Alf and Anne Wooding were missionaries to Nigeria when Dan was born. Alf later became the pastor of a church in Birmingham. The couple is shown here in later years in Wallasey, Cheshire, England.



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A Tribute: Alf and Anne Wooding, My Parents
By Dan Wooding
Alf and Anne Wooding were both small in stature – neither stood taller than 5 feet – but yet they were huge in their faith. Both were born in Liverpool, England, and yet didn’t meet until they were students at the Sudan Interior Mission (SIM) language school in Minna, Nigeria.

My mother, who was already learning the Hausa language, was standing on a ladder painting a scripture scroll on the wall on that fateful day in the mid 1930s when my father walked in clasping a newspaper. He had just arrived on the ship from Liverpool to Lagos and then had taken a train to Minna.

Like most Liverpudlians, he had a wonderful sense of humor, and so his chat-up-line to her was, “Would you like to read my Liverpool Echo?”

The line worked and soon they were spending much of their time together. They would take walks together in the grounds of the language school, but there was a problem that they had to overcome. SIM had a rule that missionaries of the opposite sex could not be alone together without a native chaperone. So as they began their first walk, an African staff member fell in step with them to make sure that nothing untoward took place.

My father quickly came up with a ruse that would allow them to be alone; he suddenly let out the howl of a hyena and the young man ran screaming back to the building and Alf was able to sneak his first kiss with Anne.

Their love for each other – with the help of a regular Hyena call – quickly blossomed and eventually he proposed marriage to this lovely Liverpool lass. Before they were wed, Anne moved to Kano, a walled Muslim city on the edge of the Sahara desert, and began teaching blind men in the city how to read and write in Braille. She was the first white woman ever allowed to teach Braille in Kano.

They were married in the SIM church in Kano in 1939, just as war was breaking out in Europe and moved to a mud-hut village in a pagan area of the country where they began to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the villagers.

I was born on December 19, 1940 in the Sudan United Mission hospital in Vom and on receiving the news of my birth, many miles away, I was given the name of Dan Juma (son of Friday) by the local chiefs. When we came to the village; my father would use me as a way to bring crowds to hear his message of hope and salvation. Years later, he told me that he would strap a 78 rpm wind-up record player on the back of his bicycle and head off through the bush with me in the front carrier part of the bike and once we got to nearby village, he would sit me down and soon the crowds would come to see the first blue-eyed white baby they had ever seen. He would then play some of his gospel music recordings and then preach to them in Hausa, the local language.

They had to deal with many problems which included the heat and the snakes, but the worst was when their thatched mud-hut home burned to the ground one terrible night. Fortunately, we all escaped and soon the villagers helped my parents re-build their home and then they were able to continue their ministry. As my father worked as an evangelist, my mother did medical work dealing with the many problems that the people had.

But then came the blow that was to change their lives for ever. My father became sick from a combination of malaria, dysentery and sleeping sickness. A local doctor told him that he had to get home to Liverpool as soon as possible or he would not survive. So we headed for Lagos and joined a convoy of ships that were to head out into the dangerous Atlantic to face the threat of German U-Boats. You can read more about the incredible zigzagging journey that we took that usually took 10 days, but this time took six weeks, until we finally arrived in Liverpool, as I said in my autobiography, From Tabloid To Truth.

He was immediately admitted to the Hospital of Tropical Diseases in Liverpool, while my mother and I moved in with her sister, Ethel and her father, Sam, a retired merchant seaman. My sister Ruth was born during this time and once my father felt he was well enough, he returned to Nigeria on a British troop ship to continue his missionary work.

However, it wasn’t long before he became even sicker and my mother was told that she may never see him again. She was preparing to sail to Nigeria to say “goodbye” to Alf, when she got news that he was returning and would soon be home.

Both Ruth and I were scared when we saw this little broken man who carried in his face the pain of his illnesses. He knew that he would never be able to return to his beloved Nigeria. As he slowly regained his strength, he began to ask God what he should now do and soon was offered a position in the industrial city of Birmingham, located in the Midlands of England, as a missionary with the Barbican Mission to the Jews. He job was to share the news of the Messiah – Jesus – with the city’s large Jewish population, many of which were Holocaust survivors from Eastern and Central Europe.

We eventually joined him in 1946 and my mother was shocked with the living accommodation that he had found us in Brighton Road, Balsall Heath, a run-down inner-city area of Birmingham.

Soon, my father started a little church in the Cooperative Hall in Sparkhill and a Sunday School in Clifton Road School in Balsall Heath. After a while, he was offered the pastorate of a little wooden mission hall in Alfred Street, Sparkbrook, and we found a new home in the Kings Heath area of the city.

During the week, my father would visit Jewish homes and try to share about Jesus with the Jews, but this was a difficult task for him as many of them blamed Christians for the Holocaust. My mother threw herself into her Sunday School work and even taught the children to sing Hausa choruses. She knew that she would never be able to go back to Africa, so she brought a bit of Africa to the kids of Birmingham.

My father was an incredible Bible teacher and although he was only preaching to a small number of people each Sunday, he spoke as if he was addressing a huge congregation. He meticulously typed out his complete sermon and delivered it with great passion.

Many years later, after I received Jesus Christ into my life as my personal Savior and had met and married Norma, my lovely wife, we began an outreach into the community and called our team, The Messengers. Soon we were regularly visiting the drug addicts at the All Saints Hospital in Winson Green, Birmingham, and each Sunday morning we would bring a delegation of addicts to the Sunday morning service.

There were times when half of the congregation was recovering drug addicts, but they were enthralled by my father’s preaching. Many gave their lives to Christ under his ministry.

After more than 30 years of faithful service, my parents retired and moved to a little village in Essex and then finally spent their last few years in a home in Wallasey, Cheshire, which overlooked their beloved River Mersey.

Years later, I co-authored my mother’s moving autobiography called Blind Faith, which can be obtained from ASSIST at www.assistnews.net.

Pastor Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, California, wrote the foreword to the book. On the occasion of her 90th birthday, Pastor Chuck sent a message to her in which he said, “England has had a long, rich tradition of missionary pioneers such as David Livingstone, William Carey, C.T. Studd and Gladys Alyward. Another such pioneer missionary is a wonderful lady, Anne Blake, now Anne Wooding, who followed the footsteps of these impressive missionaries by following her heart to Nigeria in the 30's to care for the blind and needy there. She felt God compelling her to deliver the glorious message of salvation to those in a land so far from the comforts of her own homeland.

“Her book, ‘Blind Faith’ has been an inspiration to all of us who have an interest in missionary work. We would like to celebrate with you at the occasion of Mrs. Anne Wooding's 90th Birthday and would like to congratulate her on her many years of service to our Lord. May God continue to enrich and bless her life.

“Happy Birthday Anne.”

Signed,
Chuck Smith

My parents are both now in heaven and are reaping the rewards of their dedicated service to the Lord. My father went first in his mid 80s and then my mother passed away more recently at the age of 93.

What a legacy they have passed on to myself, my sister Ruth, my wife Norma and our two sons, Andrew and Peter, along with their six children. What began with an African odyssey for both of them has now spread out around the world through a series of ministries that were a direct result of their faithful service. And it continues today….Thank you both for your example!

   
 


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