How can a man survive his parents’ brutal death, forgive his parents’ murderers, write a screenplay and play his father in a movie about the worst day of his life?
Brooks Douglass tells his tragic story in the new film “Heaven’s Rain,” available on DVD. The film recounts how his family’s life changed after two men held the family at gunpoint and raped his sister.
Though a nightmare that’s hard to relive, Douglass said he wants to honor God and his parents’ faith and not let any of what he went through go in vain.
Douglass and his sister, Leslie, grew up in a Christian home where both their parents joined the Brazilian mission field. Their family moved to Oklahoma City later where his father became the leader of a Baptist church.
On Oct. 15, 1979, they lived according to what they preached and offered a man help when he asked if he could use their phone. The drugged-up drifter Glen Ake was later joined by his partner Steven Hatch and they pulled out guns on the family. Douglass, who was 16 at the time, was tied with his parents while his 12-year-old sister was taken to the second floor and raped.
They then shot all four family members and left thinking they were all dead. The young siblings managed to survive while their parents were dead instantly. They left their home and sought help afterwards.
In an interview with The Christian Post, Douglass, now 48, said that what happened to him didn’t make him turn away from his faith.
“I certainly never considered abandoning my faith. There were so many ways that I saw God's hands at work during the time and throughout the time since then. There were definitely times when I was angry with God.”
When he and his sister left the house seeking for help he realized that none of that would’ve been possible without God’s hand at work. Although he doesn’t really understand the reason why it happened, he held on to life knowing that there was a reason why he and his sister survived.
“I have shouted out to God asking Him why would He let this happen but the answer always came back saying ‘I’m with you, I’m closer to you now that I have ever been to you.’”
He added, “God has been true to His word. I have a family.”
In 1990 he was elected as the youngest state senator in Oklahoma when he was only 27 years old. He pushed for legislation allowing crime victims to witness executions, which allowed him and his sister to watch poison flow into the veins of Steven Hatch.
The men were caught in 1980 and were sentenced to death. But for about 16 years the siblings had to go to the court to testify and over and over again what had happened.
In 1995, Douglass requested for a chance to talk with Glen Ake. That moment was recounted in his film and proved to be one of the most crucial scenes. When asked how he felt during that scene he said, “It was much worse than what I thought it would be. It was very brutal. It is something I never want to do again.”
Because he had come from a family that emphasized the power of forgiveness, he wanted to reflect his parents’ life. But “by the time I was walking in that meeting, forgiveness was the last thing I was thinking about; I was angry,” he recalled.
Douglass managed to forgive him and remembers feeling as if he could breathe again.
“When I told him I forgave him, I remember falling back on the chair and literally feeling like my body was full with water and it was poison. I felt like the water was flooding out of the room and it was so surreal.”
“After 15 years, I felt like I could breathe again. I was almost hyperventilating because of that feeling. When I walked outside, the leaves on the trees were greener, the sky bluer, all of my senses were heightened.”
The title “Heaven’s Rain” is based on a quote from Matthew (“He sends the rain on the just and the unjust”) and from William Shakespeare ("The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven").
The film demonstrates that faith and forgiveness is more powerful than anyone could ever imagine.
“Healing and forgiveness is a process,” Douglass concluded. “Sometimes we just have to say ‘Lord, I'm willing to forgive but I'm not ready to forgive now’ and truly be honest with yourself. I think that God can honor that and work that in our hearts to ultimately get us to the place where we can forgive.”