Don Piper: At Heaven's Gate
By Lori Victa and Kathy Chiero
The 700 Club
Don Piper was relieved when the pastor's conference he had been
attending finished a little early that Wednesday in January 1989. Being associate
pastor and having just been appointed minister of education at a Houston area
church, Don was a busy man. The early start home would provide him much needed
time to mentally organize his hectic schedule.
"I was thinking about that night and also that I was going to be preaching
that next Sunday morning in three services," Don remembers.
Little did Don know he would be late for the service that night--not just
by minutes or hours, but by months--and before he got home, he would take
a detour he would never forget.
Within minutes of leaving the retreat center, Don drove onto a bridge spanning
a lake. It was a fairly long bridge and there was water on both sides of the
Recalling the scene, Don says, "I approached the end of the bridge,
and before I reached the end, a tractor-trailer truck owned by the Texas Dept.
of Corrections crossed the center stripe and hit my car head on."
Not only did the truck hit Don's car, it ran over the passenger side of the
small Ford Escort, completely crushing the vehicle and killing Don Piper.
Instantly, Don began an amazing journey.
"When I was killed, I was instantly transported to heaven's gate,"
he says. "It was an instantaneous thing."
Don found himself standing in front of a divine portal, surrounded by familiar
did not see a single person that I did not know," he says. "They
were relatives, they were friends that died in high school, they were teachers--they
were people I had seen and known all my life who had gone to glory. They were
smiling; they were embracing me; they were welcoming me' they were in the
process of taking me through the gate of heaven."
Looking over the heads of his friends, Don saw a looming pearl gate.
"The gate of heaven was a magnificent edifice, the one that I saw. It
looked no less like a giant gate that had been sculpted from mother-of-pearl,"
Peering through the gate, Don saw an incredible light.
"Behind that portal was such a light that I don't conceive of how you
could see it in an earthly body. It could only be envisioned in a heavenly
body because it was too bright."
And, says Don, there was music, that of a literal, angelic choir.
"In all honesty, as awesome as the sight was, the sound was more amazing,"
he says. "I heard literally thousands of praise songs. They were all
praise songs. I really couldn't see anything. I was so preoccupied with the
people around me, I couldn't see anything. But you could sense this hum of
wings hovering all about you, like you were being ministered to by angels,
and they were observing this whole episode."
While Don stood at the gates of heaven, pastor Dick Onerecker of Kline, Texas,
stood on a Texas highway by Don's lifeless body. He had also attended the
pastor's conference. He came upon the accident moments after it happened.
The EMS personnel had told him that Don was dead.
"It was as though I was compelled to stop and to pray for him. The Lord
had just impressed on me very emphatically, very urgently that I was to pray
for him," says Dick. "I walked over by the door. There was great
physical damage on the outside. I laid my hands on him and began to pray for
As soon as Don's journey began, it ended. Don found himself back in his crushed
vehicle, staring up at a tarp that had been thrown over him by medical attendants.
Says Don, "The first conscious memory was 'What a Friend we have in
Jesus.' I was singing. I was thinking to myself, Why am I singing this
song? I'm in the dark, and I knew it was about noon time when the accident
happened. I'm in the dark, I'm singing, and I'm holding a hand. I'm thinking
to myself, What on earth is happening?"
Dick had begun singing hymns to Don.
"The Lord impressed on me not only to pray for him but that there would
be no internal injuries and that there would be no head injuries. Then, I
began to sing, and I to heard him singing with me," says Dick.
was transported to Herman Hospital in Houston. Miraculously, he suffered no
head or internal injuries. However, virtually every bone in Don's body was
either broken or shattered.
His left arm and left leg were completely severed, and had to be rebuilt
and replaced. Looking at his battered and pain-seared body, this man who had
touched heaven's gates wanted to go back.
"My mindset was having now been able to see what the matter with me
was, and to know how beautiful heaven was, to want to be there again. As much
as I loved these people that I was with, I was so confident of their salvation
experiences that I knew they would join me sometime in the future," Don
But the prayers and love of family and friends pulled Don through four months
of intensive therapy, numerous operations, and infections that on two occasions
almost claimed his life.
"I like to say that I came back by popular demand," he says. "People
prayed me back from the gates of heaven. People prayed me back from death's
door. I'm here because people asked God for me to be here."
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