Paul Jessop lives at Redeeming Love, a Christian community house in Northampton. He speaks of his journey into faith in Jesus.
I WAS quite a way through an 11-year prison sentence. I sat in my cell, doing a lot of reading and thinking. “Who am I?” I thought. I needed to understand myself, to know why I did bad things and I began to write a journal about my life.
Out of the blue, I began writing about the things I’d heard about Jesus before I went to prison. My mum said she could hear angels (I thought she was off her head) and my sister Mandy was very aware of Jesus. I thought of some of my teachers at school; they were Christians who had made such a positive impact on my early years.
I was brought up in Willesden in London. We were a poor family but we survived, although often I couldn’t have what other kids had and that made me jealous. As a young lad I got into quite a lot of fights, heavy drinking and taking drugs. I was violent and when the police came to arrest me they came in force as they knew I wouldn’t come quietly. I robbed a few banks and ended up with an 11-year sentence.
I had a sense of guilt, not because I’d robbed banks, but because I felt like I’d hurt a lot of people. One day I was reading a book by Shirley MacLaine called “Out on a Limb”. She quoted some Bible verses about Ezekiel, the Old Testament prophet. I wanted to read the Bible to check out what she said.
I went to the prison chaplain.
“Can I have a Bible?” I asked.
I couldn’t believe it. He hadn’t got one. But, just at that moment, a crowd of inmates surrounded me and one of them handed me a Bible. I can still see his face.
“I’ll give it back,” I said to him and went away and checked out the verses. I knew Ezekiel had seen Jesus. I went back to find the guy who had given me the Bible. I couldn’t find him anywhere. I asked one of the prison officers if someone had just been discharged. No one had been discharged for three days. I never saw the guy again. Perhaps he was an angel.
I went along to the chaplaincy and a guy was talking about some murders that had taken place in Northern Ireland due to racism. He also spoke of how Jesus died for the sins of the world. I went back to my cell, amazed at what I had heard.
In my cell I wondered if I could really be forgiven. Then I had a dream. I was in court, in the dock. The judge called the prosecutor and the defence advocate into the room. As they looked over their shoulders at me, I thought, “I’m for it!” The judge looked up and said to the prosecutor: “This is a family issue. Leave the courts.” Only the advocate and judge were left in the room. I was let off!
My life changed massively. I knew, I believed: Jesus was the answer to everything. I read the Bible; I found it really spoke to me – and it still does.
I completed my prison sentence and began visiting some churches. There were lots of “hellos” but not much else. People were unwilling to get to know me. I carried the stigma of prison. I became a nomad Christian.
One day I was sitting in my flat, thinking of all the people I knew in prison. I started hitchhiking around the country, looking for them. I came to Northampton hoping to find my friend, Pete. I knew his sister, Tina. She had visited me in prison when I had no other visitors and I went to the house where she lives, a Christian community house called Dayspring, in Northampton. The leader, Durk, said, “Come and spend a weekend with us”. I’ve been here ever since.
I like my space and community life is not always easy for me. A while back I sensed God say,
“I thought you wanted to know My love. I’ll teach it through every one of these people you share the house with.”
The guys here are very down-to-earth. We’re not afraid to tell each other about what’s going on in our hearts: the good and the bad. That’s the way we get healed. In community, we’re all in it together. I find that when something’s really getting to you, the answer often comes from someone else. Gods speaks to us through each other.
I’m a celibate, I’ve promised to be single for God. There was a time when I knew the Lord was saying,
“It’s time for you to give the gift to Me so I can make it what I want!”
Celibacy is a two way thing. We make a promise but people in the church also promise to help and keep us.
I don’t have ambitions – I just want to be a good brother and I know God is asking me to learn to love.
When I accepted Jesus in my life, I decided, I wanted to love with His love. His love isn’t to be attained; it’s to be received. I’m thirsty for His love!
Naturally, I had a problem with authority. Now I think God is the Author. He starts the page and then gives us the pen and paper and says, “Write carefully My children”.
How far will we let God go to get our attention? He got my attention in prison but my testimony never stops. Sometimes I think of the Roman soldiers throwing a dice for Jesus’ clothes as Jesus looked down on them from the cross. We can be like that - throwing the dice for the bits of Jesus we want. He is massive and I want to embrace all of Him.