FRESNO, California (KGPE) – This is the second to last episode in my series. Thanks to everyone who submitted stories. You all are amazing!

A Walking Miracle Heaven Is For Real

It’s Inevitable

I am honored to know one of the greatest pastors in a generation. I am blessed by his prayers, companionship, and friendship. He’s a prolific writer, a gifted preacher, a biblical scholar, and former Chaplain of the US Senate.

He’s a towering intellect and yet humble and approachable.
On more than one occasion he said to me: “I’m am just a dying pastor preaching to a dying world.”

For someone so renowned, it was a disarming and humbling statement. But it’s true.

At the end of this road called life, there is a tollbooth that we all must pass through. And sometimes that tollbooth appears suddenly out of nowhere.

Meet Stephanie Smith

In October 2009 she died in a car crash.

She says she died, heard God’s voice and saw a relative she’d never met before.  And then, in what seemed like an instant she was back on earth.

Here’s the story she shared with me.

“Hi Ken, I am now 29 years old and I live in Madera. I had a horrible car accident on October 15th, 2009. I am a walking miracle. I was on my way home from Mariposa, California on La Grange Road. I ended up swerving and over correcting and flipping numerous times off a bridge.”

A farmer in the field

Stephanie told me a man who was working nearby on his tractor in an orchard saw the whole thing.

“His name is Chad Richards. He was first on the scene. I was able to recite my mother’s phone number.  I remember holding my hands under my chin because my jaw had been broken.”

A Praying Paramedic

“Matthew Thiel was a first responder that prayed over me and has since told me his side of this story as a first responder’s perspective. I ended up breaking my eye sockets both cheekbones my nose my jaw and I had a left compound fracture to my ankle.”


“I don’t remember flipping or the pain. The only thing I remember is talking to Chad and then nothing. I do know for a fact I died and saw the light. It was a very bright white light but didn’t hurt your eyes to look at it.”


“I heard millions of beautiful wind chimes or music that sounds like wind chimes. I heard a deep male voice tell me Stephanie it is not your time you need to go home, spoken by my maker God. I also recall seeing my Grandma Nancy whom I have never met.”

“My passenger airbag went off even though I was the only one in the vehicle. I had told responder’s that I had seen my grandma as well as talk to God. I was airlifted to Modesto Trauma Center and put in a medically-induced coma.”

Faith and Gratitude

“I am so thankful to be alive and even more thankful I am able to share my story and tell everyone Heaven is for real.”

Heaven is for real.

Is it?

Google can answer a lot of questions, but not that one.
Siri and Alexa don’t know either. But Stephanie does and I believe her. She’s faced the inevitable and has seen the light. She’s a believer. Her faith is unshakable. Stephanie, I believe you are a walking miracle here to spread the word.

It’s inevitable

In September I attended the memorial service for my dear Pastor friend. 

I miss his voice, his prayers, and his laughter. I miss his presence. His life’s work and passion were telling people about Jesus and pointing the way to heaven.

There was no doubt in his mind that heaven is for real. 
None.   With all my heart I believe he’s in heaven right now. 
One day, I plan to join him.  And, like Stephanie maybe I’ll meet some long-lost relatives of my own.

During the memorial service, I was reminded of another phrase that he used to say about the dearly departed. He would simply say they have “graduated to Heaven.” What a Blessed Assurance that there is hope beyond the grave.

Thank you, Stephanie, for your glimpse beyond the tollbooth and the courage to share your story. In the grand scale of things, it’s perhaps the best second chance story this side of Heaven. Eternal redemption.

Death is inevitable, but as my pastor friend would say there is One who has conquered death and He’s waiting to welcome his children home in Heaven. He also preached that Jesus has already paid the toll for His children.

It’s inevitable and yet there is a light.

~ Ken

Our community. Our Valley. Our second chances.