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September 25, 2014
Column #1,726
“Heaven Is For Real”
By Mike McManus

In 2003 a boy not quite four years old, Colton Burpo, had to undergo emergency surgery for a ruptured appendix. While near death on the operating table, he visited heaven and over several months told his story to his parents Todd and Sonja Burpo.

Although Todd is a part-time pastor, he is initially amused and skeptical that his son “met Jesus.” At first he asked Colton if he is telling the truth. However, some of his statements have a powerful ring of truth.

Todd asked his son, “Did the hospital scare you?” Colton replied, “No, the angels sang to me.”

Todd replies, “Angels sang to you?”

His son adds, “Yes, it was when Mom was in one room talking on the phone, and you were in another yelling at God.”

Todd is stunned, because there is no way Colton could have known those details.

Another day the boy asks his mom, “Did you know I have two sisters?” Sonja replies, “No, you only have one sister.”

“You had a baby die in your tummy didn’t you? A little girl came up to me when I was in heaven” who said she was his sister. He described her as a dark-haired girl who resembled his other sister, Cassie.

While Sonja had suffered a miscarriage years before, neither his mother nor father had ever told Colton about it. “There’s just no way he could have known,” Todd asserts.

Then he talked about meeting Jesus who had “markers” on his hands and feet. His parents were puzzled. “Markers?” Then the 4-year-old described his bloody wounds on Jesus’ palms that he had never seen before in pictures of Jesus.

Todd showed him many pictures of Jesus and asked if Jesus looked like them. “No,” he said, shaking his head. Unlike all portraits, Jesus had curly black hair. His eyes “were just sort of sea-blue and they seemed to sparkle.”

Todd wrote a book about his son’s experience, “Heaven Is For Real,” that has been a runaway best seller. Thomas Nelson, the book’s publisher, said it had broken company sales records. An initial print run was 40,000 copies, but it has gone back to press 22 times with more than 1.5 million copies in print. It is No. 1 on the New York Times best seller list for paperback nonfiction.

The book was made into a powerful film released this spring, starring Greg Kinnear, who portrayed John Kennedy in a recent TV miniseries. It was directed by Randall Wallace best known as the writer of “Braveheart” and director of “Secretariat.”

My wife and I saw “Heaven Is For Real” and recommend it as the perfect film for a family to watch together.

As pastor of Crossroads Wesleyan Church in Imperial, a farming town in southwest Nebraska, Todd was unsure of what he should tell his congregation about Colton’s visit to heaven. Oddly, Todd seems almost tongue-tied in telling Colton’s story to his congregation. He was apparently too embarrassed to tell them about how Colton saw him yelling at God, but that detail is what made him believe Colton really did have a supernatural experience.

However, his halting performance prompts some church elders to consider firing him. Todd already works as a garage door repairman to make ends meet. And Sonja leads the church’s music department.

Colton is portrayed very winsomely and credibly by Connor Corum, a blond charmer. Over a period of months, he reveals more and more details of his visit to heaven. He tells Todd about meeting his grandfather, who Todd loved.

Todd runs to get a picture of his grandfather and shows it to the boy, who shakes his head, “He doesn’t wear glasses and is not that old.”

Todd rummages through family albums and emerges with a picture of his grandfather as a man in his 30s with black hair and no glasses. “That’s him,” says Colton. “In heaven no one is old.”

Among others who Colton met in heaven is Samson of the Old Testament and John the Baptist.

Movieguide, a publication of the Christian Film and Television Commission, describes “Heaven Is For Real” as “one of the most captivating, inspiring movies of this or any other year. The dialogue is wonderful. Greg Kinnear does a superlative job as Todd Burpo. Also, little Connor Colum is absolutely amazing as Colton, the boy who went to heaven.”

The film is not saccharine, however. It portrays Todd as angry at God over his son’s near fatal illness. Doubt is revealed as part of faith.

However, heaven and Jesus are real.


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