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 center-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 shoulder, 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!".

The situation must have been electric. They had to wait for lifting gear to open up the car but at last Don was carefully maneuvered 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 became 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 ) was upright and sparkling with happiness. A dear friend whose death had grieved Don shortly 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 color 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 ministry, 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

Note: 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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