By Norma Wooding, who Recalls 54 years of marriage to Dan Wooding, Special to ASSIST News Service
LAKE FOREST, CA (ANS – July 10, 2016) — When I first met my husband-to-be, Dan Wooding, he had just returned from a year in Canada and he had a crew-cut hairstyle and what I called a mid-Atlantic accent.
I was working at the time in the accounting department of factory in Aston, Birmingham, England, that manufactured cycle-dynamos, which were used on bicycles around the world to provide lighting for the pedal bike.
I have to admit that Dan was definitely different to the usual young men that I had met before, and I soon discovered that he and his parents, the Rev. Alfred and Mrs. Anne Wooding, were Christians, something that he seemed rather embarrassed about.
Intrigued to know more, I asked him to take me to meet them at his home in Kings Heath, in the south of Birmingham, and I found them to be rather charming. I was even more surprised to learn that they had both been pioneer missionaries in the 1930’s to the West African nation of Nigeria, where Dan was born in 1940. Another surprise!
Soon, I would regularly go with him to the little mission hall in Sparkbrook, where his Dad was the pastor, and I enjoyed the services there and especially the preaching of his father, who brought the Bible alive to me and all of those who attended.
As a child, I had gone to a Sunday school at the Park Lane Gospel Hall in Aston and so I was familiar with the message of Jesus Christ, but it wasn’t until after we were married that I finally gave my life to Christ. It was on a Saturday night in the mid-1960s after Dan and his sister Ruth had started The Messengers, an outreach team that went into the local pubs and coffee bars to share the Gospel with the patrons there.
We were joined by students from the local Birmingham Bible Institute and, one evening, while in a coffee bar in nearby Ladypool Road, one of the students, Paula Cornell, asked me if I had ever given my life to Christ. I told her that I thought I was a Christian and she explained about the need to make a decision and so, back at the mission hall, I made that life-changing commitment to follow Jesus Christ, and then I truly understood what it meant to be born-again.
After we had married, our flat [apartment] over his parents’ home, soon became a haven for new believers who would flood there for weekly Bible studies.
The work soon developed into an outreach to the city’s drug addicts being treated at All Saint’s Hospital, and very soon, Dan and I, along with Andrew, our first son, moved to Hill Farm, in Worcestershire, to become wardens there. It was, at the time, Europe’s first drug rebahilitation farm, but it turned out to be a difficult time for me as I had to cook and clean for up to 12 addicts. Sadly, after a few months, we left the farm not knowing what next God had in mind for us. Dan also realized that he wasn’t cut out to run Hill Farm.
On a personal level, I was at an all-time low, but then came a hammer blow, when a lump was discovered in my breast. Fortunately, when it was taken out, it was found to be non-malignant.
Dan decided not to wallow in this failure, he began work on his first book, “Junkies Are People Too,” in which he told the story of our difficult time at the farm, and how he felt such a failure about what happened. (We Brits love failure). Fortunately, he found a publisher (Scripture Union” and it was the first of some 45 that he was to write. So out what seemed to be such a mess, launched his new career as a writer.
It wasn’t long before we were on the move again – this time to London – where Dan was to take a job as a reporter with Billy Graham’s British newspaper, The Christian. So, with our now two sons, Andrew and Peter, we moved in with an old gentleman called Percy Crisp, in Lewisham. After a year with Mr. Crisp, the paper was closed and Dan lost his job, but was immediately able to get another one with The Middlesex County Times, a London weekly based in Ealing, and so we moved into that area. Our home was a far-from-glamorous flat over a fish-and-chip shop in West Ealing.
Dan pressed on with his career as I looked after the boys, but Dan became restless with living in Ealing and found us a new home in Walton-on-Thames in Surrey, the birthplace of Julie Andrews, and where we eventually became friends with Julie’s mother, Barbara.
It was shortly after we made the move, that he was offered a staff position on The Sunday People, one of Britain’s largest-circulation weekly tabloids. This is when the roller coaster ride really began for us as a family, as Dan soon became consumed with his work and seemed to have little time for the family.
Still, because of his work, I was able to meet many of the British stars and criminals that he was reporting on, which often proved quite difficult for me especially as Dan appeared to have lost his Christian faith and was drinking very heavily. While he was overseas on one assignment, I had been out for the day and when I got home, I received a telegram from a staff member at the Sunday People asking if I was alright. Apparently, there had been a death threat against me by a member of London’s underworld and they thought I had been murdered. Fortunately, I hadn’t, but it was a scary experience. There were several other threats that came our way, and his life on the tabloids was proving to be extremely difficult.
But things began to change for the good when, one day an Irish-Canadian friend called Ray Barnett had challenged Dan during one of his drinking sessions in The Stab-in-the-Back pub, just off Fleet Street, about what he was doing with his life. He pointed out to him that he appeared to be “wasting his life” on stories that didn’t mean very much and had strayed away from his faith in Christ.
That was the turning point in Dan’s life and he recommitted his life to Christ, gave up his job on the paper, and went to Uganda with Ray Barnett, to write a book called “Uganda Holocaust.” Meeting the believers of Uganda that had survived Idi Amin’s terrible eight-year reign of terror in that country had a deep impact on Dan which continues today.
