Reverend Don Piper was killed in an horrific accident, spent 90 minutes in heaven, and came back to life in his mangled body.
Piper is a New York Times bestselling author, an ordained minister, and a popular speaker and TV and radio guest. Many of his presentations can be viewed on YouTube.
Don Piper recently gave an exclusive interview that follows up many of his earlier interviews about the accident, his experience of heaven, and about his recovery. With a wonderful sense of humor, he shared insights about God’s purpose with him after the accident and recovery.
Earlier CBN reported that Don Piper was heading home after a pastors’ conference, thinking about preaching that next Sunday morning in three services. Within minutes of leaving the retreat center, a truck hit Don’s car, completely crushing it and killing Don Piper. CBN reports, “Don found himself standing in front of a divine portal, surrounded by familiar faces. ‘I did not see a single person that I did not know…They were smiling…embracing me… welcoming me…in the process of taking me through the gate of heaven.'”
When Don stood at the gates of heaven, Pastor Dick Onerecker of Kline, Texas, stood on the Texas highway by Don’s lifeless body. After also attending the pastors’ conference, he came upon the accident moments after it happened. The EMS team told him that Don was dead. Nonetheless, Dick was compelled to stop and to pray for him.
He laid his hands on him and began to pray for him. Don found himself back in his crushed vehicle. Don’s first conscious memory was his singing ‘What a Friend we have in Jesus.’ Dick had been singing hymns to Don. Dick was impressed to pray for Don there would be no internal injuries and that there would be no head injuries.
Don was taken to Herman Hospital in Houston. Miraculously, he had suffered no head or internal injuries, although almost every bone in his body was either broken or shattered. His left arm and left leg were completely severed, and had to be rebuilt and replaced. He wanted to go back to heaven, but the prayers and love of family and friends pulled him through months of intensive therapy, numerous operations, and infections that almost claimed his life.
In an ABC interview, Don Piper said, “it was the most real thing that ever happened to me.” He knew he was now alive on earth, but knew that he would face a long recovery. He would endure many surgeries, and had to learn how to walk again. “I knew I was not going to be the same physically, because of how badly I was injured. But I also know what I’ve seen,” Piper said.
He believes he was sent back to spread a special message: “Heaven is a real place.” He said he looks forward to returning to those magnificent gates. “It’s not that I mind being here, I’m actually very excited to be here,” he said, but “this doesn’t seem real to me now, because I know how temporal and fleeting it is. “I know it happened in my very soul, my very being,” he said. “It is now my reality. And so I can’t wait to go back there.”
90 Minutes in Heaven, starring Hayden Christensen, is a faith-based dramatic movie with dynamic writing and quality directing. It is about hope and purpose even in the severest of trials. The movie powerfully focuses on prayer, faith, and hope, as well as miracles; but due to the car crash and medical injuries, it is most suitable for older children/adults.
Singer-songwriter Michael W. Smith is in a leading role with his son writing the soundtrack for the movie. Piper wrote part of the screenplay and worked with the art department to recreate the hospital room and ICU exactly as they were in 1989.
Piper says it was hard to see the pain of his past brought to life, but believes the film’s authenticity will not only satisfy the book’s faithful readers but also bring fresh hope to people going through times of trial.
Sonoma Christian Home had the chance to talk with Piper about his newfound purpose and faith. SCH Editor at Large Dr. Diane Howard reports.
SCH: How has this accident and experience of heaven changed you personally?
DP: I have seen how much we take for granted. Life has become very fundamental. I see life as a process. I have seen miracles. It is a miracle that I now can move without assistance and much more. I have learned the following: that there is joy in a sense of humor and laughter, in perspective, not in what happens to you but what you do with it, in the importance of a positive attitude, and other lessons of how to overcome and to get over it.
SCH: What has God shown you about your life’s purpose since the accident?
DP: When I was questioning why God had allowed this to happen to me, He spoke to me telling me that it was not about me, it was about Him. He had a purpose for me to serve others who were going through difficult times.
SCH: What lessons have you learned about ministering to those going through struggles and deep waters?
DP: A sense of humor, positive attitude, seeing the big picture rather than focusing on the particular painful issues are all important. Empathy is critical. People going through difficult times need to be with others who have overcome difficult times. They need to be with others who have survived to be encouraged that they can survive. They need to have someone hold their hands during long dark nights.
I have learned that people who are going through tough times need the following: others who “get it,” who are real, who can acknowledge the pain of others, who will listen, who will understand we may have some things in common but that we are all different, who empathize, and will encourage.
SCH: Can you tell me a story of how you’ve helped someone through a difficult time?
DP: Recently I ministered to a man who had lost his wife and was mad at God. I asked him if God had given him his wife as a gift? I asked him if there were ways that he could give the gifts God had given him through her to others? That seemed to help him.
SCH: Have you found joy through ministry?
DP: Yes, my family, our associates and I have experienced real joy in these ministries. We are helping to prepare people for heaven but also to find joy in overcoming life’s challenges here on earth.
SCH: How has God grown your ministry through the years?
DP: I have been able to write four books. My wife has written one. I speak. My ministry gives away proceeds to projects that are neglected or overlooked. My book 90 Minutes in Heaven is in 46 languages with 8 million readers.
SCH: How are your experiences and ministries answering the needs people have in our world today?
DP: These are difficult, challenging times. People need hope for now and for heaven. They need to know how important it is to be positive, others-centered, and better rather than bitter. Today, people need other who will inspire them and help them through the deep waters of their lives.
They need ministries that encourages hope and purpose in the midst of profound difficulties. Today, suffering people need someone who will empathize with what they are going through, will listen, will hold their hand, and also inspire hope.
SCH: Since the accident what has been the focus of your ministry?
DP: To provide hope and inspiration.
Written by Diane Howard, Ph.D. (Performance Studies), dianehoward.com