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'Heaven is for Real' author and family to speak in Holyoke April 3 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Jan Schultz, The Imperial Republican   

First United Methodist Church in Holyoke will host an evening with Todd Burpo of Imperial, Neb. and his family Sunday, April 3 at the HHS auditorium at 6:30 p.m.

Burpo and son Colton will share their “Heaven is for Real” experience, which is the title of their New York Times Best Seller book.

The presentation will mark Todd’s second visit to Holyoke since the book was released last year. He held a book signing at Inklings Bookstore’s Christmas Tea in December.

Family keeping busy since release of book

Their publicist has said a break should be coming soon.

The Burpo family of Imperial would take even a short hiatus from all the interviews and traveling since the release of “Heaven is for Real.”

But, it doesn’t look like that will happen in the coming week anyway.

On Monday, March 21 Todd, Sonja and Colton appeared on “The Today Show,” which flew them to New York.

Thursday, March 24, Todd and Colton will be in Los Angeles for another live interview, this time on TBN, the Trinity Broadcast Network, on its “Praise the Lord” segment.

It’s not surprising, now with 1.52 million English copies in print. Another 18,000 have been printed in Spanish, and 15 other language translations are in the works.

Their Facebook page has 15,000 fans.

In a phone interview Monday, March 14 as the family traveled home from a speaking engagement in Kentucky, Todd said it’s been a little overwhelming.

“Helping people is what we truly enjoy. So many people have been encouraged and found some peace” after reading the book, he said.

“But, the uncomfortable part is the media attention,” he said.

In earlier interviews, Todd said writing the book was never something they had planned, but that God had a hand in it and led him, through friends, to getting it published.

Written in Todd’s first-person narrative, the 150-page book tells of son Colton’s near-death experience at age 3 when he slipped from consciousness during surgery after his appendix burst and then, over a period of time, begins telling his parents of his visit to heaven.

Todd and Sonja have no doubt their son made the heavenly visit, and people want to hear their story.

Their publisher Thomas Nelson writes of the book, “With disarming innocence and the plainspoken boldness of a child, Colton tells of meeting long-departed family members.

“He describes Jesus, the angels, how ‘really, really big’ God is and how much God loves us,” as his father tells the story through the book’s pages.

Colton Burpo is pictured with his dad Todd not long after his 17-day
ordeal in 2003 when his appendix burst. They will visit Holyoke
Sunday, April 3 along with their family to share their “Heaven is for
Real” story.           —Imperial Republican photo

It’s been an experience, Todd said, but reality also sets in.

All the traveling has made it difficult to keep up with everyday life. Todd tries not to be away on Sundays and his pastoral duties at Crossroads Wesleyan Church in Imperial.

Having sold their business late last year has helped, he said, and Todd tries to work a couple days a week for the new owner.

They’ve hired a couple of “assistants” to keep up with the speaking requests and to help respond to those who call and email.

Monday morning’s appearance on The Today Show was the second time “Heaven is for Real” received air time on the NBC program.

In early January, Kathie Lee Gifford, one of the program’s hosts, mentioned she’d read the book and, shortly after, sales soared.

The book was released in November, 2010, and it hit No. 3 on the New York Times Best Seller List for nonfiction paperbacks for the week of Dec. 5. It has been on the List ever since for a total of 16 weeks.

The most recent nine weeks it’s been at No. 1.

“Heaven is for Real” is also on Best Seller Lists with several other media outlets—most recently No. 3 on USA Today (Feb. 27) among all books, No. 2 on Publisher’s Weekly (Feb. 28), No. 4 with Evangelical Christian Publishers Assoc. (March) and No. 4 with NPR (Feb. 24).

A list from the publisher, Thomas Nelson, shows the family has done 35 radio interviews. There are more than 40 newspapers that have run stories and another 60 stories online.

The most distant interview he’s done was with a radio station in Spain, which was taped from Imperial.

The “Rick and Bubba Show” has been the highlight of the interviews, Todd said. Taped in Alabama, it’s a secular radio program but the hosts “supported the Biblical accounts in the book despite some criticism,” Todd said.

 ‘Heaven Is For Real’

Weeks on NY Times Best Seller List at #1

Jan. 23 — #1
Jan. 30 — #1
Feb. 6 — #1
Feb. 13 — #1
Feb. 20 — #1
Feb. 27 — #1
March 6 — #1
March 13 — #1
March 20 — #1

Other dates/rankings

Jan. 16 — #9
Jan. 9 — #13
Jan. 2 — #13
Dec. 26 — #5
Dec. 19 — #5
Dec. 12 — #11
Dec. 5 — #3

Children’s book coming

There will be a children’s book coming, Todd confirmed last Monday, also to be published by Thomas Nelson.

“We have made the decision to go ahead with the children’s book,” he said.

It will be another first-person narrative about Colton’s experience but geared to children.

“His story is a child’s testimony in our opinion. It will be a child speaking to children,” he said.

They are still working out some of the details, and a publication date was not given.

And talk of a movie?

Todd said they have had several studios approach them about making a movie of Colton’s experience, but they are being cautious.

“So far, we are not comfortable with the movie idea,” he said.

“It goes back to the issue of the story’s integrity,” he said, and whether the producers would stay true to the book.

For more information on the Burpo’s evening in Holyoke, contact First United Methodist Church at 854-2433.