The Impossible's Real-Life Survivors Tell Their Story (Part I)

In Part One of a two-part interview with Joyce and John Smith and pastor Jason Noble, readers can hear the firsthand account of John’s fateful accident, and the incredible way that God brought him back from the dead. 

The accident happened on the morning of January 19, 2015. At approximately 11:30 a.m., John Smith ventured onto the frozen crust of Lake St. Louise with two friends after a sleepover, fell through the ice, and was held under the water for fifteen minutes. Taken to the hospital, John’s loss of life was a foregone conclusion, until his mother Joyce Smith arrived with a completely different expectation. In the upcoming book The Impossible- The Miraculous Story of a Mother’s Faith and Her Child’s Resurrection, Joyce Smith recounts how her son died, only to be resurrected against the understanding of doctors and experts who observed him. 

Optioned for film through 20th Century Fox by executive producer DeVon Franklin (Heaven is for Real, Miracles from Heaven), the story borders on unbelievable - it is in fact, a twenty-first century miracle of Biblical proportions. In a Christian Cinema exclusive, I caught up with Joyce and John Smith, and their pastor Jason Noble nearly three years later to discuss their experience, the book, and the film in development. 

“It was just a day off for school for the kids, with a basketball game the day before,” remembered Joyce. “The three boys decided that they would go down to the lake one more time. I didn’t know that when I was arranging to go pick John up, but when [John’s friend’s mother] called, she sounded off. I asked what was wrong.”

“Cindy said that ‘there’s been an accident. John fell through the ice and they pulled him out of the water and he doesn’t have a heartbeat. At about ten til 12 they pulled him out and we guess he was in the water from 11:30 to 11:32 a.m. He was under the water for fifteen minutes. When you get that telephone call and you hear that, I felt like i was moving in slow motion and everything around me wasn’t real. You want to get into a mode when you can move, where you can do something.”

Joyce Smith shared this with me, matter of factly, succinctly, in a way that told me she’d shared this story again and again. It’s not without feeling, but it’s controlled. It’s the way you tell the story about something bad that happened, after the fact, after the good has happened, too. 

At St. Joseph’s West Hospital, Pastor Jason Noble was one of the dozens of people from First Assembly Church of St. Peters who represented the good. Six months into his employment at the church, he now stood in the waiting room with other members of his church waiting for Joyce to emerge from the emergency room. Little did he know what kind of journey he was about to become embark on with the Smiths over the next week, and the days that followed. 

“When Joyce got called back into the ER, John had been without a pulse for an hour,” Noble chimed in. “They were basically saying they’d warm him up to call time of death. The moment she walked into the room, she began the prayers that would call God down and make a difference. There wasn’t room for any other kind of prayer. We’ve been told no one ever goes thirty-five  minutes without time of death. God was even in that moment, saying, ‘that’s not going to happen.’ From that time forward, all of our prayers were for John’s healing.”

Inside the ER, Joyce was meeting the charge nurse, Alex Gibbons, who was checking John’s pulse while Keith Terry performed CPR on a young man everyone in the room was considering a body more than a person. “Three weeks ago, Alex told us that when I walked in, they had done everything and she was asking doctors what else they could do,” Joyce shared. “She turned to the doctor and said, ‘five minutes’. They had found out that I was at the hospital and they said they’d wait. When i walked in there, my mindset was that God was going to do a miracle.”

At First Assembly Church, Joyce had been participating in the Believing God Bible study by Beth Moore, which hinges on the statement that “I believe God is who He says He is, and I believe He can do what He says He can do.” As she walked into the ER, Joyce was already telling - telling! - God that He couldn’t have her son, that she needed Him to take care of her situation. And then she saw her cold, dead son lying on the table. 

“When I got ahold of John’s feet, i just started praying. I was praying loudly that the whole ER could hear me,” Joyce said, “but I thought i was praying quietly. Alex had her fingers on John’s artery to see if there was anything and when I walked in, praying, she felt something move up his body and pushed her away. Two other people working on John felt it, too. No one wanted to talk about it because it was so surreal. The next day, Alex went to check the records because she said that she knew if he was alive than he would be fine. The record didn’t say that the patient was deceased, so she went to Keith and asked if he’d felt it, too.”

John Smith’s resurrection happened on that table, but there was a long road to recovery, even brain activity, that began in that moment. The Smiths and their pastor saw firsthand the push and pull of faith and science in that hospital, and ever since, as doctors continued to expect failure. Even after one of the supervising doctors announced it was a miracle when John woke up on the third day. 

Does that sound familiar?

“It really is a tapestry of miracles put together,” Jason proposed. “It’s one of the most documented modern-day miracles. John could have died from so many things going on with his body. For instance, his pH was below the necessary 6.8 when he was brought back; all of the organs were failing.”

Added Joyce, “Nothing in his body should’ve sustained life.”

Stay tuned for the second half of the story, where the Smiths and Pastor Noble explain how the miracle has impacted their community.