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