In March 2003 the Burpo family were looking forward to a refreshing vacation after seven gruelling months of back to back injury and illness. The previous summer, Todd had broken his leg and ankle whilst playing softball; this was quickly followed in October by kidney stones. Then in November, while he was still hobbling around on crutches, he was diagnosed with breast cancer requiring a mastectomy. Now at last, as spring dawned, he was able to enjoy some relaxation along with his wife Sonja and their children Cassie (6) and Colton (3 yrs 10 mths).
Nothing could have prepared them for what happened next as Colton developed a severe stomach ache. His condition rapidly deteriorated, and after several doctors, various tests and scans he was finally diagnosed with a burst appendix requiring emergency surgery. With Colton’s young life ebbing away he was wheeled into theatre where he had an out of body experience. He later describes being able to look down on the surgeon operating on his own frail body; simultaneously he saw his father praying in the adjacent waiting room.
Over the months that followed Colton recounts to his parents further details of his experience, describing a visit to heaven where he met his miscarried sister and his great-grandfather who had died 30 years earlier, neither of whom he knew about previously. He provides details about each that convince his parents of the reality of what he had seen. Colton also reveals other aspects of his heavenly encounter including descriptions of Jesus riding a great horse and God seated on his throne. Todd recognises the similarity between what his son saw and the vision of heaven portrayed in the bible; yet at not quite 4 years old Colton has neither been taught let alone read these details for himself.
Reports of near-death-experiences are not uncommon, however the extraordinary details recalled by Colton, which were completely outside his previous knowledge are astonishing. So too are the parallels between what Colton saw and the descriptions we find in the bible. When Colton was asked what message he wanted people to take from his experience his answer was “Heaven is for Real!”
This extraordinary story became a New York Times number 1 best seller when it was published in 2010 and has now been adapted as a movie by Sony Pictures (UK cinema release 9th May 2014). I invite you to check out the story by reading the book, watching the movie and then examining what the Bible has to say about heaven for yourself.
This blog post featured in the May 2014 edition of Hook Focus