Sujo John told a room of 800 people Thursday that surviving the collapse of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, and witnessing the devastation afterward strengthened his faith and inspired his ministry.
His talk at the 24th annual Northwest Ohio Prayer Breakfast at the Premier Banquet Complex was one of three public Christian events in Toledo on Thursday tied to the National Day of Prayer.
“That’s where I am in my life and my ministry, everything after 9/11, because I saw humanity so broken and realized that people of faith have the answers to what the world is going through, and that was an awakening of my faith and I felt that God was giving me a platform through my story,” he said before the breakfast.
Mr. John, who moved from his hometown of Calcutta to metropolitan New York City in February, 2001, and now lives in the Dallas area, said his inspirational presence is tied to his personal story about 9/11. Mr. John was at work in the North Tower, where he was employed with a telecommunications company, when one of the planes hit the tower. He got out by walking downstairs from the 81st floor. He then went to the South Tower, where his wife, Mary, worked in investment banking — but had not yet arrived that day. He was next to the entrance of that tower when it fell.
He had remarked in an email to a fellow church member shortly before the attack, “I know there is a call of God upon my life.” Mr. John told the audience that his harrowing journey through fire, smoke, and ash, his feeling that he would die, and his encounters with others who did die all strengthened his faith, he said.
Mr. John now speaks all over the world as an evangelist. He is also directly involved in the fight to end human trafficking through his You Can Free Us organization.
“I’m a firm believer that preaching is great but our works are important,” Mr. John said before the breakfast event began. “The deepest spiritual need anybody can have is need for Jesus, but you earn the right to share that with them once you’ve taken care of physical needs.”
Before Mr. John spoke, Gus Yeager, 75, an originator of the Northwest Ohio Prayer Breakfast and an influential Christian to many in the room, received a lifetime achievement award for his religious work in Toledo, which included starting the Campus Crusade for Christ at the University of Toledo 46 years ago. He also took part in the founding of Toledo Christian School and was a chaplain for the Toledo Mud Hens.
Mr. John’s second Prayer Day appearance was at the Greater Toledo House of Prayer’s “Not for Sale ... Hope for Toledo” luncheon on the 28th floor of the Fifth Third Center at One SeaGate. At that event, which was held to raise awareness about human trafficking, Mr. John spoke about You Can Free Us and its work in Calcutta to rescue and empower women who are victims of sexual abuse by human trafficking.
Celia Williamson, a University of Toledo social work professor, also addressed the audience of clergy and other community leaders, and presented information about human trafficking and how to take part in saving victims.
Denise Emerine, director of the Toledo House of Prayer, said that meeting on the 28th floor, with a view of the city, was a preview of sorts, as the House of Prayer plans to open a prayer tower on the 16th floor of the building in June, in addition to its location at 723 S. Byrne Rd.
Also marking the National Day of Prayer, the Revs. Kedron and Gladys Legree of Living Vine Church gathered Thursday with about a dozen people from noon to 1 p.m. at the President William McKinley statue on the Lucas County Courthouse grounds, offering a series of prayers for government leaders, for the nation’s social good and spiritual growth, and for other issues. Some people were very enthusiastic in their expression, at times speaking in tongues.
Thursday also was the National Day of Reason, endorsed by secular entities and individuals and proclaimed by some government officials and bodies as an alternative to the National Day of Prayer. The closest publicized event for that was called the National Day of Reason and Apostasy, held at the Cleveland Public Square.
Contact TK Barger at: email@example.com or 419-724-6278, or on Twitter @TK_Barger.