Brooks Douglass: Strength to Forgive
By Tim Smith
The 700 Club
CBN.com -When Brooks Douglass was 16, his parents were murdered in his home. It was 1979. But Brooks remembers it like it was yesterday. Glenn Ake stood at the front door and told Brooks he was looking for a man named Mike Mitchell. “‘I don’t know anybody by that name. Did they give you a phone number?’ asked Brooks. “Yeah, I was hoping I could use your phone,” was Ake’s response.
“He came in and when he picked up the phone, I heard the front door open again behind me and Steven Hatch had walked in and was standing in front of my parents’ door and had a double-barreled shotgun pointed at me. And when I turned back around to Ake he had a 357 magnum pointed at the end of my nose,” remembers Brooks.
After looting the house, Ake and Hatch raped Leslie, Brooks’ younger sister, and then they hog-tied the whole family on the living room floor.
“They sat down and ate the dinner my mom had been fixing and talked about whether they should kill us or not. I felt the bullet hit me, and then the second shot, and my mom screamed. I then heard four other shots go off pretty rapidly,” says Brooks.
His mom and dad died within minutes. Brooks and Leslie were injured, but managed to untie themselves and drive to a neighbor for help. They were both hospitalized for a few weeks, and then moved in with friends. Physically, they recovered, but their mental anguish continued.
“We both were really in such shock. And we were just putting one foot in front of the other, and not having any idea of what was going to happen next.”
Over the next fifteen years, Brooks was forced to testify nine times at trials and clemency hearings. As the years went by, he re-lived the nightmare over and over.
Back in 1971, Brooks had become a Christian when he prayed with his father at the age of nine. He understood what the Bible says about forgiveness. But could he really forgive the men who murdered his parents and raped his sister?
“I know that it’s something that I should do and I know it’s something my parents would want me to do. And so, more or less, I said, ‘Lord, I’m not ready, but I’m willing to be made ready, down the line.”
In 1990, Brooks graduated from law school, and that same year became the youngest state senator in Oklahoma history. From the outside, Brooks seemed to have it all. But on the inside, anger and rage were tearing him apart.
“So my way of dealing with it, or my way of not dealing with it, was to keep myself so busy, and keep things so chaotic. I really began to realize that man, I did carry some anger around.”
In 1995, as a state senator, Brooks took a tour of the Oklahoma State Penitentiary, the same state pen where Glenn Ake served his life sentence.
“I was worried. The guy at one time could deadlift 900 pounds. He was a strong and very mean guy. So I grabbed a deputy warden and I said, ‘I want to know where you are holding Ake.’ And I remember just feeling that rage, and fear as well. But I remember the most overwhelming feeling was I need to be in the room with this guy. I need to talk to him. And I want to talk with him now.
“And so I met with the warden and the warden said, ‘No.’ They all said ‘bad idea’. And that’s when I literally said, ‘I’m on a committee called Appropriations, and they said ‘ok’”.
Brooks sat face to face with Glenn Ake, and forgave him.
“And then I remember feeling like someone had taken a clamp off my chest and I could breathe for the first time in 15 years. Suddenly I felt air was actually going all the way into the tops of my lungs and it was just amazing.”
Several years later, Brooks co-wrote and co-produced his first feature film, Heaven’s Rain, about his journey to forgiveness.
“Part of telling the story was to pay tribute to my parents, but beyond all that, is ultimately the story of forgiveness. I tried to be faithful, and as it turns out, God was faithful, in bringing me down this road to a place of forgiveness, even if I did it sort of kicking and screaming. I didn’t really understand it that much at that moment, but I knew that the only way I was going to get up and walk out of that room, and be able to start dealing with other things in my life, was by forgiving him.”
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