After he lay below the surface of an ice-covered Missouri lake for 15 minutes in mid-January, doctors didn't give John Smith much chance to live, let alone be honing his summer league basketball skills.
Nor is his survival the only startling element of this miraculous story. After rescue workers pulled him from the icy lake about 40 miles west of St. Louis, the teenager spent another half hour without a pulse.
Soon after John's mother, Joyce, walked into his emergency room ward, Dr. Kent Sutterer told her she could approach John's bed. But the doctor didn't reveal he was about ready to pronounce the time of her son's death.
That announcement never came. After feeling the coldness of John's feet, his mother recognized that God represented her only hope. The member of First Assembly of God of St. Peters decided to put Bible teacher and author Beth Moore's teaching on the power of life and death residing in the tongue into action.
Less than a minute after praying, "Holy God, please send your Holy Spirit to save my son," she watched with joy as a voice rang out, "I've got a pulse!"
"It's hard to put into words," Joyce says of the impact of her prayer. "I've seen miracles happen my whole life. My parents were personal friends of Oral Roberts' family and I grew up in tent revivals. I know God is the God of the impossible, but to see Him answer you at your point of need is awesome."
Dr. Sutterer, who treated Smith before a rescue team airlifted him to a St. Louis children's hospital, says the event resonates with a supernatural aura. When the emergency room physician placed his patient in the helicopter, the ER doctor expected Smith to suffer from unrecoverable brain damage before dying. A reasonable hypothesis, since brain cells can start to wither after five minutes without oxygen.
"I will never be the same again because of the experience," says Dr. Sutterer, who has practiced direct patient care since 1998. "The medical expert in me still knows that this case is not something which I will ever expect someone to survive. Never in my wildest expectations did I expect that I would be having a normal conversation with this young man within two weeks."
Smith, too, was shocked when he awoke in Cardinal Glennon Medical Center, his best friend holding his hand. Groggy from the powerful sedative used to keep him still, once he regained awareness his mother explained what had happened.
Every time the youth went for a breathing treatment or other procedure, Smith listened to music by Third Day, especially the tune, I Need a Miracle. He prayed often and thanked God for his life, keeping his friends safe, and bringing him through the ordeal.
"I think He's doing a movement in me," says John, a freshman at Living Word Christian School in St. Peters. "I think He wants me to use this as a way to show people that even when He doesn't show up right away, He's still there and not to lose faith in Him."
Accounts of Raisings
Was John Smith resurrected from the dead?
His pastor, Jason Noble, thinks so, saying it sparked a wave of supernatural activity at First Assembly of St. Peters. The same week Smith nearly drowned, a long-time church member who had suffered a stroke regained consciousness three days after a call for prayer went out on Facebook.
Soon after, two members were healed of cancer. A man who tore ligaments in his foot laid down his crutches the day after Noble received a word of wisdom on a Sunday morning that the man would be healed. A pastor in the Seattle area until relocating to Missouri last August, Noble compares the event that touched off this wave to the gospel accounts of Jesus raising Jairus' daughter.
"It's the first time I've ever seen someone raised from the dead and healed," Noble says. "We've prayed ever since we got here that the Lord would do miracles. It's bolstered the faith of the whole church.
"When a church is praying, God will show up. Never underestimate the power of a praying church and openness to the Holy Spirit and what God wants to do. We've called it a tapestry of miracles you cannot deny."
Smith's survival has stirred such excitement at the hospital that SSM Health showed a video of his story at this spring's annual professional development seminar for its 13,000 employees in the St. Louis area.
This remarkable story is only the latest in a string of reported modern-day resurrections that will soon receive renewed attention across the U.S. In addition to this fall's premiere of the movie, 90 Minutes in Heaven, mid-September will bring the release of the Touching Heaven book by Palm Beach, Florida cardiologist Chauncey Crandall. Dr. Crandall's first book, Raising the Dead, describes him praying for a patient who returned to life after he had flat-lined.
"It's phenomenal, isn't it?" asks Don Piper, whose 90 Minutes book has sold more than 7 million copies in 46 languages since 2004. "I think the accounts have always been there; we just haven't talked about them. I think God is doing some of His best stuff now. Because of the communication world we live in, it's easier for these accounts to circulate."
Worldwide, they have surfaced for years, but are accelerating through online video posts and traveling evangelists who claim to specialize in resurrection.
The Wagner Institute of Global Awakening offers an online course on raising the dead. It was also the topic of evangelist Reinhard Bonnke's 2014 book describing the 2001 raising of an African man.
