’s personal flag. In 1941 Zamperini joined the army. On a flight from Hawaii a plane he was on went down. There were only three survivors. Together they floated from 850 miles south of Oahu to near Kwajalein Island. For 47 days two of the three survived shark attacks and strafing from Japanese planes. Zamperini and his companion were picked up by a Japanese freighter and treated well. Eventually they were transferred to a prison camp where Zamperini survived an environment of malnutrition and torture.
Upon his return to the United States Zamperini became a war hero. He married. He also suffered from post-traumatic stress. He became alcoholic and by 1949 his marriage was failing. Zamperini’s wife, Cynthia, was preparing to divorce him when she attended a Billy Graham Crusade. She resolved to save the marriage and brought Louie to the Crusade. Slowly but certainly Zamperini came around. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Zamperini’s trauma disappeared, he abstained from alcohol, and his marriage became strong. This was the breakthrough Crusade for Graham, and Zamperini supported Billy Graham’s work for the rest of his life.
Zamperini’s story has now been made into a movie directed by Angelina Jolie. Unbroken is supposed to appear in theaters at Christmas. The story is told except the most important part. Jolie omits the entire section around Billy Graham. In Jolie’s lack of Christian faith she tells a great story but ignores the plot. Hillenbrand’s book is superb; I urge you to read it. I am uncertain about seeing the movie. I guess many Hollywood folks are too caught up in their craft to see the power of God, and how he works miracles among his people. With my love and best wishes, I am,
Your brother in Christ,