By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST News Service (ANS)
MINNEAPOLIS, MN (ANS – July 27, 2016) – Right from the very beginning of the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net), Michael Ireland, a fellow Brit, has been at my side, writing more 4,000 articles for us.
His output has been nothing short of astounding, and so let me tell you more about him.
Now living with his wife, Una, just outside of Minneapolis, Minnesota, Michael was once called the reporter with “the fastest fingers west of the Mississippi” by a publicist for a Christian publishing house.
Short, stocky, and possessing a sharp, quick-witted, sense of humor, and an always-handy turn-of-phrase and amazing command of the English language – Michael was the first writer I hired when I started the ASSIST News Service (ANS) back in 1989.
I first got to know Michael when he was on Half-Term (Spring Break) from a private boarding school in the United Kingdom. We met at a coffee shop just around the corner from the Middlesex County Times, a weekly newspaper in Ealing, West London, where I was Chief Reporter.
Our introduction was made possible by a retired Christian school teacher, Miss Olive B. Knight, for whom Michael’s mother did cleaning and housework, and who also took an interest in the then shy, retiring, yet uniquely-gifted teenager with a passionate interest in “Current Events” – or news in any size, shape, or form — and an ambition to use words for a career.
Michael came to know Jesus Christ as his personal Savior at a Billy Graham crusade in June 1966 in Earl’s Court, London, and came with me often to the meetings of the Arts Center Group (ACG) in London, an organization co-founded by British pop singer, Sir Cliff Richard, to help Christians in the arts, entertainment and media. My invitation each month came with my interest in helping him become more familiar with fellow believers in these fields, including the world of journalists and journalism.
He told me the careers teacher at his school told him emphatically that he would “never succeed as a reporter.” But Michael’s tender heart and love for people has endeared him to many who have opened up their lives to his reporting skills. He likes to be known as “a kinder, gentler, journalist.”
When Ireland left boarding school just shy of his seventeenth birthday, he was employed as a British Civil Servant, but was desperately unhappy in his job. He soon saw an ad in the local paper for an opening as an editorial assistant/trainee journalist at a press agency (news service) based at London’s massive Heathrow Airport, covering the comings and goings of pop stars, politicians, and celebrity personalities.
It wasn’t long before another newspaper ad caught Michael’s eye – for a trainee journalist on the Middlesex County Times, which covered the London Borough of Ealing.
Michael still remains eternally grateful that he already knew someone on staff who could vouch for his writing skills!
Michael was hired as a cub reporter, and enrolled in Britain’s National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ), which was an on-the-job and college training system for journalists, reporters, and editors.
Even though Michael didn’t have all the required academic qualifications, Bert Munday, the crusty editor [and former shorthand writer for Winston Churchill during World War II] of the Middlesex County Times, chose to hire him. Michael told me that he still remembers Munday saying, “You will never be another Dan Wooding!”
While my “beat” was crime, religion, and show business, Michael cut his teeth during the next few years writing about less exciting things such as flower shows and covering Girl Scout jamborees, as well as youth, senior citizen, and religion news and feature stories.
We kept in touch over the years after I took a job on the Sunday People and, later, the Sunday Mirror newspapers based on Fleet Street, known for many years as the home location for most of Britain’s national newspapers.
After I moved to Southern California with my wife Norma, and two sons, Andrew and Peter, in 1982, I soon learned that Michael had also moved to the United States, settling in the Upper Midwest. Michael had come to America to study magazine journalism and pursue a degree at a private Christian college.
When Norma and I started ASSIST Ministries, we began by helping to connect churches in the West with congregations in countries like Cuba, and other parts of the world where persecution of believers was occurring. We also launched a Pen Pal discipleship program where we linked new believers in Russia with those in the West who could encourage them in their new-found faith.
Michael was one of the first to take an interest in the Sister Church and Pen Pal programs we were running and he became “Mr. ASSIST” in Minnesota, helping to represent the ministry to churches in the Upper Midwest.
After graduating from Crown College in 1987 with a degree (double major) in Magazine Journalism/Bible & Theology, Michael found work at a local newspaper selling classified advertising, proofreading, typesetting, answering the telephone, and covering local government meetings. He also wrote a regular column, “As I See It.”
He later found work covering city government and writing news and features as a contributing writer for a larger group of community newspapers.
Then, in 1989 with the launch of ASSIST News Service [the name Michael helped come up with], it seemed natural for him to start using his writing skills to help give a “voice to the voiceless” — in order to publicize the plight of the 200 million persecuted Christians in more than 100 countries — suffering for their faith around the world.
Travel is an integral part of a journalist’s life, and Michael has been fortunate to visit many countries covering stories for us. He has reported for the ASSIST News Service from Mexico, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Russia, China, and the Middle East, particularly Israel and Jordan.
