by Mary T. Walker

220/2016

Trenton road in McAllen at Christian Fellowship Church [CFC] on a Saturday evening around supper time, ticket-holders filtered through the foyer to submit their tickets.As they got to the lobby they could get a plate and pile on finger sandwiches, muffins, and off to the left was coffee from a choice of Starbucks or the CFC standard Sunday-morning-coffee: caffeinated or decaf. This was no ordinary weekend church gathering, though. People paid to be at church on Saturday to hear the author of 90 minutes in Heaven, Don Piper, give his jaw-dropping testimony.

As a young Pastor travelling out of town in bad weather from a church convention, he made a split-second decision to take a bridge to get back home.  This decision placed him in the exact position to be run over by a volunteer from a nearby prison in a semi that rolled over his car crushing the vehicle and tearing Don Piper apart. The eighteen wheeler that was driven by a fairly novice driver also sideswiped two other vehicles. Gruesome tragedy for any who witnessed, was part of, or responded to the accident. This was true for Piper in the first fearsome moment when he raised his left arm over his head as the semi rolled over his car--tearing that arm off. 

D.O.A., Pastor Piper was declared dead upon paramedic arrival on the scene. That must not have been a hard diagnosis to make: The car was smashed and a glance inside the vehicle showed a crushed twenty-something man whose left arm lay severed in the back seat while his torso was stuck beneath the steering wheel and his right leg torn up. He had no pulse each time they checked, so he was left there, and the officers went about clearing the road to reopen it for traffic. Tragedy. 

Not yet, for Piper, though. Other than what must have been dread when he saw the semi about to crash into him, Piper's experience after impact was immediately what every believer in the divine awaits: peace, reunion, joy...HEAVEN. 

Now any armchair medical expert knows sometimes near-death experiences are accompanied with light-at-the- end-of-the-tunnel visions or reunions with loved ones until resuscitation brings them back. Except there was nothing to resuscitate. He remained a corpse for an hour and a half.  

Piper gave the riveted audience at CFC a play by play of the accident most of which he only knows because of police reports, ambulance records, and information given him by members of the prayer chain that went around the world on his behalf. There was another Pastor that arrived on the scene to pray with any victims but Piper was the only victim still there. Despite being told there was nothing to pray for because Piper was dead, the Pastor still went and laid a hand upon Piper's right shoulder and prayed. When the prayer was finished he did not lift his hand from the dead man's body. Instead, he began to sing a hymn. He fled the car shortly thereafter to get the officers to bring the ambulance because the dead man had begun singing "what a friend we have in Jesus" right along with him. Shock gave way to immediate action as they brought the jaws of life to remove the top of the car and steering wheel to get Piper out of the vehicle and into an ambulance. 

 Now it was a very real tragedy for Piper. Pain, like he had never experienced, was his new reality. He came back to life feeling someone holding his right hand and someone else with a hand on his shoulder singing. 

Piper describes to every audience he travels to what he wrote about in his best-selling novel that was later made into a movie. Piper was at the gate of heaven, saw the book of the lamb with his name written inside, and all the people in his life that he had lost were at the gate waiting to greet him. He saw mansions, the gold lined street, heard millions of songs being sung all meeting in harmony, languages he did not know spoken and their meaning evident to him. He was in the most satisfying moment he has ever known until all those prayers worked. Then he was back and at the beginning of a frightful year and many expensive surgeries.

The man who saw his name in the Lamb's book of life and was settling into enjoying the reward of his faith was now in such a state of prolonged turmoil that it tested his faith. He was at such a loss for why his Lord would give him heaven then send him back to the state of agony his body was enduring. When he wrote his book (he said to never have to talk about it again) it led to requests for him to share his testimony. His testimony is partly, yes, heaven he knows beyond even a shadow of doubt is real and assures his listeners of faith they too will soon see it, but also of realising that even in pain and hardship there is a purpose. The many, many people that have approached him whose lives were touched is his evidence of that. He even bumped into a man from Taiwan that had been part of the prayer chain for Piper. It is also a testimony of how prayer works. He quotes scripture as he tells his experiences seeming to still be in awe of how true every promise was and is. 

By the way, his arm was reattached and is fully functioning, his leg repaired, and the Lord is continuing to use Piper as a witness to the world. Also, remember how that other Pastor prayed for Piper while touching his right shoulder and someone was holding Piper's right hand? There was no one else but the two of them...perhaps, Piper speculated, it was an Angel holding his hand upon his return to the earthly realm. 

Audience members, Larry & Sylvia with Piper

and  

below is my daughter Evy and I                                                     posing with the Pastor, too!

 Afterwards, Piper stayed for a meet and greet and signed copies of his novel for those who brought one. This is a picture of my book's autograph where he wrote: "See you at the gate!"