Sujo John was in the North Tower when the planes hit the World Trade Center on September 11 2001. He says his life was completely ‘rewritten’.
Paul Weston, a speaker at Spring Harvest 2017, once had dreams of becoming a chef and travelling the world. But that all changed when he (unsuccessfully) tried to chat up Paula
I was brought up in an amazing family. When I was young my parents sat me down and told me that I was adopted. I was really excited because I thought, “I’ve got another mum and dad like this – this is really cool!”
But when I went to school and told my friend he said, “That means that your mum and dad didn’t want you – they threw you away.” I never asked my adoptive parents, “Was I thrown away?” yet I spent most of the rest of my life wondering it. Why was I thrown away? How was I conceived? Was I just some sort of quickie round the back of a nightclub?
Growing up I didn’t have much Christian input. I didn’t think God was real. One weekend I was at a friend’s party and I spotted this absolutely amazing girl. I asked, “Wow, who’s she? She’s gorgeous!” And my friends said, “Oh, that’s Paula. She’s great.” I said, “Who’s going out with her?” They replied, “She doesn’t go out with anyone. She’s a Christian and says the person she goes out with is going to be the person she marries.” I rated myself, so I thought, “Right, I’ll try to chat her up!”
I tried every move that I knew had worked in previous situations, but nothing worked. I thought: “Wow, she’s the first Christian girl I’ve met who’s stunning, amazing and is absolutely not up for compromise.” And that increased my intrigue.
Life after death
The next day we all went away camping. That night we were sitting around the fire having a chat and a drink. Under the beautiful starlit sky an intense conversation started as someone asked, “What happens to us when we die?” Everyone was randomly saying the most bizarre things: “I think I’m going to be reincarnated as a baked bean.” But it got to Paula and she started to talk about how she was going to be with Jesus. It really annoyed me!
On the way back from camping I remember being on a train, looking out the window and I caught a really deep reflection of myself. I started to think, “What are you doing with your life? You’re so selfish, you’re living for yourself.” God was convicting me. I wanted to scrub inside – I felt really cut up about my life and brokenness.
When I was next out at the pub with my mates I mentioned that I had a bad knee injury. I’d smashed my kneecap and was in pain most of the time. Paula said, “My parents have prayed for a few people who’ve had leg injuries recently, and people have been getting better. They’re here in the pub tonight. Why don’t you let them pray for you?”
So we walked across the pub and there was her mum and dad having dinner. Paula asked, “Would you pray for Paul?” I thought it would be an ‘I’ll light a candle in the church’ type of prayer, so I was about to say “thanks” and walk back when suddenly Paula’s mum’s hand was on my knee and she was praying! I couldn’t hear what she was saying, but I just heard the “Amen”.
As I started to walk away my knee was burning. I rolled my trouser up and everyone was saying: “Woah, what’s going on?” All I can say is that from that day to now, I’ve never had any problems with my knee. It made me go, “Wow! This is not like the experience I’ve had of going to church.”
‘Why have you thrown me away?’
Now I really wanted to go out with Paula! After failing to get her to go on a date with me, I said, “I want to see your vicar and tell him a few things!” I was so arrogant. She set up a meeting with one of her church leaders. We went round to his house and he started to talk about Jesus. I hardly remember anything he said. But then he started to talk about how Jesus cried out from the cross, “Dad, Dad, why have you forsaken me?”, or… “why have you thrown me away?” When I heard that, it was like the world stopped. It hit me so hard because every single night when I went to bed I would ask myself, “Why was I thrown away?” And there I was hearing that God’s Son felt like he’d been thrown away.
I heard myself saying, “If that’s what happened to Jesus, then I want to follow this man. How do I meet with him?” He explained and I bowed my head and gave my life to Jesus. I was totally transformed. Straight after that I went to my best friend’s house, not realising it was 11pm. I just couldn’t wait to tell him what had happened. He opened the door and said, “You look weird, what’s happened?” I said, “I can’t believe it, I’ve become a Christian!” He practically threw me out of the house.
I got a phone call the next day, saying that he’d been in a serious car crash that morning on the way to work. He’d skidded and lost control. The car rolled and the roof was smashed off. But, as he was being rescued he’d heard an audible voice saying, “I have called you for a purpose.” He went to hospital, they did some checks but there was nothing wrong with him. He ended up at Paula’s parents’ and he gave his life to Jesus that afternoon!
The message spreads
Over the next few days I saw quite a few of my friends become Christians. So we started meeting. I would read the Bible, highlight a few bits and speak on it – I probably preached all sorts of heresy! We’d pray, break bread, and pray for our friends. And as the weeks went on, we saw loads of them getting healed and becoming Christians.
I joined Paula’s church and we ended up getting married. We had a passion for young people so we took over the youth group. That’s where we learned about ministry.
Around 15 years ago I went to Spring Harvest as a volunteer. I was invited back to help the next year on team, and eventually to oversee the youth programme. There are some fantastic leaders at Spring Harvest who are very humble and are empowering the next generation to do great things. Today I’m passionate about people becoming part of Jesus’ family, just like I did.
Paul Weston was speaking to Justin Brierley. Paul leads New Generation Church, South East London and is part of the Spring Harvest 2017 planning group springharvest.org
Hear the full interview on Premier Christian Radio, Saturday 14th January at 4pm