‘Miracles From Heaven’ mom on faith, illness and Jennifer Garner

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The real Christy and Anna Beam with Jennifer Garner behind the scenes of Columbia Pictures' 'Miracles From Heaven,' in theaters nationwide on March 16, 2016. Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures

The real Christy and Anna Beam with Jennifer Garner behind the scenes of Columbia Pictures' 'Miracles From Heaven,' in theaters nationwide on March 16, 2016. Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures

(RNS) “Miracles From Heaven” finished its first weekend in the No. 3 spot at the box office, bringing in $1.9 million on opening day and, more important to Christy Beam,  a message of “hope and encouragement” to its audiences.

Beam is the real-life mom played in the film by Jennifer Garner. And “Miracles From Heaven” shares her family’s story: how her middle daughter, Annabel, was diagnosed with an incurable digestive disorder, how the 10-year-old fell three stories into an old, hollowed out tree and how — spoiler alert — she experienced a miraculous healing.

READ: More ‘Passion’ than sense (REVIEW)

The Christian mom of three, who lives with her family in Texas, shared how truth is sometimes stranger than fiction, what not to say to those struggling with illness and what it’s like to have Garner play you in a movie.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Faithful Viewer logo. Religion News Service graphic by T.J. Thomson

Faithful Viewer logo. Religion News Service graphic by T.J. Thomson

Q: So how much of the movie is true, and how much is artistic license?

A: They adapted it from my book, “Miracles From Heaven.” That is the true story. It’s the blood, sweat and tears poured out onto the page. Most of the events (in the movie) are very true; they’ve just taken a little dramatic license with them.

In the book and in the real story, Annabel doesn’t come out of the tree unconscious. She actually assisted in her own rescue, which was very crazy because she was nonresponsive for a very long time. Things like that were different, but the heartbeat and the message and those type of things that we want people to walk away with are spot-on.

Q: At the start of the movie, your character says, “When I was growing up, people didn’t really talk about miracles.” Is that true to your experience? How has your faith and your understanding of miracles changed?

A: I believed in miracles. I knew they happened. I knew that God was a miraculous God and an amazing God. But I just never thought they would happen to me. I’m just an ordinary person living an ordinary life. God can use anyone, and I knew that, but for some reason, I never ever thought he would use me or my family.

Q: Also in the film, several church members tell your character they believe some sin was preventing your daughter from being healed. Did people say things like this to you when your daughter was sick, and how can people better support those around them who are going through something like this?

A: Yes, they told us we were out of the will of God and that we had sinned — that we were being tested by God and how well we did determined whether we passed the test and would be granted a miracle. I think, honestly, people mean well, but they don’t really grasp that’s not who God is.

I honestly feel like we, as people, are the extension and the arms of Christ, loving on each other. It is literally Christ reaching down and loving us through other people, wrapping his arms around us through other people. People would say, “Can I bring you dinner?” “Can I help with the girls?” I would say, “No, no, no, I’ve got it. Thank you.” It just became — people said, “You know what? I’m going to bring you dinner,” or, “I’m going to see what I can do with the other girls while you take Annabel to Boston this time” — people just doing it and not making a big deal about it or just simply saying, “I’m praying for you.” Things like that are great ways we can help each other in times of crisis.

Q: How did you go from book to movie, and what has that been like to see your family’s story in theaters?

A: It’s the fastest book-to-screen in cinema history. We were giving the manuscript to the publisher while I was answering calls and emails on the script. My desire for what I wanted to see on film and resonate with people matched (producer DeVon Franklin’s) exactly, and so I knew it was going to be OK. I knew it was a God thing.

Q: Jennifer Garner told the “Today” show that the movie encouraged her to re-engage in the church and give her children a solid faith background. Could you ever have imagined this?

A: I’m just so grateful that someone of Jennifer’s caliber and skill and ability felt so compelled to do this role, and she didn’t just do it as a job, she stayed up and read the script and read the book and said she immediately fell in love with our family and our journey.

What’s so weird about it is she did such an amazing job, my husband and friends have said she even mastered my cadence of speech and she mastered my mannerisms. She just got it, and it’s so crazy to see it on the screen.

Q: What are you hoping people will take away from it?

A: Every day I get 100 messages from people all over the world. It is resonating with them and resonating deeply. It’s a message of hope and inspiration, and they are feeling encouraged. The message of the film is there are miracles around you daily; all you have to do is look up. In your time of trial, in your time of challenge, look up. Be that miracle for someone else.

