It was a miracle of God’s Grace
By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST News Service
VOM, NIGERIA (ANS – December 16, 2017) — 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, after initially announcing that there would be “peace with honour,” echoing an earlier prime minister, Benjamin Disraeli. and “peace for our time,” finally realized that he was wrong, changed his mind, and declared that Britain was at war with Germany.
As the former Austrian house painter, 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, England, where she lives with her husband, Allen Ross).
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 Nigerian messenger walked the thirty miles to Izom, to tell my father the good news. He arrived on day after my birth on Friday, December 20, 1940.
“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 chiefs in the town, dressed in long flowing robes, to signify his position in his tribe.
“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 that 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 the West African sweltering land where millions had still not heard of Jesus Christ.
My father had gone to Nigeria after learning at the Bible School he was attending in Glasgow, Scotland, that tribe after tribe there had been caught in the bonds of animism, witchcraft and ancestral worship, while millions had already turned to Islam. (At the same time, my other had been a student in London. 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 my mother and myself, we all eventually returned to the dusty village of Izom, a cluster of mud huts crowned with grass roofs, populated by both non-believers and Muslims.
A Miracle Ocean Crossing
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. We had spent many days, on nights, on the main deck of our ship after being told by the Captain that if were hit by a torpedo, we would have to jump into the ocean, but fortunately, that didn’t occur, and we lived through that nighmare. In fact, my father was asked by the Captain, to hold services on board as so many of the passengers were terrified with what could happen to them. So, despite his own deathly sickness, he held many of them, and many surrendered their lives to Jesus.
Just recently, my younger son, Peter Wooding, was in Lagos to cover the farewell crusade for German-born Reinhard Bonnke, which was attended by millions, and many gave their lives to Christ, something that my parents would have been thrilled to have known about. During his time there, Peter was able to find the actual spot where we sailed for Liverpool, all those years ago.
Looking back, I can see the miraculous way my life was spared and one Tuesday (December 19, 2017), I will, along with my wife Norma, celebrate my 77th birthday, something that I can’t really comprehend.
Would you consider helping me celebrate my birthday, and by doing so, 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, $200, 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). If your envelope is dated December 31, 2017 or before, we can still give you a tax receipt for your end-of-the year giving.
For any gifts of $200 or more, I will be glad to send you a free signed copy of my life-story, From Tabloid to Truth, where you can read my entire story that began all those years ago at Vom Christian Hospital in Nigeria. (If you 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 Nigerian 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.) The book carries a foreword by Dutch-born Brother Andrew, whose powerful book, God’s Smuggler, co-authored with John and Elizabeth Sherrill, is still a best-seller today.
In conclusion, Norma, my wonderful wife of more than 54 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, in 1939. 3) Dan and his sister, Ruth, in Liverpool, with their mother. 4) Front cover of Dan’s life story. 5) Dan Wooding with his mother, Anne, with a copy of Blind Faith, which he co-wrote with her about her pioneering work with the blind Muslim people of Kano. Pastor Chuck Smith wrote the foreword for the book.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 76, going on 77, is an award-winning journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, both from Liverpool, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for more than 54 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder of the ASSIST News Service (ANS) and hosts a weekly radio show and two TV shows, all based in in Southern California. Dan is also the author of numerous books, including his autobiography, From Tabloid to Truth, and Blind Faith, which he co-authored with his mother.
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