The inspiring modern-day resurrection of a boy from the Midwest—dramatized in the movie Breakthrough—captivated viewers over the weekend, helping the 21st Century Fox film remain in the top six box-office attractions. Breakthrough depicts the reality drowning of 14-year-old John Smith in an iced-over Missouri lake, and his return to life after submersion in freezing water for 30 minutes.
Looking back on that fateful January day in 2015, Smith tells Fox he was running from God's call to ministry at age 14. View the interview here. The movie, it turns out, continues Smith's stated mission to share the power of the Holy Spirit as spoken by his mother in prayer over his flat-lined body four years ago.
But he's not the only one who has seen a miraculous resurrection after death.
Steffani Besch also drowned at age 13, her spirit went to heaven, and then she returned to fulfill the Lord's call to a speaking ministry that—in a big way this year—highlights her miraculous resurrection after 30 minutes stuck in fetal position on a public swimming-pool drain.
There are parallels between her story and Smith's in the book and movie—including their shared surname, Smith, before Steffani married husband David Besch. Both drowning victims remained submerged under water for at least a half hour.
In both stories, an Assembly of God (AG) minister played, well, pastoral roles. In Besch's case, Pastor Victor Unruh felt an impression by the Holy Spirit that a family in his congregation needed protective prayer covering during a Sunday-morning worship service. In John Smith's case, his AG pastor was close to him and the family before and after the drowning.
There are also differences: Besch was knocked unconscious after her head hit the concrete wall of a public swimming pool in Kansas; John Smith drowned after falling through the ice on a harsh, wintry day in neighboring Missouri.
In ministry of different kinds for over 20 years, Besch recognizes God's call on her life and on Smith's. Based on experience telling her supernatural story to thousands of people across the country, Besch offers advice for Smith's ministry beyond the success of the movie.
"I think, as with any miracle done by Jesus, it's an opportunity to lift up His name, so that people are drawn to Him," Besch said. "Whether it's a platform ministry, evangelizing on the streets or in the business world, we all have a testimony and a story to tell. So, for John, I would say seek God first and His righteousness, and everything else will added to you."
Telling her life-from-death story began with an AG youth group and, today, Besch reaches thousands through mass media, and at speaking engagements across the country as a women's pastor; John Smith's story is spreading through his mother Joyce's book, Impossible, and through the movie in English and Spanish.
In a taping scheduled to air this week, Besch appeared on God's View—a biblical spin on daytime television's The View—where Spirit-filled hosts and guests listened in awe of the heavenly conversation Besch heard before being instructed by God to return to her cold, gray body. Watch a pre-screening here.
Coinciding with the pre-Easter debut of Breakthrough—adapted from the book Impossible for the big screen—Besch's resurrection story was published recently in video, based on the title Genuine Miracles. The book is a compilation of supernatural stories. View Besch's testimony here.
Before her death in 2007, PTL Club co-host Tammy Faye Bakker broadcast pictures of Besch during an interview with her mother about Besch's drowning, heavenly visitation and resurrection.
A close friend of the program hostess, Besch's mother, AdaMarie Smith, told Bakker that as her husband lifted a white sheet from their daughter's body lying on a hospital gurney, Besch opened her eyes and said, "Hi, Daddy."
Though impossible to know how long her spirit was in heaven before Besch heard the words, "It's not your time yet," family and friends estimate a half-hour under water and another half hour at failed poolside attempts to revive her.
Witnesses believe the power of prayer by Besch's parents, a fiery, faith-filled intercessor and teens speaking Jesus' name over the body sealed the battle for her life on earth. Besch's dad, Warren Smith, remembers the emotional drive from their home in Dodge City to Jetmore, Kansas.
"I was beating the dashboard of our car during the drive, saying to God 'our daughter will live and not die,'" Warren Smith said. "I reminded God that our family prayed together at church that morning, and that I had covered my wife, Steffani and two sons with the blood of Jesus."
Pacing the floors of the Smith's home, Shirley Wiley remembers praying faith-filled prayers with her understanding, and in the Spirit as her friends Ted and Becky sped to Besch's side.
"I began to bombard heaven for Steffani's safety, insisting that she be brought back to life," said Wiley, whose multiple recoveries from personal illness fueled her boldness to pray for life without brain damage.
The youth from First Assembly of God in Dodge City, Kansas, did the only thing they knew to do—speak the name of Jesus—over their friend's dead body, both at the pool and according to Besch, who for years, meticulously gathered details from her pastors, family and friends.
Unfortunately, there was no resuscitation at the pool or during the transit of Besch's body in an ambulance without oxygen among its life-saving tools.
After her arrival at the hospital, Besch's body lay covered by a white sheet in the hallway. A doctor declared "she's gone" before he left, and her parents uncovered their daughter's lifeless body as members of the youth group looked on.
A close friend at the time of Besch's drowning, Julie Huyck, remembers her peers clustered in prayer and around a deceased teenaged girl.
The story of her friend's resurrection followed Huyck and Besch to Evangel University in Springfield, Missouri, where it was repeated many times on the AG campus during their studies there.
Another Evangel alumna, Becky Webster, recalls that she and her husband Ted were the lead car for the Smith's scary, high-speed race to the hospital. "What I remember is seeing her on a cot—in a fetal position—when we got to the hospital," said Webster, who likens herself a second mother to Steffani. The Webster's son, an AG pastor in Larned, recalls the story as well, reminding his congregation that God raises the dead, and Steffani is proof.
An associate pastor of women's ministry, Besch first shared her resurrection testimony 21 years ago before a large-group of Spirit-filled ladies in Colorado, where David and Steffani raised three sons. At the behest of pastors who had heard of the miracle informally, Besch agreed to begin telling it first at her church, and later at speaking engagements around the country where the "resurrected lady" testimony drew crowds.
In talking about the day, Besch still tears up as she recounts how her spirit climbed the silver stairs of the pool, walked a step or two, then drifted upward toward lights and colors to heaven, where she felt the palms of the heavenly Father receive her inside heaven's gate.
David Besch, a businessman, musician, minister and author, is grateful to the man who scooped his future wife off the swimming pool drain, [he says of] meeting Besch's rescuer face-to-face.
Titled Bullied to Blessed, Besch's book also mentions his wife's drowning and resurrection. Their ministry website is beschministries.com
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