The leader of a ministry in a nation whose government is hostile to Christianity says resurrections have helped plant or strengthen churches there, and save others from extinction. "The raising of the dead is one of the premiere signs," says the missionary, who asked to remain anonymous. "We checked and found five verifiable cases. There were several more, but there was no way to verify them."
Members of Shalom Christian Community in the southeastern Brazil city of Uberlandia, Minas Gerais, are still rejoicing over the 2012 recovery of teenager Mariana de Silova.
Robin Dias, a pastor at the church, says the girl was struck by a speeding motorcycle while crossing a busy street with her brother and mother, Gisele. The impact fractured Mariana's skull and a leg.
When they arrived, Dias says rescue workers couldn't find a pulse. That's when Gisele asked God to send an angel to help. Soon after, her cell group leader arrived and the two women rebuked the spirit of death, saying, "Resurrecting power of Jesus come!"
"At this moment Mariana began to breathe," says Dias, who attributes prayer to also healing the girl of double vision and problems walking. "The Lord's name has been greatly glorified for raising her from the dead and restoring her to perfect health."
In South Africa, Surprise Sithole—international director of pastors for U.S.-based IRIS Global—has observed eight raisings. The thousands of pastors he oversees in the region have reported several hundred.
Among them is a startling experience that occurred in 2005 as Sithole traveled to Zimbabwe with four other pastors to screen the Jesus movie. Sithole noticed a man walking ahead of their vehicle, yet they never overtook him.
When they arrived at the village and set up for the showing, a couple came with their 2-year-old child, weeping because the child had stopped breathing. Since the pastors with Sithole didn't believe in praying for the dead, he knelt with the couple.
Before he could say anything, Sithole sensed a presence approaching from behind. He turned around and looked, but saw nothing. It happened a second time, then a third.
"The third time I realized the shadow of the man behind me was the man who had been walking on the road," the pastor says. "As soon as I recognized that, the child was breathing. After the child raised, we said a prayer of thanks."
Searching for Evidence
While such accounts may seem far-fetched, Randy Clark says when witnesses tell stories of people who came to life after having no pulse, locked eyes and a rigid body, even skeptical Westerners would agree resurrections had occurred.
The founder of Global Awakening has videoed numerous accounts in Third World nations, where he says people are more open to the possibility of the supernatural.
"If you're not in a place where there are hospitals and few doctors are around, you have to know what death looks like," says Clark, who wrote his doctoral dissertation on miraculous healings.
"I believe (these testimonies) are true because it explains the growth of the church in Muslim areas. I've been in villages where that is (the reason) so many of them have become Christians. But do I have medical evidence? I don't."
Chauncey Crandall insists he does. In Raising the Dead, the Palm Beach heart doctor relates the story of Jeff Markin, a patient whose vital signs stopped as he lay in the emergency room.
Although declared dead at 8:05 a.m. on Sept. 20, 2006, as the cardiologist wrote his report he sensed God telling him to pray for Markin. Doing so under his breath, Crandall concluded, "If he does not know You as his Lord and Savior, raise him from the dead now, in Jesus' name."
Shortly after, when the ER doctor walked back into the room, Crandall asked him to shock Markin with a defibrillator one more time. Not only did Markin come to life, the week after he said a prayer of conversion with his cardiologist. Today the 62-year-old man is active in his church's men's discipleship program and works with the youth group.
"Theoretically I'm supposed to be a vegetable, but God had a different plan for me," says Markin, who had an out-of-body experience during his four days of unconsciousness.
"As much as anything, it's the miracle of being reborn and moving through that," Markin says of the significance of this incident. "It's non-stop. The roots of my testimony are still growing and still spreading."
The year after Markin's bypass operation, Crandall presented evidence of this incident to a network of Christian doctors in Miami. The meeting received national attention after journalist Dan Wooding wrote a story about it.
Despite the interest it stirred, Crandall says most doctors are reluctant to verify such incidents in medical reports because of the fear of being labeled a "quack." In Europe, he says it is illegal for doctors and nurses to even pray for the sick in Jesus' name. So anyone there who documents the kind of miracle he observed risks losing their job.
Still, Crandall finds it worth risking ostracism and the possible loss of patient referrals.
Recently an eye surgeon approached him and told Crandall his book helped him appreciate taking authority and praying for patients, commenting, "You're opening my eyes to the kingdom of God."
"God uses miracles to show people He's real," Crandall says. "It's powerful. When a doctor proclaims the Lord can heal them, deliver them from demons, and raise the dead back to life, it rattles people. Coming out of a doctor's mouth, they believe it and give their life to Christ."
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