Monday, May 23, 2011

Heaven is for Real

Title: Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back
Author: Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent
ISBN: 9780849946158

            Colton Burpo was almost four years old when he visited Heaven. Todd Burpo, his father and the book’s author, is also a pastor. I had one question when I sat down with this book: did Colton really have this experience, or had he simply recounted what he’d heard his father preach?  This book is fairly convincing: Colton went to Heaven, or at the very least had some extremely vivid visions.
            Colton’s story begins with his illness. Initially diagnosed as the stomach flu, Colton’s appendicitis led to a burst appendix and emergency surgery. His condition is beyond grim. A nurse later reveals to Todd Burpo that the staff was specifically told not to give the family hope because doctors were certain the little boy would pass. Amazingly, Colton survives the surgery and very slowly begins to recover.
            The story of his visit does not come out at once. Colton does not simply come out of surgery and start spouting off about angels and pearly gates. Instead, the story comes slowly. First Colton tells his parents what he saw them doing during the surgery. His father was praying by himself; his mother was crying and praying on the phone. One could dismiss these as coincidence.
As he recovers and the months pass, Colton makes the occasional odd statement (example: “Jesus told me I had to be nice” (56)). Burpo admits that he even brushed these off, and assumes Sunday school must be doing a good job. Then Colton tells his father that he was in Heaven.
Over the course of several years, Colton reveals details of his visit. There are scripturally accurate descriptions and details. He also assures his parents that Heaven is full of children, including his sister who passed away before birth. The unnamed sister was miscarried before Colton was even born. He was never told about her.
Heaven is for Real may not convince everyone. There is no way to prove Colton’s claim, nor is there a way to disprove it. Burpo is careful not to ask leading questions. Burpo is aware that no one will believe his son if they think he had a hand in the story and that he himself won’t know what really happened if he asks leading questions.
Now eleven years old, Colton still occasionally discusses Heaven, though Burpo says his son has made no comments about subsequent trips or any kind of lasting connection to Heaven or those he met there. He seems consistent, and insistent, on what he has said. If Colton’s claims were made by an adult, many could simply be brushed off as things he had heard or studied. However, for a child not even four years old to give descriptions of Heaven and its occupants which are scripturally supported is amazing. To describe conversations with people he had never met and had no knowledge of is astounding.
Colton introduces a view of Heaven which, as fantastic as the story seems, makes sense. In the concluding epilogue, Burpo explains the origin of the book’s title. The editor asked Colton, then age 10, what he would like people to know. He says simply “I want them to know that heaven is for real.”

--Kyla Paterno

**You can purchase Heaven is for Real and other books discussed on this blog at Garfield Book Company at PLU.  Not close enough to visit? Order on the web or email us.

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