By Heather Salon, 700 Club
CBN.com THE STORY BEHIND THE BEST-SELLER
In March 2003, Todd and Sonja Burpo went through what no parent wants to go through - the possibility of losing a child. It began when their four-year-old son, Colton, had what appeared to be the stomach flu. As days passed, his condition worsened. Todd and Sonja took Colton to the doctor. His doctor discovered that Colton's appendix had burst and infection was spreading throughout his body. Colton was quickly brought into surgery and almost did not survive. Four months after the surgery, Colton began to share his experiences during surgery and his journey to heaven. Colton said Jesus and some angels came and flew him up to heaven. When Todd asked Colton what Jesus looked like Colton said He was wearing white robes with a purple sash. Colton also described Jesus as having "markers," which Colton indicated were the nail prints on Jesus' hands and feet. Colton also explained that he was first brought to the Throne Room of God. Since Colton was upset because he didn't know what was happening, God showed him people or things he liked to calm him down. Colton also saw Todd's grandfather, "Pop," who was a significant male role model in Todd's life. Besides his great-grandfather, Colton saw his sister that his mother had lost through a miscarriage. Todd and Sonja were both amazed when Colton shared with them the details of these people he knew nothing of. Todd asked Colton if he wanted to come back from heaven. Colton told Todd he didn't want to but Jesus said he had to because he was answering his dad's prayer.
HEAVEN IS FOR REAL MINISTRIES
The response to the Burpos' fascinating story in Heaven is for Real is overwhelming. Millions of copies of the book have been sold, it's been translated into several languages, it is in several versions for different audiences, and a film is in the works. Todd believes that the book has become successful because it comes from the innocence and reliability of a child. The last couple of years the Burpos have been making appearances at Heaven is for Real events, which have been mainly held in churches. The Burpos have been able to minister to many people as a result. They would like to expand that audience and move towards places more inviting to people who might not set foot in a church. Some events are held in school gymnasiums and the Burpos' opportunities to share their story continues to grow. Colton is now 13 and in the 8th grade in public school. Todd says he is a normal kid with an unshakable faith in God. Colton would like to become a musician of some sort. He plays the trumpet, piano, sings, is on the wrestling team, football team, show choir and choir, on the track and would like to pole vault.
Todd has become bolder in sharing his faith. He says we've made things so complicated - the church has become more confusing, not sophisticated. The Burpo family's lifestyle hasn't changed. With Heaven is for Real events and projects there is just a new "normal" Todd says, and they have been flooded with requests.
HEAVEN CHANGES EVERYTHING
Todd says the Burpos' new book Heaven Changes Everything is a continuation of Heaven is for Real. It is more in depth and goes further into what God taught them, which is formatted as a devotional reader. Sonja shares in more of her story in 1/3 of the book. She tells her experiences and insights about being a mother, going through a miscarriage, and the joy of knowing that we will someday see those children lost through miscarriage in heaven. Colton is older now. Todd says he is the same child but growing up so he has more insights and better words to describe his trip to heaven. One thing that really stayed with Colton from his trip to heaven was how Jesus really loves children. An insight Todd shares is about why bad things happen to good people. He says one of the best answers to that he received from a girl in a group of children he was teaching. When they were asked what they learned that week, one girl said she learned that Satan does bad things and blames God for it. This is true because Satan is also for real and he is not in hell yet. However, God is the solution. His faithfulness doesn't depend on ours and His forgiveness is just as real. God works with strugglers. He still loves them and doesn't give up.