Every adult seems to have a finely tuned set of “alarm bells” that sound when a child tells a story that just does not seem real, so why would anyone believe a four-year-old who claims to have made a trip to heaven and to have met family members who have passed on and much, much more.
The scene is this: Colton Burpo, son of Todd and Sonja Burpo of Nebraska, needs an emergency appendectomy. As he begins to come out of the anesthesia, Colton is like any other little boy, but he has a story to tell his Dad.
It’s not an instant tale, either, as it takes a long time to work its way through the youngster’s psyche to the point where he can verbalize it. That his Dad would understand what he was about to hear from Colton comes from the fact that he is a pastor of a church.
Colton first tells his Dad that he met he great-grandpa while under anesthesia and while he was there he met God. By this point, most peoples’ alarm bells would be going off, but in this case there was just something in the way it came out slowly.
For example, he told his folks that he met his younger sister, a girl who looked much like his older sister Cassie. The weird issue here is that Colton could not have known about his second sister, as she was stillborn. This, of course, made his folks sit up and take notice and they also contacted a Christian literary agent to see if there was a story there.
It turns out that there was a story there as Colton told his Dad, finally, that he had met with Jesus. Now, the four- or five-year-old Colton, by this time, was never told of any of the grievous wounds suffered by Jesus, especially in his hands, so Dad was not convinced that Colton had made the trip.
He pulled his notes together and wrote up the 163-page book Heaven is for Real and they found a small Christian press that was willing to take a chance on it, ordering a 40,000-copy first run. It turns out that the Heaven is for Real is for real as a work, itself, as the 40,000 copies soon turned into 1.5 million copies and trips to the New York Times best-seller list. It’s also been at the top of the Barnes and Noble’s sales list and Amazon sales lists. Even Wal-Mart has picked it up.
Interestingly, not knowing how the response would be to the first run, they kept the advertising budget low and, using only key spots on Fox, CNN and the “700 Club,” Heaven is for real gained some real weight, the kind of weight from which best-sellers are made.
The publishing house wasn’t prepared for the response it received but its paperback division managed to cope with the demand.
What has made this book so special? It is the hope that it gives folks that there is something special waiting when we’re called back to the Lord and put down our worldly burdens. That, with all of the uncertainty of the last decade or more, starting around 9/11, is something that people have been seeking.
Colton, by the way, is now 11 and hopes that each family who gains something from his visit is truly blessed.
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