He came back from that east African country and told me that he wanted to dedicate the rest of his life to bringing news about persecuted Christians around the world and being a “voice” for them. For the next two years, he worked on different books for Open Doors and they included “God’s Smuggler to China” with Brother David and Sara Bruce, “Prophets of Revolution” with Peter Gonzales and “Brother Andrew” which told the story of the Dutchman who co-wrote the best-selling book, “God’s Smuggler” with John and Elizabeth Sherrill.
After that time of his freelance writing based in England, Dan was offered — in fact, all of us — the opportunity to move to Southern California where Dan was to become media director for Open Doors USA. We called our boys together and asked them what they thought, and they both were excited about the possibility of moving to the Los Angeles area. It had been a big decision for me to move to London, but now a move across the “Big Pond” to the Western United States, seemed an even bigger commitment.
Still, I agreed with my sons, and on June 28, 1982, we set off from Heathrow Airport to Los Angeles for the next stage in our roller coaster ride. I really missed my family back home and it wasn’t long before I was able to make a trip back to England to visit my mother and sister in Birmingham.
Then, as a confirmation that we had made the right decision, both Andrew and then Peter, gave their lives to the Lord. But even that caused some heartbreak for me, as first of all, Andrew said that he was going “home” to join Youth With A Mission (YWAM) and take their Discipleship Training Course (DTS). With a heavy heart, we saw him off at Long Beach Airport thinking we would never see him again. Of course, we did, but it was a huge wrench to see him leave us.
Some years later, Peter followed his brother into YWAM and this meant that we were alone in a new country without our boys that we loved so much.
But then the Lord opened up a door for us to start ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times), a California-based non-profit, and Dan and I launched ASSIST with a trip to Cuba, where we began our sister church program. I have since been able to join Dan on mission trips to Nicaragua, China and to the Middle East.
We have watched with joy the way God has blessed the ministry and also our two sons in the UK, who have since both married and we now have some six grandchildren. I visit them about twice a year and this is a real blessing to me. Recently Andrew, and Edward, our only grandchild, came to see us, and in a week’s time, Peter will arrive for a vacation.
Because of Dan’s untiring working on behalf of persecuted Christians around the world, he has received a host of different awards, the latest of which is the “Spirit of Love & Peace Award” which will be presented to him at the “2017 Love International Film Festival” on Saturday, July 22nd at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills, California.
But, of course, Dan and I, do not do our work to receive awards, but as they come along, we believe that they are really being given to honor those suffering believers we work on behalf of through ASSIST. We have always believed that providing a “voice” for them through ANS, is our greatest ministry.
We now live in Lake Forest, California, and have our office nearby. While Dan is mainly involved with the media side of ASSIST — the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net), plus his weekly radio show and two TV programs — I help with the administration of the office.
I fondly look back to that fateful day when I first set eyes on Dan in that humble office in Aston, Birmingham, and, at that time, I had no idea where our friendship and love would take us. It certainly has been a roller coaster ride for both of us, but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
You may wonder why I am sharing this with you? Well, very soon (July 13, 2017), we will be celebrating our 54rd wedding anniversary, and I think we have packed several lifetimes into our marriage. And the great thing is that it continues on with daily excitement and fulfillment in our walk with the Lord.
Note: To learn more about our life together, it is all packed into Dan’s autobiography, “From Tabloid to Truth.” (www.fromtabloidtotruth.com). Rick Warren, senior pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, and author of The Purpose Drive Life, has described his book in this way: “Dan Wooding has lived one of the most amazing and exciting lives you could ever imagine. This is a book you won’t put down once you pick it up!” I couldn’t agree more.
If you would like a signed copy of the book, just send a check for $20.00 (USD) made out to Dan Wooding and mail it to ASSIST, PO Box 609, Lake Forest, CA 92609, USA, and we’ll rush it off to you.
Photo captions: 1) Norma and Dan on a reporting assignment in Hollywood, a far cry from their days in Birmingham. 2) Aston Parish Church, where Dan and Norma were married some 54 years ago. 3) Dan and Norma with their families and friends in the churchyard after their wedding. (Dan’s parents are on the far left) 4) Work being done on Hill Farm. 5) The Wooding family at Heathrow Airport about to board a flight to Los Angeles. 6) Dan and Norma with rock legend, Rick Wakeman, about whom Dan wrote his authorized biography. 7) Reunited: Andrew, Dan, Norma and Peter in Sheffield, where Dan and Norma where making a visit back to the UK. 8) Norma and Dan at their California home.
About the writer: Norma Alice Wooding is the wife of international author, broadcaster and journalist, Dan Wooding, and was born in Aston, Birmingham, England, on June 17th, 1941. Norma and Dan were married at Aston Parish Church on July 13, 1963, and have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren, all living in the UK. Norma and Dan now reside in Lake Forest, California, where they run ASSIST Ministries and the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net). If you would like to send a wedding anniversary message to Dan and Norma, please e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: Dan and I offer you all of our stories for free, but if you would like to help support ASSIST with a special wedding anniversary gift, please go to www.assistnews.net and click on the DONATE TO ASSIST NEWS button to make you tax-deductible donation (in the US), which will help us continue to bring you these many stories. If you prefer, you can make a check out to ASSIST and mail it to PO Box 609, Lake Forest, CA 92609, USA. Thank you in advance for your donations.
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