Earlier that year I’d attended a national booksellers convention with another great friend and mentor, Richard Mull. I had a stack of booklets I’d created for the occasion holding the first two chapters of my book, Life Resurrected. Within those first two chapters are a handful of resurrection testimonies.
At one point a man wandered over to our booth and thumbed through the booklet. He struck up a conversation and let me know he was going to give my booklet to a friend of his who was producing a documentary on the resurrection power of God.
I watched him amble away and didn’t give it much thought. I was a Firefighter/Paramedic who never intended to write a book. I didn’t really know what to do or what to expect.
But a few months later I’m listening to an excited voice explain his vision for helping the world understand that God still wants to raise the dead. Johnny told me that a friend of his (the one from the conference) gave him my book and encouraged him to call me.
Johnny recalled thinking, yeah, right. But then he read the first two chapters and exclaimed, “Holy cow! I need to call this guy.”
Johnny’s vision and heart for people blew me away. He let me know that he wanted to feature me in the documentary along with four other amazing men of God, and wanted to know if it’d be okay to come to Florida and get some footage of me at work.
Kara and I had some praying to do. Being involved in the project meant making ourselves vulnerable in ways neither of us had. The fear of man (what will people think, do, etc.) weighed heavy on us. Our names were going to be out there, connected to a topic many people are wary of, and we were scared. But we both felt like the fear of man wasn’t a good reason to say, no. We felt like God was holding the door open asking us if we could trust him enough to step through it. So, we prayed for an extra does of courage and joined Johnny in his vision, which really lined up with our vision in a lot of ways.
Honestly, I thought Johnny was nuts to think my department would approve. But by April of 2013, he’d come and gone with all the footage he needed, and I realized the favor of God was resting on the project, DeadRaiser, in a powerful way.
I met the rest of the team in May of 2013 and we quickly bonded in our shared love for Jesus and others. We got together a few more times that year before launching a national tour in October.
My work schedule prevented me from joining the tour everywhere but Florida but the feedback and testimonies were inspiring. It wasn’t easy and there were hiccups along the way, but lives were being changed and hearts opened. The message of a good God who wants to raise the dead was going forth.
Things wound down after the tour and God re emphasized a word he’d previously laid on my heart. That was, “Don’t make anyone else’s agenda your agenda. Be careful not to chase anyone else’s vision.”
Kara had sensed God speaking the same thing to her. God was explaining that the team had come together for the project, but it didn’t necessarily mean we would be connected in all things. God has different visions for different people and while remaining connected, we each began to walk the specific path he laid out for us.
For me that meant being a Firefighter/Paramedic, author, and blogger. It meant different things to the others guys. But it was clear to Kara and I that we weren’t supposed to force any of our paths together. If we were to come together again for something else it would be God doing that work.
In the summer of 2014, Johnny contacted let us know he’d been in contact with a production company out of Seattle, Screaming Flea, who wanted to produce a reality show based on the documentary.
Again, Kara and I had some serious praying to do. These decisions were not no brainers for us by any means. I considered my job at risk by my involvement in the documentary and moving forward in this opportunity wouldn’t make things easier.
We fasted for five days seeking an answer. On the fifth day God showed me a vision. Two roads split off from each other. I could see down the left side to where the grass was green and everything was comfortable. On the right a canyon separated the road, and I couldn’t see how things were on the other side of the gap.
God began to explain that if we chose the left side he would bless us and walk with us and bring as much joy to our lives as he could. He would exalt us where possible and provide the things important to us, things lying on our hearts.
Though the right side was hidden, the explained everything true of the left side was true of the right. With one potential difference. The kingdom impact. The right side held a potential for a much greater kingdom impact than the left. But he let me know the decision was up to us. Either way, we would be blessed.
I blinked and realized that for the previous four days Kara and I had been trying to hear a ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ But there was no right or wrong answer. He wasn’t interested in telling us what to do but instead letting us know that we had a choice. It was up to us. After much deliberation we decided take the steps toward Screaming Flea and the reality show they envisioned.
In the winter of that same year, Kara and I received word that Destination America had purchased the show and production would start in the spring of 2015 for a six episode first season.
Unfortunately, not everyone from the documentary was able to move forward with the reality show. So, we grieved the loss deeply, and stepped forward into what we felt God had laid out for us.
I have been incredibly blessed through this journey that continues today. The film crew and producers God brought together are amazing men and women with vision and a deep desire to produce meaningful and life changing content. I’ve formed relationships with each one, and care about them deeply.
The people I’ve met and the testimonies they’ve shared have unraveled some religion in me I didn’t even know was there. As a result, I’ve grown closer to Jesus, which is the daily passion of my heart.
My prayer is that your heart will be touched by the mighty love of God as you watch the show and join us on this exciting journey. We are eagerly anticipating testimonies of lives being changed by his goodness, of death being defeated physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
I vividly remember the night DeadRaiser premiered at a local church we once attended regularly. It was October 31, 2013. I had already battled extensively with fear in regards to what people might think about our involvement. But now, here I sat in the church auditorium surrounded by family, friends, and church acquaintances. Were they going to judge us? Call us heretics? Think we’re crazy? Did we make the wrong decision to be involved?
Anxiety welled up to a boiling point as we sat watching. I felt pretty close to how some describe panic attacks. I finally got up and walked around outside while praying.
I’d like to say I completely defeated my fear during that time, but I’d be lying. I did, however, make it through that night without having a panic attack, and continued moving forward in faith that God had his hand heavily on the project.
I am now extremely excited to press on through this mysterious journey. I have no doubt that God will bless people in amazing, and miraculous ways through, Project Afterlife. God has been clear from the day we received that first phone call that we are to take one step at a time. We will continue to pray through each step as they come and hope each of you will pray for us as we take these steps of faith.
Many blessings and thanks for walking with us during this exciting time!
Jesse and Kara Birkey