By Mark Ellis –
At a summer swim party with her youth group after church, the unthinkable happened to Steffani Besch. A young prankster gave her a shove as she stood next to the pool, she hit her head on the edge, lost consciousness, and spent 30 minutes at the bottom of the pool.
At the time, Steffani, 13, lived with her family in Dodge City, Kansas. “Dad had just taken a new job in Longmont Colorado, so he told us the night before this happened that we were moving in two weeks, so that’s how the swimming party came about,” she recounts.
“The next day was Sunday, July 29, 1979 and I told my youth group we were moving.”
After the service, eight members of her youth group drove from Dodge City to Jetmore because their local pool was closed for maintenance.
It was a hot summer day and the pool was overly crowded. Someone let in more people than the legal limit and overloaded the chlorine, so the water appeared cloudy.
There was a frenzy of splashing and activity, with many kids playing tag and other games. Steffani and her friend Tami swam toward the deep end.
After a time, the lifeguards blew a whistle for a 10-minute break and everyone got out of the water. Following the break Steffani and Tami stood next to the edge of the pool and were talking. They didn’t notice their friend Tad sneak up behind them with mischief in his eyes.
He pushed both girls into the water. Tami went out far enough to clear the edge, but Steffani’s head snapped back and hit the cement.
“It knocked me out, but nobody saw. The next thing I’m in the bottom of the pool.”
She didn’t even let out a scream! Amidst the jam-packed frenzy of kids swimming, nobody noticed her body drifting toward the bottom.
When Tami got out she looked for Steffani and saw her underwater, but thought she was swimming to the other side. “She waited and waited and when I didn’t come back, then she couldn’t see me anymore. She didn’t know where I went.”
She checked with other kids in the youth group. Finally she had a feeling something wasn’t right. She went to the female lifeguard on duty at the time.
“I can’t find my friend and I’m afraid!” she cried out.
Incredibly, the lifeguard dismissed her. “If somebody needed help I would have seen it,” the lifeguard said brusquely. “You need to go and search for her.”
Tami went to the other kids in the youth group and shared her mounting alarm.
The pool drain was so strong it pulled Steffani to the bottom and held her fast to its grate. “Kids were playing tag and stuff so it looked like somebody was swimming on the very bottom of the pool. Nobody paid attention.”
But the clock was ticking. Time is critical when a person is knocked unconscious and stops breathing. According to medical professionals, permanent brain damage begins after only four minutes without oxygen, and death can occur as soon as four to six minutes later.
One of the pastors’ daughters, Laurie, yelled Steffani’s name and nobody answered.
The youth group broke into teams and began their search for Steffani throughout the sprawling complex. They went around the circumference of the pool, surveyed the baby pool, the concession stand, checked both restrooms, went outside the fenced area, and even checked on the roof because teens sometimes went up there to sunbathe.
Finally Cheri, the other pastor’s daughter, felt led to jump into the deep end. She dove as deeply as she could until it hurt her ears, but she couldn’t make it to the bottom. Without a facemask, her eyes could barely discern the shape of a body underneath her.
Thirty long minutes had passed since Steffani went missing.
Cheri burst up to the surface and cried out, “I think something is down there! I can see something.”
A young man standing nearby, the son of the local sheriff, dove in to see if he could find her. “I was curled up in the fetal position stuck on the drain at the bottom. He was able to lift me up and bring me up to the surface,” she says.
Another young man from the youth group, Dan, helped pull her out. When they stretched out her body on the pool deck they were stunned by Steffani’s appearance. Her eyes had rolled back in her head and she appeared lifeless.
Steffani’s friends began to gather around her. One by one, they began to speak the name of Jesus. “That’s the only thing they knew to do, was say the name of Jesus, while they stood there figuring out what to do,” she says.
The lifeguard attempted CPR, but it was to no avail.
Tami ran to call Steffani’s parents, Warren and AdaMarie. When Steffani’s father picked up the phone he heard Tami’s hysterical voice on the other end: “They found Steffani on the bottom of the pool! They said she’s dead, but you have to come right away. They are taking her to the hospital.”
A young woman working at the complex grabbed the phone from Tami. “It’s true what she’s telling you,” she told Steffani’s stunned father. A friend from church happened to arrive at their house as Steffani’s parents were leaving.
