A Heavenly Trio

Bestselling author Don Piper describes the angelic encounter that helped him survive a devastating car accident.

By Don Piper, Pasadena, Texas


Most people who know me know I died on January 18, 1989, went to heaven, and was prayed back to earth about ninety minutes later; however, many don’t know the rest of the story—a part I didn’t know until more than a year afterward. One powerful element came out when I ate at a Chinese restaurant with Dick and Anita Onerecker.

We had just come from church, where Dick served as the senior pastor. They had invited me to preach. My first encounter with Dick and Anita had been in the piney woods of East Texas. They were part of a leadership team for a church growth conference that ended on a Wednesday.

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On a cold, rain-slicked rural road a few miles from the gates of the retreat center, a tractor-trailer truck crossed the center stripe of the two-lane highway on a bridge over Lake Livingston, and hit me head-on. I was killed instantly. The report stated, “Dead on the scene,” and they summoned the coroner. Although the accident involved three cars, there were no serious injuries to the other people.

Because of the accident, traffic backed up in both directions. Dick and Anita also headed home from the conference. They had stopped for take-out coffee, and were half-a-mile from the accident. With so many cars backed up, they left their car and walked to the scene of the accident to see if they could be of assistance. Anita gave her hot coffee to an elderly man in one of the other accident vehicles. Dick sought out the emergency medical technicians. After Dick identified himself, one EMT said, “The man in the red car is dead; several people are badly shaken up, but not seriously hurt.”

Weeks after the accident, Dick told me, “The Lord spoke to me in a clear voice: ‘Pray for the man in the red car.’ ” When Dick asked permission to get under the tarp that now covered my red Escort, an EMT refused. “The demolished car is too gruesome.” Dick persisted and the man relented. Despite the misty rain, Dick pulled back the tarp and crawled inside my Escort. He found my horribly mangled body slumped in the front seat. He prayed desperately for me, not knowing at that time for whom he was praying.

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Even my intimate friends would not have recognized me. Both legs were crushed, one was severed. So was my left arm. My chest was impaled by the steering wheel. In addition to obvious wounds, I was bleeding from the ears and eyes. My best recollection of what I heard, and the one I related to Dick’s church, was that Dick had taken hold of my only intact limb, my right hand, and prayed fervently and urgently. He prayed that I would live and be delivered from internal injuries. He paused a few times and sang hymns.

At one point he began singing, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” I started to sing with Dick. At the shock of hearing my singing with him, he scurried from under the tarp and yelled, “The man is alive!” Once again, he crawled under the tarp and continued to pray— with even more intensity. We continued to sing while firefighters, now on the scene, tried to extricate me. I was unaware of the activity, so I can only report what Dick and others told me. I had been driving along Texas Highway 19 on my way to lead a Wednesday prayer service at our church in Alvin, a suburb of Houston.

On the bridge above Lake Livingston, a huge truck came at me. In my next moment of consciousness I was in the darkness, singing hymns along with a voice I didn’t recognize. The powerful hand that gripped mine infused me with strength, encouragement, and the will to survive. More than a year passed after my ordeal, and most of that time I was in a hospital bed and underwent sixteen surgeries (more would follow). Excruciating pain filled my body constantly. Because of God’s grace I slowly recovered and within a year I was able to preach at Dick’s church.

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I wore heavy leg braces and was still in agony, but I was alive and able to stand at the pulpit of the man who had prayed me back to life. I told Dick’s congregation about their pastor’s fervent prayers, our hymn singing in the wrecked car, and his strong hand that supported me and infused me with courage to hold on. Many people cried that day—and tears came to my own eyes as I relived that experience.

Book cover -- Heavenly CompanyThis article is excerpted from Heavenly Company: Entertaining Angels Unaware by Cecil Murphey and Twila Belk. Published by Guideposts. Copyright © 2012 by Cecil Murphey. All rights reserved.

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Your Comments (9)

Thank God Dick obeyed His promptings and prayed for his friend without knowing !

Dick I too had an experience something like yours only I was a 10 yr old n 5th grade.we were playing baseball @ school when I was struck in head by slung bat. Wasn't long till my rt arm froze bent at elbow. my parents took me to amarillo where the big hospitals were. at hospital I went into coma in admitting room. I had 1st brain surgery 3-14-65 a wk later they went in again to remove pressure from brain. I was in the coma 5 months but only know that I felt God's hand twice I have been told I was in crictal condition. The dr told parents he had done all he could do. It was in the man above hands he also said we could not have done it without all the prayers. I came through w only rt leg no muscles below knee RetaH

Dear Sue A.,
After reading your story about your Dad, I to had an experience with my Dad after he pass away six years ago in the hospital. I remember laying with my head on his chest crying until I went into a deep sleep and experience walking with him to heaven. It was so beautiful white clouds all around us and the gates of heaven in front of us. Now 55 yrs. old and at that time in my enter experience dream with my dad, I was a little girl about 6 years old holding his hand wearing a yellow petticoat dress, and with my hair in a ponytail and white ribbon, him looking down at me saying that it wasn't time for me to go with him and I needed to go back home. I was give the most precious gift ever from him. I know deep in my heart there is a heaven, and that one day I know, I will be with him.


The same thing happened to me, sort of. And I just wanted to thank Mr. Piper again. For writing about it.

I went to school and church with the Pentecost children and would love to hear from them again.

In 2009 my Dad passed rather quickly & unexpectedly. Though I was able to be with him through out the nite until he expired he was in a coma & no longer able to speak. I kept speaking to him all the time though because being a nurse I felt he could hear me. About 3 days after his service he came to me:) I was so numb & shocked @ the time. Believe me if given another chance @ this I would be speaking to him this time! One day soon after while in a department store I got "pulled" to the book section & to Don Piper's book. Because of my experience w/Dad I now had a hunger to know about heaven & how things look for my Dad, etc. Your book helped me so much, especially finding "a new normal". I have since had other experiences which I'm sure my Dad & our dear Lord inspired. Especially since my conversation w/Dad was about heaven. It went something like this "Remember Dad, put in a good word for me while your up there...etc. Even though I miss my Dad terribly I know this is his SPECIAL PLACE & he DESERVES this. Knowing this, knowing Dad has the best brings me peace. And of course, I KNOW he's still around:) Thanks for your help through a rough time Mr. Piper. I would love to hear from you!

Thank you so much for this story. Those hymns that are ingrained into our conscienceness are amazing things. I frequently get up during the night, and a hymn is the first thing in my thoughts. I dearly love those sweet words - like prayers that are always there.

I truly love receiving Guideposts Magazine and also reading Mysterious Ways. The stories are inspirational and we truly need to see evidence of God's loving hand in our lives.

Especially after the tragedy in Boston on Monday. Evil is alive and well and we fervently need to pray for our country and the whole world.