'Heaven Is For Real' remains a hit as its author addresses critics

Pastor Todd Burpo, author of 'Heaven Is For Real' – the story of what he says was his son's trip to heaven – stands by his book in a new interview to be shown next week.

Burpo says his son Colton told him that during emergency surgery he traveled to heaven, where he saw Jesus, John the Baptist, his great-grandfather, and his younger sister who died in a miscarriage.

Heaven Is For Real,” written by Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent, has been a runaway best-seller since it was first published and its sales show no sign of ebbing. It is currently ranks at number one on the New York Times paperback bestseller list.

The book tells the story of Burpo’s son Colton, who was rushed into emergency surgery when he was 4 for a burst appendix. Over the next months and years, Colton told his parents that he had gone to heaven while he was unconscious and described seeing Jesus, John the Baptist, his great-grandfather, and his younger sister who died in a miscarriage – something his parents say they never told him about.

“Heaven Is For Real” has faced skepticism, and next week, an hour-long program featuring interviews with Burpo and his family will play exclusively at Lifetree Café locations. Lifetree Cafés are “conversation cafes,” according to their website, located around the country where religious and other issues are discussed.

During the program, Burpo, who is a pastor and runs a garage door company with his wife, addresses nay-sayers.

“As a pastor and as a dad, I want my son to know I tell the truth,” he says during the interview. “He can read the book. He knows if I exaggerated or if I didn't. My son is forever going to believe that I'm an honest person or I'm a liar by what I wrote in that book, because he can read.”

Burpo wrote “Heaven Is For Real” with Lynn Vincent, who worked with Sarah Palin on “Going Rogue,” after Colton began to tell him matter-of-fact stories about what he had seen. His parents say that Colton described meeting his younger sister, who he said has dark hair, when they had never told him about the miscarriage. Colton also described his great-grandfather and pointed him out in an old photograph. His parents said he mentioned images like wounds in Jesus’ hands that he had not seen before.

Burpo began to bring up parts of Colton's story in his services. Later, Burpo and his wife Sonja met an agent working for a Christian literary agency through a friend. Promotion for the book involved appearances on “Fox & Friends,” CNN, and the program “The 700 Club,” but the book’s sales were fueled by word of mouth. “Heaven Is For Real” publisher Thomas Nelson says the book has broken all previous sales records.

Burpo says Colton read the book before it was published and assured him that everything was correct.

“It didn’t put me to sleep,” Colton told USA Today.

Colton is now 11 and told the New York Times that he was happy people have enjoyed the book.

“People are getting blessed, and they’re going to have healing from their hurts,” said Colton, who now plays the piano and trumpet and likes football. “I’m happy for that.”

Molly Driscoll is a Monitor correspondent.

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