The Don Piper Story,

"Crossing the Bridge," by Kathleen Lawrence-Smith, Editor, Anchored Magazine, Worcester, England

Reprinted from the New Year Number, March-February 2008, Anchored Magazine

When Baptist minister Don Piper drove away from a Convention in Texas in January 1989, his journey home led him on to a narrow bridge over the Trinity River. He had almost cleared it when a 18-wheeler truck swung on to the bridge from the other end. It veered out of control, hit two cars driving ahead of it, then pulled out over the centre-line, rammed into Don's Ford Escort head-on, and jammed it against the river railings. The truck wheels rose up and smashed the roof. Rapid calls brough medics to the scene to find Don trapped inside. They groped for his pulse and found the twisted body lifeless. "He died instantly", they said, as they got back to the blocked road.

And there the story might have ended had not Dick and Anita Onerecker joined the long traffic jam which stretched behind the crash scene later. They walked forward to see if they could help. Could they pray for anyone? No, said the police officer, the Ford car driver died instantly an hour and a half ago. Nothing could be done, but something impelled this Baptist pastor to persist in his request, so permission was granted with a warning that the scene was really stressing, grass fragments and broken metal strewn over the lifeless victim.

Dick nodded, picked his way to the back of the car and lifted the tarpaulin sheet that had been thrown over the wreckage. He crawled under it, located Don's body, felt his pulse and found him lifeless. Yet he reached Don's soulder, stretched out a hand and began to pray. He was now convinced God had told him to do so. He had no idea who the victim was, or whether he was a believer but, gripped by strong emotion, he poured out his soul in prayer for the driver's recovery, and that his brain and internal organs would be protected from irreparable damage.

At times his gifted voice broke into song and it was when he sang "What a Friend We Have in Jesus" that Don's own voice broke in to join his! Dick scrambled out of the wreckage shouting, "He's alive! He's singing! He's come back! [but what did the officers at the scene think when they heard this, only to find it was absolutely true?--Ronald Ginther]

The situation must have been electric. They had to wait for lifting gear to open up the car but at last Don was carefully manoeuvred out, carefully saving his almost severed leg. At Huntsville Hospital his life still hung on a thread; by now he was suffering pain all over his body. Surgeons struggled to replace all missing bone and had to stretch his limb on a "fixator". This beame his greatest dread every day; the pain was greater than he ever imagined. At times he wished he had not survived. And no wonder! What happened during that hour and a half after death was astonishing beyond imagination.

Even before the trashed car closed around him Don was completely oblivious to what had happened. A light enveloped him. He was facing a crowd standing in front of a beautiful gate--people who had gone into the heavenlies years before, smiling, shouting and praising God. A welcome committee? His grandfather, now strong and well, embraced him. Friends hugged him. His grandmother (once a victim to osteoporosis [and bent over all the time he knew her]) was upright and sparkling with happiness. A dear friend whose death had grieved Don sortely a few years ago, was there to assure him of joy and gladness and that it was well with them all. The atmosphere was blissful--the greatest family reunion of all time with warm and radiant light all around. He felt fully alive.

There followed more descriptions of glorious colour and light and the company all seemed to be moving toward that glorious gate beyond which far greater brilliance glowed. Then came the sound of music, the most beautiful he had ever heard, yet carrying some chords of songs dearly loved in the past--and suddenly Don became aware that his own voice was responding to a sound on a different level--

"Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer."

Space prevents more details here, but there were times when Don longed to return to that place. It has become a vital part of his life's experiences and of his ministlry, bringing to all of us, who are members of God's family, the reassurance of a loving welcome in the Father's house.--Kathleen Lawrence-Smith

My dear English friend who is going strong in her nineties for the Lord, wrote this just days ago, and published it in her Anchored Magazine for the 12-20,000 readers she has in Great Britain. All her books have always sold out too, and you can tell she is an interesting read, by her handling of this story. I am thankful for this well-written review of Don Piper's book, as it was everything I heard from the interview on Daystar or TBN (I forget which network, which hardly mattered to me during the interview) that riveted me to the screen as I listened to Don Piper tell the whole story himself. The agonizing recovery, which was a year or more, was a worse trial than the accident, which lasted only seconds in his memory. His leg was severed and I understood it was lying in the back seat, detached from his body--shouldn't he have bled to death from that alone? Well, he no doubt did bleed to death, if the smashing violence of the truck running over the car did not kill him instantly first--in the hour and a half while he lay in that car in his mangled, unbreathing state. Most people would probably agree he was stone dead before man prayed for him--even if you disagree with the police officers, with the medics, with Dick Onerecker who prayed for him, with all the stark facts of his hopeless condition. Most sane people, that is--though there are always skeptics who deny everything the facts and the experts on the scene testify. I have seen an accident in which two people were dead on the scene--the effects of seeing mangled, bloody people stay with you for hours, keeping you in a state of semi-shock. This is not a good story to entertain you. It is the truth. It comes from a humble looking person too--Don Piper. He was just going about his usual business as a Baptist pastor when this defining moment engulfed him and changed everything, except his saved state. He was saved, as his going to heaven instantly, fully authenticates. But everything else changed instantly. He didn't know he was dead, he just popped up standing before the gate of heaven. And there were folks waiting to greet him, people he instantly recognized, though they were much improved in appearance, looked younger, and all were so happy and rejoicing. They were just the right people he needed to meet who were unmistakably his family and friends--there could be no confusion as to their identities and where he was standing and whether he was really there or not. You cannot fool a man looking at his own flesh and blood relatives and old friends! Try it sometime! He knew perfectly they had all died and gone to heaven--and now he was with them! Fool such a man, and you really are good at deception and need to be in Hollywood or the pulpit of a heretical church or cult. Let us hope that this doesn't happen to us--that our goings will be more peaceful and less traumatic--but, remember, it did not take long for him to travel to heaven--it took only an instant! And then...and then...well, why not go and order his book of tell-all, "90 Minutes in Heaven"? Another article in the same issue of the magazine, Anchored, tells of how God deals with similar hopeless situations in the lives of His saints, "A Smoking Flax Shall He Not Quench," by Harold Carter. Please link to it on the Homepage.

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