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In her book, Unbroken, author Laura Hillenbrand tells the story of Olympic runner and World War II POW survivor Louie Zamperini. As a young teenager living in Southern California, Louie was better-known for causing trouble. Thieving was his hobby, especially if the loot was food. Louie was often in trouble at school for brawling and cared nothing about getting good grades. 

His poor Italian immigrant parents worried about him and tried to reel him in. Aware of his inadequacies, Louie tried to make up for it by scrubbing the kitchen floor, overhauling the engine of his family's sedan, and giving away the goods he stole.

One day Louie got angry about doing a chore and decided to run away. His parents pleaded with him to stay, but when he refused, they sent him off as lovingly as they knew how. Louie's mother made him a sandwich and his father held out his hand to give him two dollars, a great deal of money for their family at the time. Louie took the gifts and left. He and a friend hitchhiked to Los Angeles, and then jumped a train headed north.

Running away was not the adventure Louie had hoped for. They barely escaped an oven-like boxcar in which they had been locked. They were caught and forced at gunpoint to leave the train-while it was moving. They had to walk for several days and "wound up sitting on the ground in a rail yard, filthy, bruised, sunburned, and wet, sharing a can of stolen beans." A train went past, and Louie could see passengers sitting comfortably inside. He recalled, "I saw ... beautiful white tablecloths and crystal on the tables, and food, people laughing and enjoying themselves and eating. And sitting here shivering, eating a miserable can of beans."

Headed Home

Hillenbrand writes that Louie "remembered the money in his father's hand, the fear in his mother's eyes as she offered him a sandwich. He stood up and headed home."*

We quite often don't recognize how wonderful home was until we are faced with the reality that being away from it just isn't what we thought it would be. God's Word tells a wonderful story that I don't tire of listening to.  

In the narrative of the Prodigal Son, Jesus aptly tells the story of a son who takes his family inheritance early, leaves home, and gets busy squandering everything he has in a far away country. After losing everything, he winds up feeding pigs for someone during a famine. As he's feeding the pigs one day, he comes to his senses, and starts down the road that leads back home. His father is waiting for the boy, runs to the boy, falls onto his boy in a loving, tearful embrace, and welcomes him back home.  

Do you have someone in your life that has left their spiritual home; someone who has made their way into a "far-off" country, and squandered their existence on the things of this world? It's not too late for them, and your prayers on their behalf have an incredible power for good in their lives. Even when it doesn't appear that they are any closer to making a spiritual decision, don't stop praying. There is power in prayer!

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By Michael Temple. Copyright © 2014 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

* Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken (Random House, 2010), pp. 11-15


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