• Thomas Bonifield

The Real-Life Miracle Behind "The Girl Who Believes in Miracles"

Screenwriter George Michael Mercier recounts the circumstances God used to save his granddaughter from cancer.

Austyn Johnson (left) and Paul-Mikel Williams pray in a scene from the movie. Image: Atlas Distribution Company.

After six days in release, The Girl Who Believes in Miracles has brought in $677,000: a solid performance for a faith-based film showing in 640 movie theaters with reduced seating because of coronavirus restrictions. The film stars Christian actor Kevin Sorbo, Mira Sorvino and Austyn Johnson, who plays Sara Hopkins, a girl whose prayers touch off a series of miraculous healings in her small town.


George Michael Mercier, co-writer of the movie. Image: George Michael Mercier.

The character is also diagnosed with terminal cancer, a situation 72-year-old co-writer George Michael Mercier confronted in the life of his granddaughter Madison back in 2012. In an exclusive interview with Christian Film Blog, he says the prognosis for the then eight-year-old was grim because her tumor was located so close to the heart that doctors ruled out both chemotherapy and radiation treatment.


They chose surgery, though even that was in an effort to basically "buy time" for her, and Mercier says before the procedure, doctors told the family "not to hope for anything." But in a scene replicated in the movie by the grandfather character, played by Peter Coyote, Mercier, who is a committed Christian, repeatedly had gone out to a lake near his California home to pray in the weeks leading up to Madison's procedure.


It was then that he says he understood he had to "actually believe" God could work a miracle. Mercier did just that, and he also decided to surrender the situation to the Lord.

"When I was at that lake, I just realized I had to let go, and let God."

And God delivered, because when the doctor performed surgery, he discovered that a material called fibrin had enclosed Madison's tumor, stopping it from spreading. That allowed him to completely remove the tumor, leaving no cancer cells behind.


After the operation, the surgeon said he'd never "seen the body do this before." Now eight years later, Madison is 16-years-old and fully healthy. Mercier and his family know it is thanks to God's miraculous answer to their prayers.

"I don't think you can call it anything but that (a miracle.) It's like she came back from the dead."

Mercier's life journey took him from screenwriter as a young man to investment banking during the 1990s dot-com era and now back to his first love. This picture is his inaugural faith-based production and he says that when he was praying for his granddaughter, he promised God he would write it if Madison survived her condition. It is obviously inspired by her life, but is not a mirror representation since she never healed any people or animals via her prayers, as the Sara character does in The Girl Who Believes in Miracles.


George Michael Mercier's granddaughter, Madison, in a screenshot from a promotional video. Image: "The Mustard Seed"/YouTube.

There is, however, one other moment from real life worthy of mentioning. The scene in the film where Sara prays for a dead bird - which comes back to life - is indeed similar to something that happened with Madison.

In 2016, Mercier published a book about Madison's situation called The Mustard Seed - a reference to Jesus' statement about needing only a small amount of faith to do great things - and that book became the basis for the movie. Mercier, Madison and her brother shot a video to promote the book. While filming near a lake, Madison found a seemingly dead bird, which she picked up and held in her hand. Moments later, it revived and flew off.


And that happened three times, allowing them to get it on tape, which you will see in the video via this link to YouTube. Mercier then wrote that episode into the screenplay, and it's the first miracle in the movie and is prominently featured in the trailer below.