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Interview with “Heaven Is for Real” author Todd Burpo

Coton Burpo sings at Guppy Fest at St. Thomas More Church in Centennial June 8, 2012.

The movie “Heaven Is For Real,” based on the 2010 book of the same name opens in theaters April 16. In 2012, the Denver Catholic Register interviewed the book’s author, Todd Burpo, who shared the story of his son Colton’s near-death experience, prior to the family’s visit to the Denver Archdiocese for the annual Guppy Fest youth rally at St. Thomas More Church. The following is adapted from that interview which ran in the May 16, 2012 Register.

The New York Times best seller “Heaven Is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back” is based on the experience of then 4-year-old Colton, who during emergency surgery for a ruptured appendix in 2003, slipped from consciousness and visited heaven. The story, as told by Todd but often in Colton’s words, relays the boy’s message that heaven is a real place, Jesus “really, really” loves children, and to be ready for a coming last battle.

“When people come (to hear us speak) they want to see if we’re ‘for real,’” said Todd Burpo in a May 7, 2012 interview with the Denver Catholic Register from his home in Imperial, Neb. “(They want to know) if we’re just a regular family.”

He said they’re a regular family that experienced a miracle. After surviving the ordeal, Colton began sharing matter-of-fact details with Todd, pastor of Crossroads Wesleyan Church in Imperial; and mom Sonja, about looking down from heaven and seeing the doctor operating on him, Todd praying in “a little room” alone, and Sonja in another room praying and talking on the phone.

“Not even Sonja had seen me in that little room having my meltdown with God,” Burpo wrote in the text, at a time when his “faith was hanging by a tattered thread and fraying fast.”

Later revelations made it clear something special had happened to Colton including a detailed description of meeting his sister in heaven—a baby Sonja had miscarried years earlier that no one had ever told Colton about; and getting acquainted with his great-grandfather “Pop” who had died 30 years before Colton was born.

The presentation at Guppy Fest will be a sit-down Q-and-A format, with a parish moderator, Deacon Steve Stemper, asking questions to Todd, Sonja and Colton.

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“Everyone likes to see Colton,” said Todd. “I’m just the dad.”

However, Colton, who turns 13 later this week, can get nervous speaking in front of large crowds. It’s a stage fright that doesn’t apply to singing.

“He gets nervous talking, but he’s comfortable singing,” said Todd. “He likes to sing.”

Colton will close the presentation in song. Denver-based contemporary praise and worship band Read You and Me will join the Burpo family at Guppy Fest. The appearance is a stop on the national “Heaven is for Real Tour,” featuring the Burpos and Read You and Me continuing throughout the country till the end of the year. It is the family’s hope that attendees take away a renewed sense of the power of prayer, particularly during times of trouble.

“God got us through,” said Todd. “Though there were times when I didn’t know if I was going to make it through.”

They will also relay the significance of the ongoing battle of good and evil and that “God is the solution, not the problem.”


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