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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Don Piper Story

Author, pastor talks about how prayer brought him back from heaven
By Theresa Shadrix
The Alabama Baptist
February 28, 2008

Don Piper died on a bridge called Trinity in January 1989. But in January 2008, Piper stood before the congregation of Parker Memorial Baptist Church, Anniston, and declared he is alive. And thousands of people came to hear, so many that the second service featuring Piper had to be moved to Anniston High School.

“Sometimes a person standing up and saying, ‘This is what God has done in my life,’ is powerful,” he told the crowd. His powerful journey to the Calhoun Baptist Association church began Jan. 18, 1989, on the Gulf Freeway near Lake Livingston in Texas.

As a staff member at South Park Baptist Church, Alvin, Texas, Piper had attended a conference in Trinity, Texas. When the conference ended early on that Wednesday morning, he was eager to get back to church for the night service.

Driving his 1986 red Ford Escort, Piper made two fateful decisions — he wore his seat belt, and he took a different route to Alvin.

Just 15 minutes after he said goodbye to friends at the conference, Piper approached a bridge.

As he drove in the rain, he thought about a sermon, “I Believe in a Great God,” he would deliver that night, not knowing his belief would be put to the ultimate test.

“I was a 38-year-old preacher on my way to church, and my life was turned upside down,” Piper said.

On the other side of the bridge, an 18-wheeler, transporting food and driven by a Texas Department of Criminal Justice inmate, weaved, hit his car head-on and then sideswiped two other cars. Among the carnage of the crash, Piper’s broken body had no pulse. The only one injured in the accident, he was declared dead at 11:45 a.m. by emergency medical technicians.

While his bloody body was covered up with a tarp, the spirit of Piper was having a reunion with family and friends in heaven. “How ironic the 18-wheeler, driven by a prisoner and filled with food, would hit a pastor and send him to ... where there is no hunger,” he said.

As told in his best-selling book “90 Minutes in Heaven,” Piper remembers being outside the pearly gates of heaven with a welcome committee of people, long deceased, who made a spiritual impact on his life. As he basked in the glory and symphony of heaven, on earth, his family and members of his church began praying after being informed he had been in an accident.

Dick Onerecker, a pastor who attended the same conference, was stuck in traffic caused by the wreck and asked a police officer if he could pray for anyone on the bridge. When the police officer told him everyone was fine except the deceased man in the shattered red car, God spoke to him to pray for the man.

“He wasn’t interested in theology as much as he was obedience,” explained Piper of Onerecker praying for a deceased man. He prayed and eventually sang “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”

Piper recalls being suddenly ripped from heaven and singing along with the praying pastor. Barely alive, the emergency crew rushed into action and transported Piper to the hospital. He had no internal or brain injuries — a significant prayer Onerecker told him he petitioned God for that day.

Piper’s recovery took 13 months and required 34 surgeries.

The fact that he was able to share an evangelistic testimony with almost 4,000 people in four services Jan. 27 and 28 in Anniston is what resonated with Parker Memorial Baptist pastor Mack Amis.

Initially intrigued by Piper’s story when he received his book after his mother died, Amis said it was the aftermath of the accident that affected him the most.

“What intrigued me was what he felt when he came back,” Amis said of the emotional and physical recovery Piper endured. “How he learned to come to grips with that and how he came to realize that he has a new purpose in life. I thought that would be a universal message to people.”

Reflecting on Piper’s visit, Amis said, “God sent (Piper) back here to minister to people. So I ask, what are you doing to make sure people get to heaven?”

Piper’s book is available by visiting www.thealabamabaptist.org and clicking on the LifeWay Christian Stores button.

Copyright 2008. The Alabama Baptist

Mark Harris

After 4HIM, Mobile native finds ministry in local church
By Theresa Shadrix
The Alabama Baptist
February 28, 2008

Mark Harris is a normal guy with an anything-but-ordinary music ministry.
The Mobile native is a former member of and songwriter for 4HIM, a solo artist and the head of worship ministries at Bay Community Church in Daphne.

His musical journey began as a singer in the contemporary Christian group Truth. In 1989, when Harris, along with Andy Chrisman, Marty Magehee and Kirk Sullivan, left Truth and formed 4HIM, it proved to be a successful move.

The harmonies and pop-gospel sound of 4HIM earned eight Dove Awards, 24 No. 1 singles (22 were written by Harris), a certified gold record, a Grammy award nomination, induction into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame and the Alabama Governor Achievement Award.

But, in 2004, after 15 years together, the four men found themselves at a musical crossroads and the group disbanded as each decided to explore solo projects and new ministry opportunities.
Harris said he was still a member of 4HIM and working on his first solo project when he discovered the least possible ministry opportunity in his home church.

“I was talking to the pastor one day, and he said he needed help finding the right person in the worship area,” Harris said. “For about a month, I looked around and at the same time, the pastor and I both said maybe it was me.”

A change of heart
Harris said that while on the road with 4HIM, he often met with worship leaders but he couldn’t really understand their needs. But that is no longer true. “I really feel like now God sends me out to minister to the staff, not just the people,” Harris said. “I have a real heart for people who serve the church.”

Amazingly, he said all four of the members of 4HIM are now serving in either full-time or part-time worship ministry at their local church. Although Harris admits life is busy, he still keeps in close contact with each of them and said the ending of the group was God’s plan.
“We didn’t stop because we were tired of being around each other,” Harris said, adding there is a lot of love between the four. “We are like brothers.”

He also said the doors are not closed to 4HIM performing together again at some point in the future.
For now, he has enough on his plate to fill anyone hungering for worshipful music. Harris’ first solo project in 2005, “The Line Between the Two,” featured the popular hymn of fatherhood “Find Your Wings.”
In September 2007, he released his second solo project, “Windows and Walls.”

‘Windows and Walls’
Though a devoted husband and father himself, the theme of fatherhood in Harris’ solo songs is a nod to his own parents. And passing on the legacy of a Christ-filled home is important to him as reflected in songs like the second CD’s title track, “Windows and Walls.”
“I really feel like this album has a strong message for everybody to hear,” he said.
For more information, visit www.markharrisonline.com.

Copyright 2008. The Alabama Baptist.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Bony Hands

Not long after posting an "All the Rage" column about my obsession with my aging hands, I was contacted by a reporter with MSNBC.com. She was so great and we talked for so long about living in the South, Alabama tornado's and beauty rituals that an hour past by quickly.

The result of the interview is a wonderful story about how women are trying to erase aging in hands. For me, I'll try natural remedies cause I am quite afraid of needles. Read more here on MSNBC.com - Turning back the ‘creepy old hands’ of time by Diane Mapes