What in the world was Don Piper doing in Westlake last Sunday?
After all, he died more than 30 years ago in a Texas automobile accident when his car was run over by an 18-wheeler.
A passing minister received permission to enter the wreck after 4 EMTs on the scene failed to resuscitate Piper.
After 90 minutes, the minister stopped praying and broke into a hymn. Miraculously, Piper came to and joined him in singing, “What a Friend I Have in Jesus.”
Thirty-four operations and years of recovery followed.
And 30 years later, Don Piper was in Westlake asking people the same question people were asking of him: What in the world are you doing in Ohio?
“I know what I’m doing in Ohio,” he said to the packed house at Westlake’s Church on the Rise. “And I can ask all of you here the same thing: What are you doing in Ohio? What are you doing to help someone you know get to heaven?”
Heaven is real. But if people can’t get there, it doesn’t matter, says Piper.
The back story: Piper was on his way home from a church conference in Texas in 1989 when a semi-trailer truck struck his Ford Escort. Piper was crushed by the roof of his car, the steering wheel impaled his chest. The dashboard collapsed on his legs. Paramedics could not find any sign of life. Piper’s dead body was covered with a tarp. A fellow pastor prayed over him while waiting for the medical examiner. Piper was lifeless for 90 minutes. He inexplicably regained consciousness and joined the praying pastor in song.
He had gone to heaven and come back.
“I was there,” he says. “I didn’t go down a long tunnel. There wasn’t a bright light at the end of the tunnel. I was actually there – in heaven – just like you would snap your fingers. I was surrounded by people I’d known and loved in life.”
The first person he saw was his grandfather.
“We were very close. So when I saw him, I knew where I was because I knew where he was,” says Piper.
“It was a great reunion with the people who had preceded me. What a wonderful opportunity to be back with those people. I didn’t want to come back here. But people were praying back here, most of whom did not know I had died. The one man who did know I had died was in the car with me, praying over my dead body. And I start singing a song with him!”
“I was killed in the accident and I was standing at the gates of heaven. I wasn’t planning to die that day. Nor were any of the people I met at the gates of heaven planning to die the day they died….
“But they were ready when they did. And they were there to greet me…”
Who were these people? Family members, friends. Folks like we all know, who had taken him to church, prayed with him around the dinner table, introduced him to Sunday School and the gospel, who taught him a living faith.
Piper knows all too well that death can come when you least expect it – to you or to someone you love. It can be a car accident like the one he was in. Or you might get a phone call, a knock on the door, that brings devastating news about a loved one.
“I have much work to do. We all do.
“Heaven is real. Jesus is the way.
“And we’re taking reservations!”
Ed. Note: Don Piper appeared on Fox 8 News in the Morning last Sunday in an interview with Kristi Capel. You can view it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GGTln-qt_2