Desperate Circumstances Often Create Serious Pray-ers

When I was an earliteen one of my heroes was a Christian medic by the name of Keith Argraves. A couple of reasons. First, he was sent to Europe during World War II, was captured by the Nazis and transported to an internment camp in a boxcar. The part of that story I liked was that he took his pocket knife and cut a hole in the end of the train car and escaped. I mean, he was one tough dude.

The other reason is that he had volunteered to become a paratrooper. That meant he would stand at the open door of a perfectly good airplane and jump out. That takes courage. I know that’s true because I did it. Different era; different circumstances. For reasons I don’t remember, we wanted to make a movie of someone jumping out of an airplane. The team chose me. For reasons I don’t remember, I accepted.

I pretty much survived the jump, even though I landed with my chute entangled in a small tree. For reasons I do remember, I vowed never to do it again.

Keith Argraves did it hundreds of times. He was a medic who refused to carry a gun, choosing rather to help people heal rather than shooting them. He and his unit would be dropped behind enemy lines to blow up bridges, destroy communication systems, take over airfields. Getting back to safety seemed to have been almost an afterthought. Including to the US Military.

Argraves was captured and spent nearly three years seeking to out- smart and out-maneuver his captors. A pint of water every three days, soup consisting primarily of beet leaves; he lost sixty pounds. Solitary confinement, dysentery, below freezing temperatures, sleeping on a concrete floor with no blanket…it’s difficult to describe the inhumane treatment. He watched hundreds die, some violently, some from suicide, some by starvation.

G W Chambers wrote a book about him in the 1940’s. As I read it I still recall the sense of horror I felt at watching man’s inhumanity to man unfold in Keith’s story. I remember wondering how anyone could survive.

I was honored to meet Keith in Walla Walla, WA, after the war. He had returned home, married his childhood sweetheart and regained his health. Everywhere he went he was asked to tell his story because it was saturated with miracles. He still carried the little New Testament that had been his strength through his entire saga. He loved to tell how God had rescued him and preserved his life through three years of indescribable tragedy. He prayed as few men I have ever heard pray. Desperate circumstances often create serious pray-ers. I learned that from Keith Argraves.

By Don Jacobsen (

Written by Diane Levy


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