(Emily McFarlan Miller is a national reporter for RNS)

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    I took my daughters to see this movie for several reasons. (1) I struggle with Lupus and lately it’s taken a toll on my organs. Every time Im at the doctors there’s something else that’s come up. I wanted them to know God is gracious God and he heals and works miracles. We attend church every Sunday the message is I’m a miracle we are all miracles. I’m so happy they shared their story and I will go to the theaters to see this again and have encouraged people as well. May God continue to bless the Beam family. From the Phillips-Baker family

  • Robbie Cowan

    I saw the movie alone last night I fell in love . My fovorute part us the family and rescue workers praying at the tree while rescue efforts goiing on along with Mom’s message There are miracles every day and shoowed tthe people that God used as an instument for the Miracle. I will be taking 4 grandchildren to see this movie . Thank you Christy for sharing your family’s story and Holywood for bringing it to life. Another thing if your husband is anything like the man Godly man in the movie you have an awesome man that encourages faith in your family. God is good. There are more miracles happening and more to come . PRAISE GOD!

  • Roxanne George

    I went to see the movie last night, had me in tears at the end. Thank you very much for sharing your story. I liked that the Dad of the other girl stood up in the church to share how Annabel’s faith changed his life and gave his daughter the courage to face her illness. Thank you for not giving up, many blessings to the people who played a part in this great miracle. Has definitely renewed my trust that God always shows up on time.

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  • Dr. Cajetan Coelho

    Message of hope and inspiration – need of the hour worldwide.

  • Jim

    Such superstition!

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  • Andy

    Hey Jim, hopefully you will think again about miracles. All around the world there have been miracle reports and many have been substantiated by medical evidence. A book by Craig Keener – Miracles “the credibility of the New Testament” demonstrates that David Humes assertion that the collective human experience is such that miracles never happen is false Based on the research. There are hundreds of millions of Christians in the past few decades that have testimonies of being an eye witness to a miracle.

    I have experienced a miracle (couldn’t have a child naturally until trying for 7 years) as well as my father (heart attack and stroke, no oxygen to his brain for 25 mins, alive and well today with no memory loss or brain damage!) The obvious miracles don’t happen All of the time, but the fact that they do happen and doctors can attest to them happening both in North America as well as the rest of the world should make us pause and think.

    think about it…

  • Susan Morgan

    Saw this incredible film yesterday – this true story of a real family’s journey from despair to renewal and hope lifted my spirits at a time when I needed my own personal renewal. Thank you, Christy Beam, for sharing your extraordinary story.

  • Gary

    My wife and I saw this movie today (EasterSunday). What a great inspiring movie. I certainly hope that this movie will be shown on network television in the future. It’s amazing how one’s life can be changed when you keep faith and trust in God.

  • Fran

    Jesus performed many miracles on earth and so did his apostles after his death. However, these mirackes were only a “preview” of the “worldwide” miracles that will soon take place by God’s kingdom or heavenly government (Daniel 2:44) during its upcoming millennial rule over man. The blind will see, the lame will run, lost body parts will be restored, and all sickness, disease, old age and even death will be done away with on earth (Revelation 21:3,4). No one will then say “I am sick.” ❤️?☝️

  • Mary

    My husband and I saw the movie today. It really touched me. Yes- God does perform miracles- both big and small- daily. One just needs to have faith and be open to a loving God

  • Fr Mike Coleman

    I am a Catholic priest. I brought the entire 8th grade class of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic School in Columbia, Mo for a private showing on Holy Thursday morning (over 60 kids ). They cried together unashamedly and stood en masse to applaud at end. A great start to Easter Triduum. Saw it again today with a couple friends and cried even harder. God is great and Jennifer Garner deserves to be among next year’s Oscar nominees.

  • Linda

    Thank you for sharing your story. I really needed to see this at this time in my life. I have struggled with my faith lately. Living with Lupus is very difficult. I’ve been trying to deal with many issues. After seeing your story, I realize I’m just being tested. I need to trust that all we go as planned.

  • Anna

    I believe the thousand year reign of Jesus is soon upon us also, Fran.
    what a wonderful time where the consciousness of all humanity will be renewed. Goodness knows we need renewing.

  • Anna

    God bless you, Father Coleman. Yes, that is the BEST acting I have ever seen Jennifer Garner do. God is great.

  • Anna

    God bless you and keep you, Linda. We are all taking that last breath before His return. He is with you and loves you.

  • Belinda Webb

    I pray God touches your unbelieving heart and spirit Jim. It would be a real shame for you to live your life and never experience the amazing love of God. May God touch and move within you even as I write these words.
    God bless you.

  • KC

    Jennifer Garner also puts out smut like this… Careful who you give your money to.

  • KC