Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith, media and culture (Holy Week edition):

Just in time for Easter: Breakthrough, the miraculous true-life story of a modern-day resurrection,  arrives in theaters Wednesday, April 17. In recognition of the power of the film’s message, I’m reposting an interview I did with Joyce Smith, the mother of the resurrected boy at the center of the story, that was originally published on November 10, 2017 following the publication of her book The Impossible, The Miraculous Story of a Mother’s Faith and Her Child’s Resurrection.

An amazing story of answered prayer. When Joyce Smith’s 14-year-old adopted son John fell through an icy lake in Missouri one winter morning three years ago, if could have been a tragic ending to a life cut short. Instead, it was the beginning of a miracle he, his mother Joyce and their pastor Jason Noble of First Assembly Church in St. Peters, MO grippingly shared with me earlier this week. They were in New York City to promote The Impossible: The Miraculous Story of a Mother’s Faith and a Child’s Resurrection (FaithWords/Hachette Book Group), Joyce’s just-published book (written with co-writer Ginger Kolbara) recounting the amazing story.  A dramatic film is already in the works to be helmed by producer DeVon Franklin (The Star, Miracles from Heaven, Heaven is for Real).

Here are some highlights from my conversation with Joyce.

JWK: What happened that day?

JOYCE SMITH: The day before, John had had a basketball game. Their team won. It was kind of a pivotal game for them. So, the boys wanted to have a party that night. The next day there were off from school for Martin Luther King Day which was a Monday…So, the day of (the accident)…I was going to pick John up. So, I was expecting a call from his friend’s mom…I didn’t know that the kids had gone out (to play) on the ice again (as they did the previous night). It had warmed up quite a bit. So, I called John first to see if he wanted to go to our local rec-plex to practice basketball. He said “yes.”….He no sooner hung up –because he walks and talks sometimes — then he went out on the ice where it got really thin. As soon as he hung up, the ice broke beneath him.  He fell in, he and his other friend. The other (friend) came over and tried to rescue them and help but all three ended up in (the water). Finally, one of the boys was able to self rescue, leaving John and his other friend still in the water. The ice around them as they were trying to get out was breaking off in chunks and cutting up their arms. The water was only about 40 degrees and hypothermia was starting to set in. So John and his friend tried to help each other get out. Finally, the hypothermia took over on John and he went down.

JWK: How about his friend who was still in the water?

JOYCE SMITH: He was close to (hypothermia) when the police came in. They just dropped their gun belts and went in the water — no suits, no nothing. They almost ended up being victims also. Finally, the paramedics and the fire department got there and they were able to get (John’s friend) Josh out. He was very close to going under himself. Then they started looking for John (who was submerged)…They (eventually) found John and pulled him out. What was so amazing about that was that the lake is about fifty feet deep with a muddy bottom but where they were was rock bottom and only about ten or twelve feet deep.

JWK: That was good.

JOYCE SMITH: Yes, but he was up against an ice shelf. He had gotten under the ice shelf they would have never found him. They were about a minute from going from a rescue to a recovery. If they had put (recovery) boat in the water, it would have pushed him under the ice shelf and they wouldn’t have been able find him until much later. He was under the water, we’re figuring, between fifteen and sixteen minutes…I had no idea any of this was going on (until) (Josh’s mom Cindy)…called me. I knew she was going call but I wasn’t expecting this.

I could tell when I was talking to her on the telephone  that she was upset. I said “Are you okay?” She said “No, there’s been a bad accident.” I said did you have a car accident?” She said “No.” She said the kids were out on the ice and fell in the water. They just pulled John out and he doesn’t have a  heartbeat.” It was like getting hit in the face by a two-by-four. It just takes everything out of you. It’s the call no parent ever wants to get. She told me to come to the lake, that they were working on him at the lake.

JWK: Is this when you started praying.

JOYCE SMITH: Oh, yes. I was praying very loudly to the Lord. I wanted to make sure he wasn’t not hearing me. I’m sure that the people who were passing by me in the car thought that I was losing my mind. I was on the phone trying to call people, I was praying, I was trying to get a hold of my husband…No one (I was calling) was answering. I finally got a hold of a friend of ours who called the church and told them what was going on…

…I finally got to the hospital…When I got there, of course, every parking space was taken. I frantic about getting in there. So, Cindy (who was already there) ends up parking my car. (When I got inside), I thought they would take me right back to John’s room, which they didn’t do. They put me in a small room. This sweet little nun came in and started praying with me. I had the most awesome peace when she came and started praying with me.

Finally, they told me I could go back to John’s room…I had no idea they were calling me back there because they were going to call time of death. So, the little nun came back with me and was still praying with me.

JWK: Do you know the nun’s name?

NOTE: Joyce’s answer to that question will stun you and, if you don’t already may just have you believing in miracles. It’s a twist worthy of The Twilight Zone but it’s true. In fact, everything that happens next is truly awe-inspiring.

BTW, along with the exceedingly dramatic narrative (I can see this movie in my mind), the book includes an appendix if Bible verses chosen to inspire anyone in need of miracle and/or just a little hope to carry on.

(I’m off for a week. Happy Easter, everyone!)

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11


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