While on assignment for ANS, Michael has kissed a camel in Jordan, hugged a Central American president in Nicaragua, and hiked the Great Wall of China! — “Things I would never have done if I hadn’t ‘crossed the Pond’ and become reacquainted with Dan Wooding,” Michael said.
In the time Michael has been a correspondent for ANS, he has written a wide variety of stories, from the “Secret Worshipper” (who left his business card in the offering plate, and then rated churches he visited according to how well the choir sang and how hot was the coffee!), to the persecution of Christians in many of the world’s hotspots, like Ambon (Indonesia), Myanmar (Burma), China, Egypt, India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Vietnam, and telling the stories of missionaries spreading the Gospel in far-flung, and often dangerous, places.
Before his move across the “Big Pond”, Michael’s career in UK journalism has included being a “Rewrite Man” for the Church of England Newspaper, an editorial assistant for Brennard’s Press Air News Service at London’s Heathrow Airport, and Assistant Press and Publicity Officer at Bible Society (British and Foreign Bible Society) in London.
But throughout our long friendship and professional association as fellow reporters, Michael believes that his work for ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) in support of the Persecuted Church around the world has been the most challenging and rewarding. His forte is turning the most mundane Press or News Release into a riveting story that hooks the reader from beginning to end. He also loves to write full-length feature articles, often telling the stories of unsung heroes of the Twenty-First Century’s Christian faith.
“If it hadn’t been for Olive Knight taking an interest in me as a teenager, Dan and I would probably have never met, and we wouldn’t be working here in the US together again — four decades later! We both firmly believe that God has orchestrated the events of our lives for us to be reunited an ocean apart, and for me to meet my future wife here,” Michael said.
Michael is truly an “international” journalist – coming from England, with the last name Ireland, living in America, and married to Una, a half-Swede, half-Norwegian! All this reflecting his journalistic worldview that “everyone has a story to tell – you just have to sit and listen long enough,” he says.
For more than four decades, Michael and I have been blessed to help fulfill his childhood dream of traveling the globe and writing about some of the world’s most fascinating people – especially those who have given their lives to share the Gospel of the Kingdom of God.
Michael commented: “Dan once told me that while I may not be able to do ‘foot-in-the-door’, ‘get-the-story-at-all-costs’ journalism, I would be good at interviewing little old ladies — a remark that I have taken to mean that I could ‘get the story’ out of the meanest grandma!”
Which all goes to show that you can be both a gentleman — and a journalist.
With the invaluable help of journalists like Michael Ireland, the opportunities for ANS to “shine a light” on this increasingly violent world, grows every day. Therefore, I’m asking if I can please depend on you to become one of our monthly supporters? Your gift of $20, $40, or $100 per month will literally help us save lives as we write the truth about what is happening and stand in the gap for those suffering for their faith!
Just go to our site at: www.assistnews.net, and look for DONATE TO ASSIST NEWS, where you can sign up for a monthly gift or a one-off contribution (tax-deductible in the US), for any amount, large or small. If you prefer to send a check, just make it out to ASSIST, and mail it to ASSIST, PO Box, 609, Lake Forest, CA 92609, USA (also tax-deductible in the US).
Finally, if you publish or feature any of our stories, could you please send me a quick e-mail at email@example.com and tell me which story you have used, and how it was used. If it is run on your website, could you send me the URL for it, and if it was on radio, TV or print outlet, could you tell us which one. This will help us better inform our supporters in the future about the effectiveness of ANS.
Thank you for reading this, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Photo captions: 1) Michael Ireland. 2) Billy Graham preaching in the UK. 3) Part of the crowd at the Earl’s Court, London, Billy Graham Crusade. 4) Michael Ireland and Dan Wooding with Brother Andrew — “God’s Smuggler” — at an NRB Convention. 5) Michael on a reporting trip to Israel with fellow journalists, Anitra Parmele and Karen Fortner Granger. 6) Taking on a Champ: Dan, Michael “sparring” with former World Heavyweight boxing champ, George Foreman. 7) Dan Wooding chatting with Billy Graham in Essen, Germany.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 75, is an award-winning winning author, broadcaster and journalist born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, Alfred and Anne Wooding. He is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for nearly 53 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren, who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder and international director of the ASSIST News Service (ANS), and the author or co-author of some 45 books, the latest of which is a novel called Mary: My Story from Bethlehem to Calvary (http://marythebook.com). Dan has a weekly radio show and two TV programs all based in Southern California. Before moving to the US, Dan was a senior reporter with two of the UK’s largest circulation newspapers and was also an interviewer for BBC Radio One in London.
** You may republish this or any of our ANS stories with attribution to the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net).