By Dan Wooding, founder of ASSIST and ASSIST News Service
PASADENA, CA (ANS – Feb. 12, 2015) –Once in a lifetime, someone can come along who changes your life – and Dr. Dale Kietzman was that person in my case. He was an elder statesman of missions, who, after being a Wycliffe Bible translator in Brazil and Peru, went on to be the US Director of Wycliffe Bible Translators, and the co-founder of Wycliffe Associates.
Dale eventually left Wycliffe and, along with a man called Bill Butler, started Christian Resource Management (CRM) in Orange, California, and his first client was Brother Andrew (“God’s Smuggler”), and Open Doors USA was born. That was followed by Corrie ten Boom (“The Hiding Place), and he edited her magazine and helped her run her ministry in America.
It was in the early 1980s, and I had given my life back over to Christ, quit my tawdry tabloid career in Fleet Street, London, and was working as a book writer for Brother Andrew and his ministry, Open Doors International. I was based in a lovely town called Walton-on-Thames, the birthplace of Julie Andrews, but was hardly ever home.
I had first met Dale during a trip to Latin America with Brother Andrew and his team, to see if Andrew felt I was the right person to work on books for him and his ministry. At first, Dale seemed to me to be a deeply serious person, and appeared to frown on my rather strange sense of humor. We had already traveled to Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay, and then we finally arrived in war-torn Colombia.
My humor had, by now, almost ended my relationship with Andrew and Dale, and, on one occasion during the trip, I was taken aside by one of Andrew’s colleagues and told to “cool it.”
And for anyone who knows me, they would know that was something I found hard to do, and again it almost blew up in my face, when we finally arrived at Bogota airport and were being driven into the city and I saw a woman at the side of the road selling hand-made brooms. “Stop,” I told the driver. “I need to get one of these brooms for my wife, Norma.”
Dale looked sternly at me and asked, “Why does she need a broom?” I paused and then told him, “Because she can use it to fly.” I could see that I had overstepped the mark with both Dale and Brother Andrew, and all appeared lost when we got to our hotel, and the phone rang in my room. It was the Dutchman summoning me to his room.
Nervously, I knocked on the door and a grim-faced Brother Andrew asked me to come in and sit down. I feared the worst. He looked at me and said, “Dan, I’ve been thinking about what you said about your wife.” I gulped expecting the end of our relationship, and he suddenly reached behind his chair and pulled out a broom and handed it to me. It was signed by him, Dale, and the rest of the team, and had on it the inscription, “To Mrs. Woo-Ding (a Chinese nickname was once given). Please don’t forget to take insurance before you use this broom.”
With that, we both roared with laughter and I heaved a huge sigh of release. So instead of getting fired, that was the beginning of an extraordinary two years of travelling the world and writing books for Andrew and Open Doors International, including “God’s Smuggler to China,” which I co-authored with Brother David and Sara Bruce, “Prophets of Revolution,” with Peter Asael Gonzales and “Brother Andrew,” which was aimed at youth and updated his story that was featured in “God’s Smuggler.”
Right at the start of this arrangement, Ed Neteland, who was then the head of Open Doors USA, had invited me to move to Southern California, to be the consultant media director for the ministry, then based in the city of Orange. But a visit to the American Embassy in London, put a damper on it all when they told me it could take at least two years for me to acquire a Green Card, which would allow me to work in the USA.
I had all but given up on making the big move, and things appeared to get worse when Ed Neteland left Open Doors, and Dale Kietzman took over his position. But I was wrong. Dale made a flying visit to stay with my family of Norma, Andrew, and Peter, at our home in Walton-on-Thames, and began discussing with us the possibility of us making the move across the “Big Pond.” We then all gathered together and Norma and I asked both of the boys about their thoughts, and both agreed that it would be a “great idea” and so Dale flew me back to California to start exploring my immigration situation.
I was introduced to Ernest F. Ching, Jr., a Christian lawyer who specialized in immigration, and is still one of my best friends and is our pro-bono lawyer for ASSIST, and then flew back to the UK with his suggestions, and that resulted in us all assenting to the move to the United States. So on June 28, 1982, we gathered at Heathrow Airport to catch a Pan Am flight to Los Angeles, and begin a new life in the new world.
In the Open Doors USA office, Dale and myself soon hit it off as a team and one of the first things we did was to launch the Open Doors News Service, which was one of the first of its kind that specialized in reporting on persecuted Christians. Dale would ask me where I would like to go next to report on a particular situation, and soon I was traveling regularly to all kinds of countries and bringing back stories from hot-spots like Albania, Argentina, Burma, Brazil, China, Cuba, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Gaza and the West Bank, Grenada, India, Israel, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Malaysia, Malawi, Nicaragua, Romania, South Africa, South Korea, Thailand, and Uganda, to name some of the places I visited during that time.
It was a dream job for a journalist, and although there was no such thing as the Internet, Dale and myself, along with some of the staff, would have the news service typed up, and then mail them out to our media lists. When the FAX appeared, we then utilized what was called FAX broadcasting to send them out. It was a slow and laborious way to sending out the news service, but that was all we had in those days.
