An Update on ANS Founder, Dan Wooding
I first saw international journalist, Dan Wooding, from afar. He was standing on a stage, introducing legendary keyboard player Rick Wakeman at a concert for ASSIST News during Wakeman’s The New Gospels concert tour in Southern California.
The New Gospels is an oratorio about the life of Christ, written by Wakeman. Joining Wakeman on stage was his son, Adam, and world-famous tenor, Ramon Remedios, who, before The New Gospels tour, was part of the Dutch cast of the Phantom of the Opera. A day after The New Gospels concert, Wakemen gave a solo piano performance at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa. Wooding was at both concerts, an ever-preset presence on the Wakeman tour.
I didn’t know it at the time, but Rick and Dan had been friends for many years. Dan wrote Wakeman’s biography, which carried a foreword by Sir Elton John. The book has since been re-released and updated with the title of Caped Crusader: Rick Wakeman in the 1970’s.
At the time of The New Gospels tour I was in a rock band, Widow’s Mite. We just finished signing a record contract with Wakeman’s Hope Records the day before his concert. The year was 1995.
I knew a lot about Wakeman, YES rock star and solo musician extraordinaire. But to tell you the truth, I knew little of Dan Wooding. A mutual friend of ours—Nic—would usually ramble something like, “You know, that Dan Wooding guy has lived quite a life, interviewing some of the most colorful people around. You should meet him.” I would nod and think, maybe one day I will.
At the Wakeman concert my first impressions of Dan was the obvious: he had a British accent, was informed, and was on stage (so he must be ‘someone’). After the concert, Widow’s Mite recorded our album—A Garden Rises Up—and began to tour. Dan Wooding became a distant memory.
Fast forward a few years. I was now living in Southern California, working for Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa (CCCM) as a radio host for Pastor’s Perspective, educator, and editor. To help meet a need at a school in San Diego county, I took a leave of absence from CCCM and headed down the I-5 freeway to Rancho Santa Fe, leaving an opening at the radio a couple of days a week (I still hosted with Chuck Smith, however). Lo and behold, Dan Wooding filled in for me during my absence on Pastor’s Perspective, a daily call-in broadcast for people asking questions about the Bible.
Over the course of the year, I listened to the program on the radio and got to know Dan’s humor, experience, and insights on a variety of cultural, political, and down-right-strange topics. I became an admirer of his.
After a year of work in San Diego county, bringing me back to Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, I thought to myself I would like to get to know this indescribable fellow whom I have seen and heard from afar but never really met.
Tabloid to Truth
To my surprise, as I walked into my office at CCCM I saw a book called From Tabloid to Truth lying on a stack of other books. I picked it up and realized it was by Dan Wooding, and to my greater wonder, it was his autobiography. I started to read it, eating up every morsel from his extraordinary life. But more importantly, I decide to contact Mr. Wooding.
We met for the first time in my office, talking about radio, books, and life. I thought to myself, I really like this guy. He had story after story to recount: Africa, England, Russia, Billy Graham, Mother Teresa, Brother Andrew, Coretta Scott King, you name it, he had a story for it. He’s my kind of fellow, I thought.
I decided to set another meeting. And the rest, I guess, is history. Our friendship grew, for which I am appreciative. Dan asked me to write for ANS and later join the board. Our first story together was to cover Hollywood actress Jane Russell. I’m now in my fifteenth-year writing for ANS. I attribute my love of journalism to Dan. He is my mentor, friend, and associate. I look up to him as a brother.
Search for Truth
What is it about Dan Wooding—who is now 77, and recently has some heath issues—that is so engaging? Without spoiling his autobiography (which you need to read), Dan has lived a full life, with ups and downs, but never a dull moment.
The title and subtitle of the book summarizes it best: From Tabloid to Truth: The inspiring autobiography of Christian journalist Dan Wooding and his worldwide search for truth.
Dan’s life can be recapped with the phrase, “search for truth,” be it truth-seeking through journalism or his search God.
As I dug into From Tabloid to Truth, I discovered that Dan was born in Nigeria, West Africa, on December 19, 1940, to English missionary parents, Alf and Anne Wooding, both of whom came from Liverpool. Dan frequently reminded me that he is both African, English, and American. Quite a combination.
After a series of setbacks, when his father, Alf Wooding, contracted malaria, dysentery and sleeping sickness, the Wooding’s were advised by a doctor to go back to England for treatment at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Liverpool. In 1942, as World War II was raging, the Wooding family boarded a ship at Lagos and joined a convoy of boats that were being protected from the German U Boats. Sadly, many boats were sunk and thousand died in the deadly waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The zigzagging journey took six-weeks, rather than the usual ten days. You can read all about his journey in Blind Faith, the book Dan wrote with his then 93-year-old mother, Anne Wooding.
The Wooding’s eventually made a home in Birmingham, an industrial city in the center of England, and continued to minister to the folks in that area of the UK. His father was the pastor of The Sparkbrook Mission for 30 years.
The Famous and Infamous
The rest you must read to believe. Dan goes off to Canada, returns to England, where he meets his wife, Norma. Together, Norman and Dan start Hill Farm, a ministry to drug addicts. When that chapter of Dan and Norma’s life closes, Dan moves to a new field of work, journalism, using his natural gifts as a writer. Dan began his journalistic career with The Christian, Billy Graham’s London-based newspaper. Later, Dan moves to secular press, working for two of Great Britain’s notorious tabloids, the Sunday People and the Sunday Mirror, which took him all over the UK (and the world) chasing the famous and infamous! Dan wrote books and got a name for himself, particularly reporting on the criminal Maurice O’Mahoney, whom Dan wrote a book about.
After spiritually hitting rock-bottom with the tabloids, Dan turns once again to the truth, Jesus Christ, and ends up re-thinking his station in life at a pub called, Stab-in-the Back, the watering hole for journalists from the Mirror Group of newspapers.
After stints writing for Billy Graham during his crusades in Moscow, Russia, Essen, Germany, and San Juan, Puerto Rico, Dan began work with Brother Andrew, “God’s Smuggler.” Dan moved to California in 1982 with his family to assist Brother Andrew at Open Doors USA as media director. Some of his story is recounted in the book Twenty-Six Lead Soldiers.
After five years of working with Open Doors USA, Dan, along with his wife, Norma, began ASSIST News Service, now one of largest Internet-based news services in the world.
Dan and Norma retired from ANS, moving to Wales in 2018.
As inferred above, Dan has recent health issues. Doctors removed a cancerous tumor from his right lung. Writing from the UK, Dan states, “I’m finally back home in North Wales, a week after the lung cancer surgery that saved my life, along with your many prayers. I am in a lot of pain, but I’m also in good spirits. It’s so good to be home with Norma, but I can’t say enough about the skills and dedication of all of those who took care of me at the Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital. I was so well treated. Thanks to them and also to you all for your prayers and messages of encouragement.”
I can’t tell you how heart-broken I am with news like this. As one who co-labored with Dan for over fifteen years, my soul sinks at the thought that Dan is in pain. But as one can read from my deception above, Dan is larger than life and his message is simple: the search for truth always leads to Christ. And I know Christ is with Dan in this rough patch of road.
Rick Warren, author of the best-selling book, The Purpose Driven Life, said regarding Wooding, “Dan Wooding has lived one of the most amazing and exciting lives you could ever imagine.” I couldn’t agree more. This recent health set-back for Dan may be nothing more than another chapter of his extraordinary life, a means to convey the simple truth he found in Christ.
We love you, Dan. And we are praying for a quick recovery.