By Dan Wooding, Founder of ASSIST Ministries and the ASSIST News Service
LAKE FOREST, CA (ANS – May 15, 2015) — Back in the 1970’s, when I was still living in London, BBC TV launched a new program hosted by popular personality, Cliff Michelmore, where viewers could write in with a question that they would like to pose to a British religion leader.
With my peculiar sense of humor, I wrote my question for John Carmel Heenan, the then Roman Catholic Archbishop of Westminster. It read, “Have you ever had a girlfriend?”
I didn’t think I had a hope of even getting an answer, but then a BBC producer called me and asked me to appear on the program and ask my rather silly question, which I did, and the Archbishop didn’t seem amused, but said he once had one before he went into the priesthood.
I was inundated with comments, both rude and nice, from friends suggesting I should try TV as a new career. However, I didn’t think they were really serious.
Up until then, I had stuck to doing print stories for my paper, the Sunday People, a British tabloid, and also some interviews for BBC Radio 1 and appearing on a weekly religious show on LBC, London’s commercial news and speech radio station, along with Cindy Kent, Nick Page and others. (I would slip out from the Sunday People newsroom for a couple of hours to do my part in the LBC program.)
Not long after that, I wrote up for my then newspaper, the story of English comedian, Eric Morecambe who, together with Ernie Wise had formed the award-winning double act of Morecambe and Wise.
Eric had just suffered a heart attack and I was dispatched to his home to interview him. At first, it turned out to be a rather challenging task. I got off to a bad start when I asked him, “Eric, how did you feel when you had your heart attack?”
Clearly irritated with my question, Morecambe looked sharply at me and replied, “It was great. I loved every minute of it!”
Fortunately, things got better from then on and he even confessed to being “scared of death” and revealed that many British Christians had sent him messages saying they were praying for him.
The paper was so pleased with the story, that they summoned a camera crew into the newsroom and gave me a script to read for a commercial they were planning to run before the paper came out on that Sunday.
All I had to say, with a teleprompter in front of me, was, “My name is Dan Wooding and I’ve never seen a star speak so frankly.”
My first take was a disaster. “I’ve never seen a frank speak so starly…”
Eventually, after ten excruciating takes, I finally got it right and it was broadcast across the United Kingdom on that Saturday night, and fortunately the viewers didn’t know how difficult it had been for me to read just those few lines.
Still, I really didn’t think I had much hope in the wild world of television, but then in 1994, I was given another opportunity in, of all places, Pyongyang, North Korea. It was just after the death and funeral of Kim Il-sung, the country’s despotic leader.
To my great surprise, I had been given a visa in Beijing to join a small delegation of Christians led by Dr. David Cho, and was on assignment for UPI (United Press International), to spend a week in this mysterious land reporting for their radio network based in Washington, DC.
When the three of us arrived at Pyongyang Airport in a rather ancient Russian plane, we were surrounded by North Korean TV cameras and reporters. I had camera thrust in front of me and one reporter asked me in broken English, “Why have you come to North Korea?”
I realized, as a Christian journalist, that this was the chance of a lifetime so I replied, “I have come to your country to share about the love of Jesus Christ.”
The North Korean reporter looked bemused, so I continued, “I am a Christian and would like to see more Christians in your country.”
Later, we were taken to a North Korean church in the capital city and joined in their Sunday morning service. Again, we were surrounded by cameras and afterwards, we all wondered if this was a “real” church, or if those taking part were actors. By the way, if they were actors, they did a good job.
After moving to Southern California in 1982, I got more involved in television and began co-hosting a weekly live one-hour TV show called “The Hollywood Connection” with Puerto Rican-born Raimundo Jimenez. It was always a strange experience, as when I would arrive each Friday, I would see outside the studios on Santa Monica Blvd., a group of “illegal’s” looking for work. It was the two sides of Tinseltown!
I also appeared each month as a guest on the Joy program on the Trinity Broadcasting Network to talk about the persecuted church with the affable host, Jim McClellan.
When, along with my wife Norma, we launched ASSIST some 22 years ago, CBN asked me to come to Virginia Beach to make the announcement on the “700-Club” with Sheila Walsh, who was then a host on the show.
I began to realize the TV really has tremendous power in getting out the Christian message and now, once a month hosting, “His Channel Live” on www.hischannel.com that goes out from its Santa Ana, California, studio, to some 192 countries. If you have never done live TV, I can tell you it is quite an experience as there is no time for mistakes. One guest was Robert A. Schuller and not realizing the show was live, he turned up ten minutes late, so I had to keep talking with His Channel founder, Dennis Swick, until Rev. Schuller, the son of the late Dr. Robert H. Schuller, finally arrived.
Now, with the help of my younger son, Peter, we are also doing lots of video interviews for the ASSIST News Service (ANS), some of which you can see at https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=Dan+Wooding
And talking about Peter, who is now back in Great Britain and married with three daughters, he is following in his rather elderly Dad’s footsteps, with his many reports from the UK for the Christian Broadcasting Network, and for many other Christian ministries.
And to think — it all began with a rather ridiculous question to a British Archbishop on BBC TV.
Photo captions: 1) Dan with comedian Eric Morecambe after the interview. 2) Dan Wooding being interviewed on North Korean Television (Picture taken off the TV screen in his hotel room in Pyongyang. 3) Dan (right) pictured in a North Korean church. 4) Dan, right, on the set of The Hollywood Connection. 5) Dan with Robert A. Schuller his ‘His Channel Live’ interview. 6) Dan Wooding interviewing Roma Downey and Mark Burnett.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 74, is an award-winning journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for more than 51 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS) and he hosts the weekly “Front Page Radio” show on the KWVE Radio Network in Southern California and which is also carried throughout the United States and around the world, and also “His Channel Live,” a TV show beamed to 192 countries. He is the author of some 45 books, the latest of which is a novel about the life of Jesus through the eyes of his beloved mother and called “Mary: My Story from Bethlehem to Calvary”. For more information, please go to http://marythebook.com/ , where you can find details of how to order the book.
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