On top of that, I would represent Open Doors USA each month on a TBN show called “Joy in the Morning,” with Jim McClellan, the genial host, and once I was even on “Praise the Lord,” with Rosey Grier and T.L. T.L. Osborn. I also did a string of radio updates bringing news of the persecuted church and, at Dale’s request, would call on various Christian publications to share the vision with them.
Then, not too long after we had made the move to Southern California, both of our sons accepted Christ, joined Youth With A Mission and returned to the UK to work as missionaries. It was with a great tinge of sadness, that Norma and I bade them farewell as they went home, but Norma stuck with me and agreed that the Lord had called me to work in America and be a voice for the persecuted church, and she was staying to support me.
After five fascinating years with Open Doors USA, I decided to move on and start ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times,) and so I approached “Dr. Dale,” who by now had left Open Doors and was President of Every Home for Christ. I asked him if he could help me start a non-profit. (He had already launched some 30 of them.) He immediately found one that was no longer functioning, and so we changed its name, got IRS approval to issue tax receipts, and then he agreed to become our first Board Chairman.
Dale’s advice was absolutely vital during those early days of ASSIST and, of course, he conducted each Board meeting with absolute professionalism. Near the beginning, he also arranged for us to have our offices at the US Center for World Missions in Pasadena, where he now was based, working as the head of the William Carey University. We stayed in Pasadena for a year, before we moved to Hosanna Christian Fellowship in Bellflower, and the church’s pastor Garry Ansdell, joined our board.
I still kept up with Dale, and when we would met, he began to share with me that he had been making trips to North Korea with Dr. David Cho, a North-Korean born Christian leader now based in Seoul, who had once known the mother of Kim il-sung, the North Korea leader. This had given him an entree to the founder of North Korea and was once invited to say “the grace” at a birthday celebration for the “great leader.”
On one trip, Dale told me that he had met with some of the leaders of North Korea who shared that they wanted to start having “normal relations” with the United States, and they asked his advice on how they could do that. Dale suggested that they might like to invite well-known American Christians like former President Jimmie Carter and Billy Graham to come and visit the country. They agreed and then Dale set about inviting them, and they both went, Billy on several occasions.
Dale knew that North Korea was one country I had never reported from and one day he called me and said, “Dan, how would you like to go to North Korea?” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, as hardly any Christian reporters had ever been inside the country. He told me that Dr. Cho had again been invited to go into the country shortly after the death of Kim il-sung (July 8, 1994), and if I would like to fly to Beijing, and I could go with Dr. Cho to the North Korean Embassy to “try and get a visa.”
I contacted the UPI Radio Network in Washington, DC, for whom I had been recording weekly commentaries on Christian persecution for some years, and they immediately agreed for me to represent them in North Korea. So when I arrived in the Chinese capital, I discovered that there were a total of 10 people who all wanted to get visas to visit North Korea, but only three of us, Dr. Cho, Michael Little from CBN, and myself, got the prized visas.
We flew to Pyongyang and were met at the airport there by a TV crew from North Korean State Television, and each one of us were asked why we were visiting the country. When it came to my turn, I said, “Well, I’m a Christian journalist, and I’d like to find out more about your country.” I then briefly shared my personal testimony, and amazingly, when I arrived at my hotel room, I switched on my TV and saw myself on the screen giving my testimony.
Soon, we were joined by Charles Wickman, who was an ASSIST Board member, and we spent a rather extraordinary week traveling around North Korea. We were each given a Mercedes, a driver and a “spy” who peppered us with questions the whole time. Each day, I would also file a report, via colleague in Beijing, for the UPI Radio Network.
Not long after returning home, Dale told me that he had been able to link the William Carey University with the Kim il-sung University in Pyongyang, and a North Korean delegation were coming over to launch this rather amazing arrangement. “I want you to MC a press conference for the North Koreas at the Hilton Universal Hotel,” he told me.
So I did and had quite a task as I tried to keep order during the press conference when a group of South Korean journalists, based in Los Angeles, wanted to start arguments with the North Koreans, and Dale had advised me to slow things down by telling them that they could only ask their questions in English. It did the trick and the North Koreans seemed happy with the way it had gone.
As the years have gone by, and Dale’s health became worse, he had to resign from our board, and the last time I saw him was at his 90th birthday celebrations at his Pasadena home, last July, where some 100 people came to honor him. I also recorded an interview with him for my Front Page Radio show.
Then this morning (Thursday, February 12, 2015), I received a call from Pamela, one of Dale’s daughters, to tell me that her father had quietly passed away in bed in the early hours. I wanted to cry and all I could tell her was, “Your dad was my hero.”
And Dr. Dale Kietzman was certainly that. A quiet man who commanded great respect and who is finally receiving his rewards for a life well lived for the Lord.
Well done, Dr. Dale. We will miss you, but heaven has gained a true hero of the Church.
1) Dan Wooding with Dale Kietzman
2) Dan filming Brother Andrew in Hebron, the West Bank, on a later occasion
3) The Woodings at Heathrow Airport on their way to a new life in America
4) Dan Wooding with Dr. David Cho in North Korea
5) Dale with his grandson, David Andrés Kietzman