Norma and Dan have been married for 40 years. She stood by him in their early ministry days as well as when he moved away from God as a journalist for the Fleet Street tabloids. Today, Norma looks after the administrative side of ASSIST Ministries. Norma has a sweet and gentle spirit and is always eager to serve the Lord.
He was definitely different to the usual boys that I had met before and I soon discovered that his parents were Christians, something that he seemed embarrassed about. One day I asked if he would take me to meet them at his home in Kings Heath and I found them to be rather charming. Soon, I would go with him to the little mission hall in Sparkbrook and I enjoyed the services there and especially the preaching of his father.
I had gone to a Sunday school as a child at 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 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, 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 decision and truly understood what it meant to be born-again.
Our flat over his parents home, soon became a haven for new believers who would flood into our flat for weekly Bible studies.
The work soon developed into an outreach to the city’s drug addicts and very soon, Dan and I, along with Andrew, our first son, moved to Hill Farm, in Worcestershire, to become wardens there. It was a difficult time for me as I had to cook and clean for up to 12 addicts and after a few months.
But 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 The Christian. 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, Dan lost his job and was able to get another one with The Middlesex County Times in Ealing, so we moved there. Our home was a flat over a fish-and-chip shop in West Ealing.
Dan pressed on with his career as I looked after the boys and our home, but Dan became restless with living in Ealing and found us a new home in Walton-on-Thames in Surrey. It was shortly after we made the move, that he was offered a staff position on The Sunday People, one of Britain’s Sunday tabloids. This is when the roller coaster really began for us as a family as Dan became consumed with his work and seemed to have little time for the family.
Still, 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 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 was given a telegram from a staff member of the paper asking if I was alright. Apparently, there had been a death threat against us by a member of the London underworld and they thought I had been murdered.
Fortunately, one day a friend had challenged him during one of his drinking sessions in The Stab-in-the-Back pub, about what he was doing with his life. He pointed out to Dan 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 his life and he recommitted his life to Christ and gave up his job on the paper and went to Uganda with that friend, 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 and told me that he wanted to spend the rest of his life bringing news about persecuted Christians around the world. 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 wrote the best-selling book, “God’s Smuggler” with co-authors John and Elizabeth Sherill.
After two years of his freelance writing based in England, we were offered the opportunity to move to Southern California where Dan was to become the media director for Open Doors USA. It had been a big decision for me to move to London, but now a move to the United States seemed a huge commitment.
So on June 28, 1982, we set off from Heathrow Airport to Los Angeles for the next stage in our adventure. 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 Andrew first of all said that he was going “home” to join Youth With A Mission (YWAM) to take their Discipleship Training Course (DTS). 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.
But then the Lord opened us for us to start ASSIST Ministries and Dan and I launched it with a trip to Cuba, to launch our sister church program. I have since been able to join him 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 who have since both married and live in the UK. I visit them about twice a year and this is a real blessing to me.
We now live in Huntington Beach, California, and have our office in Garden Grove. While Dan is involved with the media side of ASSIST, I help with the administration of the US office. One of my greatest joys is to be able to link Western Christians with new friends in China, Russia and Taiwan, through our Bridge of Friendship program.
I look back to the day I first set eyes on Dan in that office in Birmingham and at that time I had no idea where our friendship and love would take us. It has been a roller coaster ride for both of us, but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
We have been married now for 40 years 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.