Colton Burpo experienced Heaven after narrowly surviving a surgery. Months later, he began sharing with his family; his father Todd, Sonja his mom, and his siblings. Todd wrote about their experience in Heaven is For Real, which was on the New York Times Best Seller list for 180 consecutive weeks, with roughly 70 of those weeks in the number one spot. Randall Wallace (Braveheart and We Were Soldiers) wrote and produced the movie. Two years ago, we sat down with the Burpo family to talk about how Colton’s experience going to Heaven has shaped their faith and affected their family.
“so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.” 1 Thessalonians 2:8
Todd Burpo reflects on how experiencing a miracle has shaped his faith.
“I think as people of faith, we need to bring up our faith. We need to talk about God who interrupts our lives every week and every day. When I was growing up, they [my church] used to have what we would call a ‘testimony service.’ People would get up and they would talk bout what God did for them 30 years ago-but what about last week? We live in a world that needs to know God is alive and well right now.”
Colton Burpo shares how his opportunity to go to Heaven and meet Jesus has influenced his relationship with Christ today.
“Since it happened at such an early age it really guided my faith. I’ve just been able to picture someone whenever I pray, or whenever I ask for help because I know who is on the other end.”
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.” Hebrews 11:1-2
The Burpo family opens up how Colton going to Heaven affected each of them, especially as they watched it in the movie.
“Because I don’t remember the hospital and the events leading up to it, it’s easy for me to just blend in with the audience and watch the movie. What hits me sometimes is that no matter how many times I watch it, I think, ‘That really happened to me.’ Because you would think, ‘Oh Colton got to go to Heaven and it was all happy.’ For me, yes; for them [my parents], no.” -Colton Burpo
“As a pastor’s wife we go through all the emotions-we have to give up our husband at any time, any place, anywhere. Todd’s on-call 24/7 doing ministry, then he’s on-call 24/7 volunteering as a firefighter…he has even left a birthday party and family events to go on a fire call. I’m pretty strong-willed and independent, but at the same time, Todd is still the head of the household. He listens to my opinion, but if he is going to do something, I’m going to follow him because I picked him…And then coming to terms with what Colton experienced…How does that impact us? How does that help us do life later? A lot of times I think what gets missed about what has really changed our lives since Colton went to Heaven, is that we wouldn’t have Colby. We wouldn’t have [child] number three. Todd was done having kids at two, but I wanted a third one. But I’m a really bad, bad, horrible pregnant person, and so Todd said, ‘I’m not going through round three.” And I will remember the day-it was in August-he came down the hallway and said, ‘I want to have another kid.’ I looked at him like, ‘Where is my husband and who are you in my house?’ So we got pregnant with Colby and I don’t know how we would do life without him now. He’s the balance to our [rest of family’s] seriousness. God knew that. I think we pray and we know what we want the answer to be, and God goes, ‘No, I’ve got something way better. That will be fine for now, but I know the big picture and this will be much better.’” – Sonia Burpo
Share your story with others. Each of us has experienced God in different ways. For some it was a dramatic story of coming to Christ, for others they might have experienced a healing miracle or God providing in a desperate situation. Whatever the circumstance, God wants us to share not just how we came to Christ, but how He is working in our lives with others. It can be our small group at church, friends, co-workers, classmates, neighbors or family members. Take time this week to pray and ask God to show you who He wants you to share with and then ask Him what He wants you to share. If you are afraid or nervous, remember that God gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit to empower us. You are not alone.
Have a movie night. There are many great faith-based movies out including Heaven is for Real. Invite some friends over for a movie night. Pray about whom you can invite that is spiritually seeking or does not know God. After the movie, have some snacks and discuss what you liked or learned from the movie. Many movies are now developing discussion guides to go along with the movie. If movies aren’t your thing, try having a book discussion group. Many of the popular faith-based movies are based off of books and have similar discussion questions at the end of each chapter.
Pray for others. The only way that our friends and family members will get to experience heaven is if they have a relationship with Jesus Christ. Take time this week to pray for others. Pray that the Holy Spirit would reveal Himself to them and that God would soften their hearts to the Gospel message. Ask God how you can be a witness to them. Consider making a “Top Ten List” of people you want to pray for and commit to praying for them daily.
To read our entire interview with Todd, Sonia and Colton Burpo from Heaven is for Real, click here