“When Shirley arrived my parents told her what happened and she went inside our house and prayed and interceded for my life. She prayed and cried out to God that I would live and not die and that my brain would be protected – no brain damage,” she recounts.
An ambulance transported Steffani to a small hospital nearby that doubled as a nursing facility. A doctor on call, who happened to be playing golf, was informed of the situation. The doctor was told she had already expired. “They thought I was dead. There was nothing they could do. They kept me in the hallway covered with a sheet because they didn’t know what to do.”
During the emergency, something remarkable happened to Steffani.
“I had an experience with the Lord and I literally saw my spirit leave my body and I saw my natural body on the bottom of the pool,” she recalls.
After her spirit left her body, she remembers walking across the bottom of the pool, then up the silver stairs that exit the pool.
As her spirit left the pool she looked upward. “I was looking into space and just shot through like a rocket. I went through the atmosphere. It was so fast, in the twinkling of an eye I was there.
“The next thing I know I was at the gates of heaven and there was a battle for my life. I heard Satan say she’s coming with me. I heard the Lord say no she’s not. This went back and forth three times.
Then she heard Jesus say: It is not her time yet and when it is she will be with me.
Steffani recalls the gates of heaven being very tall and white. “I remember brilliant colors. I mostly remember the feel, because there was no fear. There was such a knowing of love and that I was safe and protected. Nothing else, even the arguing over my life didn’t affect me. I knew I was safe,” she says.
Immediately after Jesus said she will be with me, Steffani opened her eyes on the hospital gurney. “It was slow motion, hard to breathe. I remember seeing my youth group. Some were leaning against the wall crying.”
Her father walked in through the doors and kneeled down briefly. Then he got up and pulled the sheet back that had been covering her face and she said, “Hi daddy,” very weakly.
“They started asking me questions and I remember saying my head hurt. I knew my name and birthdate. The nurses tried to discuss what to do with me.”
Amazingly, they released Steffani from the hospital.
“They sent me home but I would go in and out of consciousness. I remember laying in my mom and dad’s bed and feeling really weak and it hurt to breathe.”
Steffani attempted to stand up and passed out.
Alarmed by her condition, Steffani’s parents transported her to the emergency room at Dodge City Hospital. They medical staff proceeded to ask her questions: “Do you know what happened? How long were you under the water?”
When a doctor touched her head she cried out. “That’s when she found the spot. She checked and discovered I had a concussion.”
The doctor shook her head. “I don’t understand this. None of this makes sense. There is no water in her lungs.”
Steffani conveyed her difficulty breathing.
“I can tell the chlorine had to be strong,” the doctor observed, “because probably what is hurting is that you swallowed water but it went straight to your stomach. It looks raw in your stomach.”
Then Steffani startled the medical staff with an unexpected testimony. “I know what happened to me,” she said. “Jesus saved my life. He saved my life today. He gave me my life back.”
In response to her surprising words, everyone in the room clapped their hands. “We don’t have an explanation,” the doctor said. “The only thing we can say is we are going to call this a miracle.”
They kept Steffani for 24 hours of observation. Throughout the day and into the night, nurses and doctors came into her room. “I want to see this miracle,” they said.
As planned, Steffani’s family moved to Colorado in two weeks, which inhibited the spread of the story. “It was a while before I started to share my story,” she says. A few years later, she remembers sharing about it at a prayer meeting at her mother’s prompting.
“I shut down for a long time, keeping things within myself. I didn’t share it a lot because sometimes when you share it people look at you like you’re nuts,” she says.
She sought the Lord about the “argument” over her life between Jesus and Satan. She viewed Jesus as her Good Shepherd and that nothing would be able to snatch her away from His grip.
She wondered how there could be an argument if she was secure in Him.
Then Jesus impressed this on her heart: That’s where you were. You were in the palm of my hand and nothing could snatch you away from me.
“What about the arguing?” she asked.
The enemy argued for Moses’ body. That’s in Jude, He replied.
So Steffani opened the Scripture to Jude 9 and was surprised to see this passage:
“But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’”
In the last 10 years, Steffani has become more open about sharing her story. “People told me people need to know that God does miracles every single day.
“It’s not just a story; He really does raise the dead.”
If you want to know more about a personal relationship with God, go here
Steffani Besch is an associate women’s pastor at Rez Church in Loveland, Colorado. She has been married to David for 31 years and they have three grown sons. To learn more go here