Todd Burpo, the father of a boy who said he visited heaven during a near-death experience, told TheBlaze the forthcoming film "Heaven Is for Real" about his family's story offers a truthful exploration of what they went through.
Colton Burpo, now 13, says he visited heaven in 2003 when he was seriously ill with a burst appendix. He says he saw Jesus, angels and deceased relatives. The family first told Colton's story in a book.
Over the years, Burpo, a pastor and no stranger to the media, has regularly shared his son's claims through books, interviews and church visits. But making a motion picture offered up a new and uncommon experience -- one in which the family collaborated with Hollywood executives to ensure the story was truthfully and accurately told.
Burpo told TheBlaze he believes the Lord's "hand was shown all the way through" the movie-making process.
"Well, I think God told me at the beginning of this process that he was going to show me that he is bigger than Hollywood," Burpo said. "And when you think of Hollywood you don’t think of honesty and you don’t think of moral messages and integrity but God said, 'You watch.'"
Burpo said he stands by the finished product and that the most remarkable part of the process was all of the individuals and moving parts he believes God brought together in perfect form.
In making "Heaven Is for Real," Burpo said he was hopeful that director Randall Wallace would capture how unwavering, consistent and uncompromising Colton was in sharing the intricate details of his experience.
"It’s not compromised and yet since a little kid is the main preacher it doesn’t come across as preaching. This is what I saw. This is what I experienced and they did that incredibly well," he said.
Burpo said the movie will accomplish two specific goals better than his book did. The first is the depiction of small-town life and the second is the notion that it is okay to struggle.
"Small-town life -- if you’re in a city you don’t understand that dynamic. There’s no place to hide in a small town and people go, 'well you just made this up,'" he said.
Burpo continued, "But I’ve got about 2,000 witnesses that could talk to my son at any time, that remember him going to the hospital, many have come and prayed for him, I mean you can’t make something like that up in a small town and I think at the end of the day the movie will depict that better than the book."
And then there's the issue of personal struggles. Burpo believes that the film will show that one's life doesn't have to be perfect if he or she wishes to be "a follower of Christ." He said that people often become believers and then work on fixing their lives as they go.
"It’s okay to struggle. I think a lot of people think well because I’m struggling I don’t have faith," he added. "God doesn’t give up on struggle, he doesn’t quit on struggle. I think it’s good for strugglers to know to not quit on God in the midst of struggle. I think the movie depicts that well."
Burpo addressed his family's critics, noting that there are Christians and atheists alike who don't believe his son's story. In the end, he thinks much of this doubt is rooted in the fact that Colton's experience is "not scientific" in the traditional sense.
"The other thing is that most of us judge the world from our lens -- 'If this happened to me it’s legit, if it didn’t happen to me it’s not legit and we need to change our lens," he continued.
Despite critique, Burpo said that there are many Christians who are willing to say that while they haven't had a similar near-death experience, they're open to the possibility.
Burpo told TheBlaze in December about his son's revelations and how these tidbits eventually led him and his wife, Sonja, to believe that Colton had truly experienced something profound.
Featured image via Sony Pictures