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Brooks Douglass (BD) is a former Oklahoma politician who became the youngest state senator in the state's history. His parents, the Rev. Richard Douglass, pastor of Putnam City Baptist Church, and his wife Marilyn, were shot to death at their home in 1979. Brooks, then 16, and his sister Leslie, 12, survived the shooting and went on to testify at the murder trials of the two men charged with their parents' deaths. Brooks has adapted his personal account of tragedy and success to the big screen with his film, "Heaven's Rain." Jim Penner (JP) interviews Brooks.
JP: We have a wonderful guest this morning. His name is Brooks Douglass. He's a former Oklahoma state senator. Now this isn't your normal rise to the top type of story because when Brooks was sixteen years old and his sister was twelve years old, two men came into their home and shot their parents. By the grace of God, Brooks and his sister escaped and both would later testify at the trial of the two men who murdered their parents. Brooks' story has been turned into a movie called "Heaven's Rain." What you're going to find so amazing is that this tragic story is actually a story of forgiveness.
Brooks, watching this film, I can't imagine what that was like for you. Tell us what happened the day of this horrendous crime.
BD: My parents had been missionaries to Brazil and were now pastoring a church in Oklahoma City. We lived on a farm just outside of Oklahoma City, and that night in 1979, a couple of drifters came and knocked on the door. They said they needed to use the phone so we let them in. They wound up pulling guns and hog tying us all, hands and feet behind our back on the living room floor, and took turns sexually assaulting my twelve year old sister. They then sat down and ate our dinner and then shot us all in the back. My parents died there in front of me, and then my sister and I were able to get out of the house and get to medical help.
JP: Now your father was a pastor in that local town in Oklahoma, and you'd grown up in the church.
BD: That's right.
JP: Weren't you screaming, where's God?
BD: Absolutely. We're taught as children that God is going to protect us and the police are going to protect us, yet at the time, it seemed to me like all of those things had fallen apart.
When I got out of the hospital, the first place that I went was back to our house. And I remember walking up the steps and there were drops of mine and my sister's blood from when we had walked down those steps to get to the car. It struck me then that if God didn't have His hand on us, and if God had not intervened and protected us, we never would have gotten out of the house to begin with.
So God has a plan. He chose not to intervene in the case of my mother and father. And we all have choices. Ake and Hatch had a choice before they came in the house and before they pulled the trigger, but God intervened and protected myself and my sister, so He had to have a plan and that's what we've tried to look to.
JP: When I first heard your story, I can imagine at the age of sixteen being full of rage at having watched my parents killed, and I think your film, "Heaven's Rain," shows you going through that. What were you dealing with during your teenage years and into college years, as far as rage?
BD: Well I think it manifested itself in a number of different ways; military career, becoming a lawyer, going to the senate and I don't think I knew. In one way, I think I put it off by blocking it out of my mind and just throwing myself in my work, but I think subconsciously, I was trying to put myself in a position to go on the offensive against these guys.
JP: Now at some point, something happened inside of you and you actually wanted to meet one of these men face-to-face.
BD: Yes, the first thing Glen Ake said to me when I sat down in front of him was, "I want you to know that I'm so, so sorry for what I did to you and your family." For me, that turned everything on its head right there. I certainly wasn't expecting that. I knew or at least I was pretty sure at that point he wasn't going to try to come after me. So I kept him there for an hour and a half, and we depict a lot of that in the movie. Everything that's in the movie is from that conversation. It was just a phenomenal experience.
JP: Now ultimately you were able to forgive him. You were able to say those words. What happened in you when you said those words to him?
BD: Well, I remember the first part of it. The last thing in my mind would have been forgiving him when I walked in there and even when I sat down and started talking to him. And you know the lessons that I had learned from my parents through the years and learned from God's word, learned from even reading Dr. Schuller's books and going to some of his speeches with my father were ringing in my ears even as I was sitting there.
But I was fighting against it. After we'd spoken, I'd gotten up, walked to the door, put my hand on the door and was about to walk out when I felt God saying to me, 'this isn't over.' And I walked over and I looked at him and said, "I forgive you." And again, not what I would have expected, but I remember sitting down and feeling like my body and my head were full of this water and poison and I could almost physically see the bottoms of my feet open up and water flooding out all over the floor. I remember I was almost hyperventilating. I felt like somebody had taken a clamp off of my chest after fifteen years and I could breathe again for the first time after all those years. And then when I walked out of the prison, the leaves on the trees were greener and the sky was bluer and it was just such a life changing and physical experience that I never would have dreamed that I would have had.
JP: Amazing. You know many of us, we carry a lot of resentment and we carry a lot of anger toward people who have hurt us; maybe parents in abusive relationships, spouses in a divorce, children of parents of a divorce. We carry a lot of resentment with us and if your story helps somebody find the power of forgiveness and what it can do to cleanse and transform, then that was the reason God brought you here today.
Brooks, your film, your story, "Heaven's Rain" is going to change lives. How can people see it?
BD: Thank you for asking. You can go to heavensrainmovie.com. We're showing the movie all over the country right now and setting up more showings. People can request a showing at their church or victims rights group or whatever organization.
JP: So we can have a showing at this church.
BD: Absolutely, we'd love to do it.
JP: Brooks, God loves you and so do I. Jesus shines through you so easy. It's easy to see that you're a man that has forgiven much. Thank you for your wonderful testimony today. God bless you.