What is a miracle? For the five members of the faith-filled Beam family, miracles — both the small everyday variety and the unexplained cosmic kind — are as real as the contagious smile on the sweet face of their middle daughter.
Annabel is a happy and healthy 13-year-old thanks to life-altering “miracles from heaven.” Diagnosed at age 4 with antral hypomotility and pseudo-obstruction — chronic and incurable gastrointestinal conditions — Annabel could not eat solid foods, took multiple medications daily and experienced intense pain and frequent hospital stays.
Though Annabel was a ferocious “fighter,” according to her mother Christy Beam, four years of extreme suffering eventually started to overwhelm young Annabel.
“Mama, I want to die and go to heaven with Jesus, where there is no more pain,” Annabel said one day, seemingly ready to give up, Christy recalled recently.
Days later, Annabel fell 30 feet headfirst into a hollowed-out tree in front of their home. Remarkably, she suffered only bumps and bruises — and, according to Annabel, took a trip to heaven, followed by unexplained healing shortly thereafter.
Today, over four years after the accident, Annabel remains asymptomatic and is able to eat and drink normally — a miracle that mystified her doctor, who has documented the healing, and has restored her family’s faith, especially Christy’s.
“I didn’t lose my faith, but I absolutely struggled in my faith,” Christy told The Tidings in a recent interview, admitting that she had moments when she questioned God, asking “Where are you God? Are you listening? Are you even there God?”
Although her faith was badly shaken, Christy feels stronger now than ever before.
Christy shared her family’s spiritually uplifting story in her book “Miracles from Heaven: A Little Girl and Her Amazing Story of Healing,” which has been adapted for the big screen thanks to co-producers Joe Roth, pastor T.D. Jakes and DeVon Franklin. The trio also co-produced the 2014 faith-rich film “Heaven is for Real.”
“We were looking for an inspirational, uplifting story that could be an organic follow-up to ‘Heaven is for Real.’ … Then I read Christy’s book and I got that same feeling again,” explained Franklin during March 4 roundtable press interviews with the filmmakers and cast members. “It was so compelling.”
“What I love about this story is that it is not only about miracles; it’s about families and struggle,” added Jakes. “It’s a powerful, provocative story about how a family survives adversities. It’s a film that gives hope [at] a time when people need hope.”
According to director Patricia Riggen (“The 33,” “Under the Same Moon”), she was drawn to work on “Miracles from Heaven” in part because, quite simply, “good stories are good stories,” but also because the family’s journey resonated with her on various levels.
“I was raised in a Mexican Catholic family and faith is part of my being, and I understand also as a mother that faith plays an important part when you go through very difficult circumstances … like [the Beam family],” Riggen told The Tidings.
One of her goals in directing the film was to accurately convey how Christy’s “journey of faith [accompanied] her struggle to find a cure for her daughter.”
“It has that [faith] storyline going through it, which sometimes happens to people, that they [almost] lose their faith, but thankfully they get it back — in this case with a very happy ending,” said Riggen.
For Jennifer Garner, who plays Christy Beam in “Miracles,” making the film has had a residual impact not only on her faith, but also for her three children.
“I grew up going to church and Sunday school, and faith has always been a part of my life, but living in L.A. … it wasn’t something that I was actively practicing,” Garner told The Tidings. “Being on this film … kind of reminded me, ‘Oh, wait, religion isn’t political; religion is something that you give your kids so they can have it to hold on to, no matter what happens in their lives.’”
When she was talking to her kids about the movie, she briefly broached the subject of church — and their collective reply both surprised and touched Garner.
“They said, ‘You know mom, we’re ready to go to church anytime’ — and so we started going again that week, and we were immediately embraced by the community at our little church and we just love it,” she said with a smile.
“Miracles from Heaven” also stars Martin Henderson, Queen Latifah, Eugenio Derbez and Kylie Rogers as Annabel Beam. This film is rated PG and will be released in theaters nationwide March 16.