A miracle of God’s Grace
By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST News Service
VOM, NIGERIA (ANS – December 15, 2016) — The shrilling of crickets, the eerie whistling of night birds and the distant howling of hyenas intruded into the still night air of the delivery ward of Vom Christian Hospital in Nigeria.
It was just six days before Christmas, 1940, but there was little goodwill in a world convulsed in the mayhem of World War Two that had begun on Sunday, September 3, 1939, when British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain declared that Britain was at war with Germany.
As the former Austrian house painter, Adolf Schicklgruber (former name of Adolf Hitler), was trying to take over the world, I was struggling to get into it. After eight hours, I finally appeared, bawling and spluttering. The date was December 19, 1940.
“You’ve got a boy, Anne,” said Dr Percy Barnden, a British missionary doctor, as he snipped my umbilical cord and then slapped a mosquito that was probing his arm. My mother smiled gently as she looked down at her first child. (My sister Ruth, came along later in Liverpool).
My father, Alfred Wooding, who like my mother hailed from Liverpool, was anxiously waiting for news of my birth in his mud-walled home in Izom, a remote bush village some 600 miles away. A telephone call from the hospital, operated by the Sudan United Mission, to the then British government outpost in Abuja (now the capital of Nigeria), announced my birth. Then an African messenger walked thirty miles to Izom to see my father to tell him the good news. He arrived on Friday, December 20.
“You have a son,” beamed the exhausted courier to a background of bleating goats, barking dogs and shouting boys.
A cheer broke out among the many natives, as they crowded into the small Wooding compound. They laughed, danced and clapped their hands. My father smiled, pride showing in his eyes. Now, he knew, would come the traditional naming ritual.
“We must call him ‘Dan Juma,’ which means ‘Son of Friday,’” said one of the natives, dressed only in a loincloth.
“Yes,” the others chorused. “He is to be ‘Dan Juma.’”
Much tongue clacking greeted the new name. The “resolution” had been unanimously carried, and so my father decided not to tell them that I had, in fact, been born not on Friday, but Thursday. Talking drums quickly spread the news that “Dan Juma” had arrived.
My father packed a few belongings for the long trip to Vom, which included a twenty-four-hour truck journey to Minna and then a long rail journey to Vom, situated on the Jos Plateau. It was Christmas Eve when we met for the first time. I was a little mite, gurgling with joy, as I looked into the weather-beaten open face of a courageous little man from Liverpool, who had obeyed God’s call and left his home to bring the gospel to a sweltering land where millions had still not heard of Jesus Christ. Where tribe after tribe had been caught in the bonds of animism, witchcraft and ancestral worship, while millions had already turned to Islam. (He had met my also Liverpool-born mother at the Sudan Interior Mission language school and they were married in 1939 in the walled city of Kano.)
After a few weeks of rest for myself and my mother, we eventually returned to the dusty village of Izom, a cluster of mud huts crowned with grass roofs, populated by both non-believers and Muslims.
Well, that is the story of my birth in Nigeria all those years ago, and eventually in 1942, as my father became seriously ill with malaria, dysentery and sleeping sickness, our family had to make the dangerous journey across the Atlantic from Lagos to Liverpool in a convoy of 28 ships, all trying to dodge the German U-Boats. My desperately-sick father was to be treated at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases there, and thankfully his life was spared. But sadly, many of the ships were sunk on the six-week trip and thousands died in the heaving seas of that great ocean.
Looking back, I can see the miraculous way my life was spared and next Monday, I will, along with my wife Norma, celebrate my 76th birthday, something that I can’t really comprehend.
Would you consider helping me celebrate my birthday and by so doing, allow us continue with our ministry with ASSIST. You see, our funds are extremely low at this time, and so your gift of any amount — $25, $50, $100, or more – would be so appreciated.
All you have to do is go to www.assistnews.net and then scroll down the page to where it says DONATE TO ASSIST NEWS and put in the amount of your birthday gift. If you prefer a check, just make it out to ASSIST and mail it to: PO Box 609, Lake Forest, CA 92609, USA. (All gifts in the US are tax-deductible).
For any gifts of $100 or more, I will be glad to send you a signed copy of my life-story, From Tabloid to Truth (http://fromtabloidtotruth.com/), where you can read my entire story that began all those years ago in Nigeria at Vom Christian Hospital. (If you are sending a check over $100 or more and would like a copy of the book, please e-mail me at email@example.com – an address that I set up as a humorous reference to my being given the wrong name – along with your name and address, and I’ll be glad to sign a copy and include your name and include a special greeting.)
In conclusion, Norma, my wife of 53 years, joins me in wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Photo captions: 1) Baby Dan at Vom Christian Hospital shortly after he was born in 1940. 2) Dan’s parents were married in Kano, Nigeria. 3) Front cover of Dan’s life story.
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