A Double Dose Of Inspiration

Susan Page
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Wednesday - February 25, 2009
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The Waterhouse Lecture Series and the Hawaiian Islands Ministries (HIM) have teamed up to bring two internationally renowned speakers to Hawaii next month: Don Piper and Nick Vujicic.

Each man is inspiring, and each is committed to sharing his life story to bring hope to millions worldwide.

Piper is a Baptist pastor from Texas in his 50s who, in 1989, died in a violent car crash and was pronounced dead for 90 minutes - before a “miracle” occurred.

Vujicic is a 26-year-old Australian born healthy, but without limbs.

How their stories converge is summed up in one word: faith.

Piper’s best-selling book about his experience, 90 Minutes in Heaven, (with Cecil Murphey; Revell, 2004), is on the New York Times paperback nonfiction bestseller list and many other “top” lists. The provocative title caused me to buy the book before traveling to the Mainland last November. Maybe it was a subconscious fear of water landings that made me curious about what the author had experienced during his 90 minutes with no pulse and limbs all but severed.


 

At 11:45 a.m. the EMTs declared Piper dead. Mangled and trapped inside his bloody Ford Escort demolished by a semi going 60 mph, he was covered with a tarp and ignored while traffic and less severely injured were addressed. Why hurry to extract a lifeless body?

But between 11:45 a.m. and 1:15 p.m., Don Piper was elsewhere. His personal account of those 90 minutes in heaven - before a pastor praying over him heard a voice and found a pulse - is astounding and far different from after-death testimonies of moving through a tunnel toward a brilliant light.

Skeptics attribute those experiences to a lack of oxygen, vivid dreams or merely wishful thinking, one reason Piper didn’t share his experience until two years later.

“No. 1, if I go around talking about having been in heaven, people will think I’m nuts,” he told good friend David Gentiles, who had drawn the story out during a painful exchange.

“No. 2, I don’t want to go over that experience again. It’s ... well, it’s just too personal. Too special.”

Gentiles convinced him that telling his story might help others.


Piper’s vast injuries left him with physical disabilities after a long, grueling recovery fraught with bouts of depression and anger over being “returned” to live in so much pain. Most of the book is about his struggle to find the purpose in his ordeal. Piper now speaks to civic and church groups across the world with a message of hope and faith. His website says, “The vast majority of people living today believe that there is another place beyond this world. There is. Don Piper experienced it.”

That someone born with no limbs crisscrosses the world as a professional speaker defies the possible. But when Nick Vujicic, 26, “paces” across a 6-foot-long table delivering his message, “No Limbs, No Limits,” you’re riveted to his words, not what he lacks.

More than 2 million people, in both Christian and non-Christian audiences, have heard Vujicic speak in Asia, Africa, North America and his native Australia, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in finance and accounting and is a certified financial planner.

Life Without Limbs is a nonprofit organization he founded in 2005 to encourage people of any age with physical challenges to give their lives to Jesus Christ, which Vijucic himself did in high school.

But his program is more rowdy than preachy, poking fun at himself to put astonished audience members at ease. In his infectious Aussie accent, he warns, “I’m gonna be in your face from time to time ... so buckle up.” Then says, “Kids’reactions are fantastic ... the kids come up and ask, ‘What happened?‘and I say, ‘Cigarettes. Stay away from cigarettes.’”

But he’s serious about shedding limits and having big visions. He speaks to young people who, rejected and depressed, consider suicide, something he did at age 8. And his Third World Ministry brings a rarely heard message to societies that believe those born with birth defects are cursed and should be killed or discarded.

He’s glad his own “parents didn’t know” he’d be born without limbs, because doctors would’ve surely urged them “to abort me,” and “I would never have been able to reach so many people hurting people around the world.”

For information, contact Waterhouse Lecture Series, 732-5561, ext. 204, http://www.waterhouselecture.org or http://www.himon-line.org.

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