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Miracles film ‘is a message of hope’

10 June 2016

DAMARIS MEDIA

At prayer: a still from the film Miracles from Heaven, starring Jennifer Garner (centre)

At prayer: a still from the film Miracles from Heaven, starring Jennifer Garner (centre)

CHRISTY BEAM’s immediate reaction, the first time that her daughter told her that she had been to heaven and met Jesus, was to worry that the brain scan she had just undergone had missed something.

Nine-year-old Annabel had survived falling 30 feet into a hollow tree, and emerged not only unhurt, but seemingly cured of the gastrointestinal disorder that had blighted her life for four-and-a-half years.

After leaving hospital, she told her mother that, while trapped, she had sat in Jesus’s lap and told him that she wanted to stay in heaven, because there was no pain there. Jesus had told her that he had plans for her on the earth, but also that when she returned there, there would be nothing wrong with her. Today, Mrs Beam says, there is no trace of the chronic illness that doctors had diagnosed, and she has been discharged from their care.

A film based on Miracles from Heaven, the book that Mrs Beam wrote about these events, is due for release in the UK today. Last week, she said that, while it had been “very, very odd” to watch the film, and “hard to see what we lived and endured”, she was very pleased with the finished result.

“So many people have said that it was the hope they needed to keep pushing forward. It is just such a positive message of hope.” Parents who are waiting for healing had told her that it had helped them to “continue to be a medical advocate for their child and . . . not themselves to get down and frustrated”.

She is aware that some will respond critically, but appears not to be worried by this. Her daughter, she reports, replies: “I know what I lived, and what life was like before, and what life is like now, and there is just no doubt that I was terribly sick and had an incurable disorder.”

Mrs Beam is played in the film by Jennifer Garner, a Golden Globe-winning actress. She has said in interviews that the experience prompted her to return with her children to the Methodist Church of her upbringing.

In the United States, where films with overtly Christian stories have proved popular at the box office in recent years, it has grossed $61.3 million to date, against a budget of $13 million. While British reviews of such films tend to be scathing (a Guardian review of Miracles from Heaven describes it as “crassly manipulative”), The New York Times praised it as an “unexpectedly effective tear-jerker”.

It follows films with Christian themes such as The War Room, a tale of a woman’s commitment to pray for her husband, God’s Not Dead (1 and 2), and Heaven is for Real, the story of a three-year-old’s claims of a near-death experience.

Last year, another child who claimed to have visited heaven, recanted his testimony. In an open letter, Alex Malarkey, who wrote The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven with his father, stated: “I did not die. I did not go to Heaven.”

Mrs Beam says she cannot comment on why a child might make up such a story. “I just know that Annabel comes with the proof that she is well.” Even if people only believe pieces of the story, she believes that they relate to it, because there are “so many dynamics that people can grab on to”. The film explores marriage, family, and the impact of suffering on faith.

She plans now to write a children’s version of the book that can be shared in hospitals.

“I believed that God healed people then, and that he heals people now, but I never thought it would happen to us. . . It can happen to anyone.”

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