Laurence Cooper tells Streetpaper his hair-raising story...
“POWER like electricity flowed through me from head to toe. My hair stood on end and I shouted ‘Yes! It’s true!”
19-year-old Laurence Cooper’s conversion experience, on a bus, was nothing if not dramatic.
Drama wasn’t new to Laurence – though he insists that shouting on buses was not a habit (“I knew my social Ps and Qs”). He’d played lead parts in plays, was in the National Youth Theatre, had a lively group of friends and was the life and soul of plenty of parties.
Laurence may have been, in his words, “loud and laddy”, but underneath he was a seeker. Going to Leeds University to study literature, he also went to “explore what life was all about”.
“Icelandic literature and medieval poetry didn’t quite meet my need” he laughs. But when Laurence landed a major part in a university production of Dangerous Liaisons, he thought “This is it!”
He gave the play his best, but the production had bland reviews and he felt unsatisfied. In the slump that followed, crisis came and “the wheels started to come off”: back home for the Easter holidays, Laurence’s girlfriend of several years finished their relationship.
He poured out his troubles to an old school friend, Iain. But Iain didn’t trot out lines about “fish in the sea” or “downing sorrows”; he told Laurence how he’d found recently found faith in Jesus at university (Iain had gone to Warwick University the same time Laurence gone to Leeds). He urged Laurence to “get right with God”.
“It was brave” remembers Laurence. “Iain had only been a Christian a few months and didn’t know how I’d react. He got me thinking.
Days later, still thinking, Laurence saw a big bus in the centre of his home town with the words “King’s Coach” emblazoned on its side. Local Christians were using it to promote Christian faith.
“I stepped on board, not expecting anything much, but intrigued because of what Iain had said” Laurence recalls. “A friendly guy said ‘Hello’, shook my hand. He pointed to a picture of war and people suffering and said ‘What does that make you feel?’”
Something started stirring inside Laurence. He said “It’s chaos.”
“The Bible says that without God people come to chaos” said the man on the bus.
And right then, utterly unexpectedly, Laurence felt himself filling with electric-like power and shouting “Yes!”
I knew that God was real and had touched me.
“In that moment I knew it was true” remembers Laurence. “I felt a sense of ecstasy followed by a kind of trembling fear. I knew that God was real and had touched me.
The people on the bus talked to him about what had happened, and later, sitting in his car, Laurence said to himself: “You can’t deny this. You’ve experienced God. You can’t go back on this.”
Iain and some Christian friends at Leeds University helped Laurence to explore what had happened to him, to work out what living as a Christian would mean.
Years later, Laurence is still living out the consequences of that momentous turning point in his life. A key leader, speaker, and motivator in the Jesus Army, Laurence lives a life full of passion for God.
“I thought Jesus was just an historical figure who said some interesting, maybe important things” says Laurence. “But I found that Jesus is alive – and only a heartbeat away. He gives our lives meaning. He can meet us – now, today.”