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Believe it or Not: 'Heaven is for Real' a Community Discussion-Starter

The movie, in theaters April 16, is about a real-life boy who says he went to Heaven and met Jesus during surgery. We spoke with the family behind the film about how it can help start a discussion in your town.

Burpo family. Photo courtesy of Sony.
Burpo family. Photo courtesy of Sony.
By Michael Sewall

As a pastor in Nebraska, Todd Burpo speaks every day about faith and the afterlife. Now he hopes the film adaptation of his book, “Heaven is for Real,” can ignite further discussion in communities across the country.

If you aren’t familiar, “Heaven is for Real” tells the story of Burpo’s son, Colton, who said he left his body during an emergency appendectomy around age 4 and visited Heaven. His parents, Todd and Sonja, believed the story after Colton described details about his great-grandfather and miscarried sister about whom he didn’t know.

“I think this movie’s real strength is that it’s a conversation starter,” Todd Burpo said. “I think we have people who would never join us in a conversation about God in a church, but to see in a film that there is a Heaven, I think this movie is a great medium to share the story and get people talking.”

The incredible claim the title suggests is of course divisive, but Burpo said there are messages in the film to which anyone can relate.

“I think this is a movie about family,” Burpo said. “It’s a real mom and a real dad and they’re going to see us struggle, they’re going to see us hurt and work through things. But they’ll also see that we’re honest about faith—faith doesn’t mean you have answers all the time.”

In addition to family, Sonja Burpo believes the film can be an inspiration to anyone experiencing loss. Her miscarriage was the “biggest hurt,” she said, but out of that she’s been able to help others.

“We’ve all lost somebody and everyone will lose somebody, and people wrestle with this whole idea of whether Heaven is for real,” she said. “Many times we think we’re the only one in the world with a problem, but we’re not. We can pray for each other and support each other.”

While the Burpo family maintains the validity of Colton’s story, they recognize there are skeptics and people who won’t be convinced. Todd Burpo said he hopes people will still be able to take something away from the film and use it to discuss faith and be good people in the communities.

That sense of community was something Colton said he experienced while in Heaven. Besides meeting family members who had passed, talking with angels and seeing Jesus ride a multicolored horse, Colton shared this about the community in Heaven:

“It’s a lot like Earth in many ways, but everybody there would help you out just because they wanted to help you out and not because of their own interests,” he said. “So that’s a pretty good community.”

This post is sponsored by Sony's "Heaven is for Real," in theaters April 16.

jMichael July 14, 2014 at 09:12 AM
@dorothy manser: There is a hate-screed among Talibangelicans reading "Sodomites! Cursed be Ye." But among REAL Christians there is no such hate. Rather, all are welcomed at the Eucharistic Table. Sadly, however, the Talibangelicans have so corrupted The Word that decent folks of every stripe are fleeing Christianity as one might a nest of slithering lizards. It is understandable. It is a pity. Heaven will judge these hissing Talibangelicans harshly. As for those of us who strive to walk The Path of The Good Shepherd, we step gingerly around these Talibangelicans as one might around a steaming pile of fresh doggie poop on the Summer's sidewalk. The odor may linger; but at least we needn't wipe our shoes before continuing along The Path.
CAPICU July 14, 2014 at 10:41 AM
Is Atheism is a non-prophet organization?
Gracie Grey July 14, 2014 at 06:32 PM
What should be seen is HBO's Mea Maxima Culpa.
CAPICU July 14, 2014 at 07:52 PM
jMichael July 14, 2014 at 09:12 AM As for those of us who strive to walk The Path of The Good Shepherd, we step gingerly around these Talibangelicans as one might around a steaming pile of fresh doggie poop on the Summer's sidewalk. The odor may linger; but at least we needn't wipe our shoes before continuing along The Path-____________________________________________________Just like Jesus did long ago
nonoise July 15, 2014 at 10:54 AM
Heaven is for real when you don't live next to a noisy church from hell, Divine Saviour Catholic church, 90065.

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