The year was 1943. A bitter winter had settled over Camp Barkeley, Texas, where thousands of young military men began a journey — one that would change their lives.
But before recruits could join American forces overseas in a war to halt the Nazis or bring down the Japanese invaders, another enemy crept into camp — influenza. Attacking at random, the enormous 5,000 bed hospital filled with soldiers struck down with the stealthy sickness.
However, it’s one 20-year-old U. S. Army private whose story still resonates today. In the book Return from Tomorrow, George G. Ritchie, who went on to become a medical doctor, tells his life after death account that has captivated thousands of readers.
I still remember reading the story when Guideposts magazine first offered the book publication to readers in 1978. Since then, I’ve reread it several times, always feeling the reassurance and awe of what waits for us beyond this life.
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Dr. Richie tells how he died from pneumonia in the Army hospital and nine minutes later returned to life. But it’s the journey after he stepped out of the physical world and into eternity that is riveting.
From the moment the intense bright light enters his room, Richie recognizes the radiant presence to be the Son of God, filled with power. Even more was the unconditional love.
“An astonishing love. A love beyond my wildest imagining,” Dr. Richie writes. “This love knew every unlovable thing about me — the quarrels with my stepmother, my explosive temper, the sex thoughts I could never control, every mean selfish thought and action since the day I was born — and accepted and loved me just the same.”
His clinical death and encounter with Jesus Christ left this young man forever changed from a self-centered existence to one filled with altruism and love. Later, as an accomplished physician, he founded the Universal Youth Corps which became the inspiration for the Peace Corps, offered medical service without pay to the poor and reached out with a helping hand through charities.
By walking to death’s door, Richie’s life opened to a new way of living: “learning to love in this world to prepare us well for the next.”
A U.S. Army veteran and physician in private practice and now retired, Dr. Richie has given us a firsthand account of his amazing journey that changed his life. Perhaps after reading Return from Tomorrow, it will change yours.