In Part Two of a two-part interview with Joyce and John Smith and pastor Jason Noble, readers will see the way that the resurrection of John Smith was only the beginning for a church seeking God’s radical moving in the world. [If you missed the first half of the interview, click here.]
Joyce’s faith wasn’t born in the moment of the accident, having been founded in the world of sawdust floors and revivals at the feet of Oral Roberts. Watching miracles happen made Joyce believe they could happen, but now, as part of one, she’s humbled that God would trust her family to tell the story.
“It’s not that we’re special but God trusted us to steward this message, the message that God still does miracles and raises people from the dead. The world seems so hopeless and God shows up and keeps doing miracles,” Joyce proposed, as Jason agreed.
“It’s easy for me to believe,” he interjected. “I’ve seen miracles before. Maybe not to this level but i’ve seen God completely touch people. I’ve encouraged people to believe God could do it and then seen it happen.”
“There were times during the event that I sat down and talked to God and said, ‘This boy cannot die. We need you to show up and be who you are. We’re desperate for you.’ That’s one of the things that comes out of this, is asking people, ‘where do you go when you’re desperate?’”
The people of First Assembly Church have become part of that blessed group of witnesses who are now compelled to tell the story, to apply the principles, and to experience more blessings. In fact, Noble points to the more than a hundred healings that happened in their church since John’s accident and recovery. They’re focused on wrestling with the question of whether God’s movement in the New Testament can happen today, because they’ve seen evidence in the affirmative, and asking others to do the same.
“One pastor called up and told me that he was questioning if God still moved like that,” Joyce recalled. “When it happened, it turned him on his ear. When this happened, it turned him on his ear, and changed his attitude and that of his church.”
“God is still in the healing and life giving business.”
That life-giving is born out in the life of a seventeen-year-old young man who is hearing stories about his own experience from people who watched it while he was unconscious. John admits that it’s difficult to hear some of the stories, even years after he endured the difficult process of learning to walk or holding a pencil again for the first time. But the blend of Christian faith, strong familial ties, and a deep love for the Rocky movies spurred him on to push forward. “Once I was awake, I wanted to defy all odds,” John remembered, “I always knew my God was greater than any injury or anything going wrong with my body.”
Now, the whole family is under the spotlight with the book’s publication and news that Franklin will be working it forward as a movie. John admits that he’s not used to interacting with strangers, wanting to shake his hand, touch him, or pose for a picture. But he’s clear that this is the path God has given him, and he’s supposed to use it to glorify his Creator, who has given him life not once but twice. It’s all part of the story audiences will soon read, and then see, even as the first witnesses to the miracle admit that seeing it play out on screen will be even harder than reading it on the page.
“We’re very thankful for Devon Franklin,” Jason shared. “He’s very much - our goal is to not embellish but tell how it happened - he’s very sympathetic to that. He has a heart for the story. We do probably want to see the story before anyone else because it’s hard. Even reading through the book, we find ourselves moved, crying.”
Joyce has read the first draft of the screenplay, under strict instruction by Franklin to give her brutally honest feedback. She admitted that it’s not exactly how it happened, not exactly in line with the book, but that the end result will let people visualize what her family has seen and experienced.
The family joked about who might play them, with Joyce acknowledging a fondness for African-American actress Octavia Spencer. Of course, playing Smith would take some heavy makeup, making that casting decision unlikely, but it’s the kind of gravitas Joyce hopes for even as John admits he doesn’t care who handles his role on screen. For all of the principals involved, it comes back to knowing that their story will honor God, and bring the glory for this miracle back to him.
In fact, John sums up their story fittingly as our time comes to a close, for now. It’s a reminder that this story began with God, even before the accident, and it’s God who will work more miracles, in the lives of the readers of the book and the audiences of the film. “I’m not big on fame,” he said as we signed off. “I’d love to settle in Ohio on my aunt and uncle’s farm one day.”
“But right now I realize that I’m part of God’s story and we want to give him all the honor and glory.”
The Impossible arrives in bookstores and online November 7, with a cinematic version expected in theaters in 2018.