Dovel’s first near-death experience happened when he was 12 years old and was trying to swim the entire length of a pool underwater. As he surfaced, his friends playfully pushed him back under. “I was completely out of breath,” he said.
“Theinstant that I took the breath of water in, a white light engulfed me, and I flashed back over my life.
In that moment, Dovel says, a “beautiful creature” came out of the light. “It was Jesus Christ and he grabbed me by the wrist, and said you’ve got to go back,” Dovel said. “I’m instantly on the side of the pool, on my back.”
The next decade became a constant cycle of booze and cocaine-fueled binges, recreating that euphoric boyhood memory of heaven.
Dovel bought his favorite gin and three bottles of sleeping pills, and then drove to a remote bird sanctuary near his home in Anchrage, Alaska. “It was extremely hot and very humid and dense,” he said. “Just smoke coming out of the ground.” But the experience of begging to be released from the pain was the most painful of all.
“I was on my hands and face, weeping, weeping. Not just crying but weeping for Jesus to save me,” he said. And Dovel believes that he was eventually saved. “I was pretty much lifted up by the back of my neck, and slowly, very slowly, lifted out of this pit. I remember I was still weeping, and a voice told me, ‘You have work to do, and if you continue to live the life you are, this is where you are going to spend eternity.”