When a Springfield, Missouri-area man’s friend said recently that he’d witnessed a woman’s amputated toes grow back during a prayer session at a Missouri megachurch, he and his wife “just kind of laughed it off and rolled our eyes about it.”
But the next day, the man—who said he identifies as a Christian—decided it wasn’t a laughing matter.
“They exploited her,” he told The Daily Beast.
“I am 100 percent against faith healers,” he said, asking to remain nameless so as not to create interpersonal issues around town. “…If it happened they should be able to present proof.”
So on Wednesday, he set up a website, www.ShowMeTheToes.com. In the meantime, the fracas has made national news. People across the nation have expressed strong opinions about the—admittedly, highly dubious—claim, with even the woman’s ex on Thursday describing the “miracle” to The Daily Beast as “bs.”
The uproar stems from a March 14 sermon at the James River Church. Guest Pastor Bill Johnson was in town for James River’s “Week of Power” prayer revival, preaching at its main location in Ozark. James River lead Pastor John Lindell presided over the Joplin location, where the “miracle” took place, Johnson’s office said in an email.
During Johnson’s sermon, which was being simulcast to all the church’s branches, he asked if anyone was in need of a “creative miracle.”
“I happened that evening to be talking about creative miracles that we’ve seen,” Johnson recounted in another livestreamed sermon on Sunday, asserting that he has watched prayer replace missing kidneys and cure color blindness.
That’s when 46-year-old Kristina Sue Dines spoke up. She lost the toes in 2015 when her estranged then-husband, Stephen Thompson, broke into her Joplin home with a 12-gauge shotgun and shot her multiple times. Dines, a mother of four, also lost portions of her intestines and liver. Her best friend, Carissa Gerard, died in the horrific attack. Thompson is now serving life in prison.
“I heard the word ‘creative miracles,’ and I thought, ‘Well, I certainly have a creative miracle that I might need. I need three toes to grow back,’” Dines said in a video the church posted (and later deleted) online. “The person next to me said, ‘Do you want new toes?’ and I was like, ‘Well, sure!’”
“When I did, I had to grab the person next to me and say, ‘Do you see what I see?’” she continued. “And I saw three toes that were forming.”
Johnson, a controversial figure who in 2019 attempted, unsuccessfully, to resurrect a two-year-girl who had died in her sleep, told his home congregation on Sunday that he witnessed “hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of miracles over three nights” at the Week of Power. But it was Dines’ toes that really blew him away.
“They saw the bone come, wrapped in flesh,” Johnson said. “And by morning, the toenails, everything had formed, she got three brand new toes.”
He went on to claim that one of the women praying over Dines is married to a physician, who “came and examined” Dines and verified that she had indeed grown three new toes, although no video or photographic evidence has been released. Dines, who said she never took a “before” picture of her feet, has not allowed a public inspection.
“I guess the person with the three new toes would know,” Johnson said. “But it’s also nice to have a doctor come and check things out and say, ‘Guess what? This is for real.’”
Lindell was also vocal in emphasizing how prayer made Dines’ skin change color, and that “all three toes grew” over 30 minutes, with toenails appearing “within an hour.” However, he has thus far refused to provide proof, citing “a lot of trauma in [Dines’] life.”
In a subsequent sermon at James River, Lindell doubled down, saying he’s not interested in placating the doubters and would rather spend his time “protecting sheep who are vulnerable… That’s my first concern, it’s for her. So, you know, if that bothers you, I’m sorry.” (Dines did not respond to multiple interview requests by The Daily Beast.)
Johnson’s office said he would not comment on the toes specifically, referring The Daily Beast to Lindell and the Joplin campus. Lindell did not respond to requests for comment sent via James River Church.
Many are, understandably, unsure.
“Are people seriously this stupid?” one Missouri resident commented on a parishioner’s Facebook post about the supposed miracle.
Another wrote, “It’s 2023, no one took video of the toes growing? Smells like bull to me.”
Ryan Murdock, who divorced Dines in 2012, told The Daily Beast via text on Thursday, “It’s bs for one.”
“I mean, if you’re a rational person,” Murdock continued, adding that Dines never made any similarly outlandish claims during the years the two were together.
Regardless, true believers in the area were thrilled. One parishioner who was there said on Facebook that he watched as the prayer team elicited “a pulse… where her toes had been removed.”
“The skin that had been discolored from the injury began to grow pink again, and then to the astonishment of everyone involved, her toes began to grow back,” he wrote.
Kelli Artheron, a member of the James River Church, said she didn’t see Dines’ toes grow back because she was working with the congregation’s kids’ group that day. However, Artherton told The Daily Beast that she heard about the toes having regenerated and that “God can do anything, especially when people are praying over you.” In fact, she said, a friend of hers had a lifelong thyroid condition that was healed during the James River Church’s Week of Power.
“They had it for their whole life, and they went to the doctor and got their results back, and their numbers were in the normal range,” Artherton said. “There were several stories like that.”
Another, Rufus Bowles, watched the service online. Bowles, who works as a pharmacist in St. Louis, said he has been to only one service at James River Church, and didn’t see any miracles occur. Still, he believes that miracles do happen, claiming he witnessed his first in 2012, when a physically challenged man’s leg grew before his very eyes.
“His one leg was approximately one inch shorter than the other, and my friend said, ‘In the name of Jesus, we command this leg to grow out,’” Bowles told The Daily Beast. “And literally, I watched that leg grow out a full inch to where the two legs were even… I’ve seen many [miracles] since.”
The creator of ShowMeTheToes.com, who has friends and associates who attend James River, said the site started as a gag.
He told The Daily Beast that a friend who attended the service contacted his wife to exult over the miracles that took place. It seemed ridiculous on its face, so the man said he and his wife paid it little mind.
The next day, the two discussed the peculiar claim. Although he did not attend the service, the man said he has heard from many others who did. Most of them simply described it as “amazing” and ran down a list of supposed miracles that occurred. If anyone questioned them, or asked for corroboration, he said they were chastised and called “faithless.”
“I made a joke and told her that if it happened, I wanted to see the toes,” he said. “She responded with ShowMeTheToes.com, and it became a reality in the next 30-45 minutes or so, as a joke between us.”
Yet, it didn’t stay that way. The website has garnered national attention although it has not pried loose any actual evidence that Dines’ toes miraculously regenerated at the James River service.
He has never met Dines but said she is obviously someone dealing with serious traumatic issues, and “is being used here.” If James River had come out and said simply that “someone at our Joplin church prayed and had three of their toes grow back,” none of this ever would have happened. But the church identified Dines online by name, shared her backstory, and made a video of her talking about what had allegedly happened.
If James River, or by extension, Johnson, Lindell, or Dines, at some point provide proof that her toes indeed did miraculously grow back, the creator of ShowMeTheToes.com said he’d take down the site and admit he was wrong. He wants people to feel comfortable asking questions, and rails against church leadership that pressures members not to do their own research.
“This is a lot and I am kind of shocked at all of this,” he said. “I don’t think anyone is ready when something like this catches fire and somehow I put myself in the position of pouring the gas.”