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70th Anniversary Part II – Greater Los Angeles Billy Graham Crusade of 1949

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Greater Los Angeles Billy Graham Crusade of 1949. The event, only initially planned to run for three weeks, ran for an amazing eight weeks. In our second post of this series, we are exploring the story of Louis Zamperini. To see last week’s post, click here.

Part Two – Louis Zamperini

Promotional poster for LA Crusade

Among the crowd in the 1949 Greater Los Angeles Revival was the Olympian and WWII veteran Louis Zamperini. Leading up to this crusade attendance, Zamperini had endured great adversity, including two plane crashes and 47 days adrift in the ocean. He had also been tormented at a Japanese prisoner of war (POW) camp during and after the war. Zamperini found himself at the lowest place he had ever been in. The abuse from a rigid Japanese guard had left Zamperini with scars that resulted in nightmares which he tried to wash away with alcohol.

Louis Zamperini and wife Cynthia

The turmoil Zamperini faced had begun to affect his wife, Cynthia. At the time, Cynthia had been threatening to divorce Louis, but then she attended the Greater Los Angeles Revival where she gave her life to Jesus after hearing the Gospel message preached by Billy Graham. Cynthia was so greatly impacted that she invited her husband so that he also could be transformed by the power of the Gospel. Zamperini was reluctant at first, but due to his wife’s persistence, he hesitantly agreed to go during the eighth, and final, week of the Crusade.

“…It was then that Louis Zamperini was converted. [That] night he wandered into our tent in Los Angeles with his wife and accepted Christ, and his life was transformed…” -Billy Graham, Just As I Am

Louis visiting Billy at his home in Montreat, N.C. in 2011

After he gave his life to Christ, Louis Zamperini no longer had a desire for vengeance against all who had taken advantage of him. He shared about the supernatural power that he found in Jesus Christ to personally forgive the Japanese guards that had inflicted so much pain on him. Zamperini found himself revisiting the Japanese camp to share the message of the Gospel with many guards who, in turn, committed their lives to Jesus Christ.

As the years passed, Mr. Graham and Louis Zamperini continued to share a life-long friendship. The two held in common the most important thing in their lives, the salvation and love of Jesus Christ. They spent their years sharing that salvation and love with many people.

Billy Graham and Louis Zamperini reunited in 2000.

“Thank God for Billy Graham… He’s indelible in my heart and mind. The heart of this story is when I found Christ as my Savior. That’s the heart of my whole life.” –Louis Zamperini, Captured By Grace

To hear Zamperini’s story in his own words, click here.

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