Recently I was riveted by a documentary I watched on Fox News about Louis Zamperini, an athlete turned soldier turned Japanese Prisoner of War and World War II Hero. The movie, based on a bestselling book Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption apparently leaves out the most important aspect of Zamperini’s life – his conversion to Christianity after returning home and subcombing to alcoholism to relieve his battle scars. The story of the conversion of an athlete and war hero at a tent revival brought home some very special memories for me.
I grew up the daughter of a Baptist preacher. He always referred to himself as a Preacher, not a minister. Over my lifetime I recall catching bits and pieces of his story of conversion, but like all Baptist kids, I was better at ignoring than listening. Fast forward a few decades. My dad is in his early eighties, near the end of his life. I visit and help my parents regularly. A typical visit involves taking care of whatever problems they are having on that particular day. Usually that meant locating the lost TV remote control and his wallet, which were normally tucked safely away deep inside the recliner. This was always a mystery to my parents in their latter years. Oh how I miss them!
After taking care of the most pressing problems, we would sit in the living room with a cup of coffee and chat. On this particular day, I began to inquire about his faith, and he began to recite the story of his conversion. I will never forget the day as long as I live.
My parents worked in a cotton mill most of their lives. My mother would come home after a long day at work and pay us pennies to pick the cotton out of her hair. They worked hard for the money, as they say.
A Tent Revival was being held just on the outskirts of town. Incredibly, the mill stopped off early during this time. My dad would leave work and take the bus, and the bus stopped off right in front of where the tent revival was being held. Some of the men would hang around outside the tent and chat for awhile after getting off the bus. A man invited my Dad to come into the tent and hear the preaching. My Dad never knew the man’s name, so he referred to him as Mr. Brown, because he always wore a brown suit.
On the first night, my dad soundly refused and went home. But the same thing happened the next night, and then the next night. Each night, my dad listened a little longer to Mr. Brown and each night he got a little closer to the tent. On the last night, he slid into the back of the tent and sat on the back row. He heard the message of the gospel and was converted. He was a changed man.
So I just wanted you to know that you don’t need to be a star athlete, or a war hero, or rich or anything else. Jesus will take you, even if you are just a poor mill worker with a bit of a wild streak. In fact, he specializes in hard and hopeless cases! You don’t have to be great – because Jesus is great! He wants to make a great exchange with you. You give him your life, and incredibly, he gives you his life – which is eternal!
My dad was converted in his early twenties. He was an awesome, loving and kind Father. He never hurt us. He always provided for our needs. He laughed, loved, and taught us that God is real. He passed away a few years ago. He had retired from Mayfield Baptist Church in Ruffin, North Carolina after serving as Preacher/Pastor for twenty years. So many nights I remember driving to church with him on a wing and a prayer as they say – we barely had enough gas to get there and back home! He loved his little flock, and is buried in the Mayfield cemetery. I miss him, but I know I will see him again.
The Reverend Dallas A. Taylor’s love for the Lord who saved him remained “Unbroken” throughout his life.