Meet Ramon Williams, one of the great heroes of the Australian Christian media
His motto for more than 50 years has been: “To tell others what others are doing for the Lord”
By Dan Wooding, Founder of the ASSIST News Service
PADSTOW, NSW, AUSTRALIA – Now 86, Ramon Williams has been supplying news articles and photos to the Christian media from “down under” for more than 50 years, and he is considered by many, including myself, as one of the great heroes of the Australian Christian media.
This self-effacing former missionary has, for more than half-a-century, been running the equivalent of a Christian AP (Associated Press) news wire, and we at ANS have been running many of his fine stories and photos.
As Ramon has quietly gone about his business of reporting and photographing all things Aussie, his work has not gone unnoticed in his homeland and, back in 2013, the Australasian Religious Press Association honored him with a Special Citation for “exceptionally meritorious service to the Christian community, and specifically to Christian media, for 50 years.”
Like so many of us “old ‘uns” in the media business, he (and his wife, Dorothy) have been facing various health challenges.
“My health is not so good and, caring for [his wife] Dorothy, who has now had shingles for three years. As she is 88 years of age, the memory is also failing.
“Ian North from Ambassadors for Christ, once told me personally: ‘We care for others all through our ministry. Then, when our nearest and dearest needs understanding and patience, it is quite a challenge!’”
Ramon went onto say: “Personally, I have to manage diabetes and had a fall shattering the tendon in the left shoulder. Surgery is on a hospital’s 10 months waiting list. A blessing, however, was the loss of glaucoma when I had cataract surgery on both eyes.”
Now, he admits that he has decided to “slow down” in his work, explaining, “During the photographing of our church’s Gymea Baptist Church’s Carol Service in 2014, I realized it was time to stand aside and let younger folk carry on. I did not have the energy or stamina to do a good job — I couldn’t even carry the camera bag.
“Now that I have ‘stood aside’ and seen the work of younger folk, I have come to realize how good my work was!
“I continue to gather and distribute press releases from around the world and assist with photos from files dating back to 1968.
“It was quite an achievement to supply photos of Cyclone Tracy (1974) for an exhibition marking the 40th Anniversary. The Red Cross used my photos in a public display and a selection appeared in the National Geographic in Australia. Cyclone Tracy was the first of five cyclones covered.”
After he received his award from the Australasian Religious Press Association, I asked Ramon to share with me some of his rather extraordinary story. So here it is:
My wife, Dorothy and I, were serving with WEC (Worldwide Evangelization Crusade) in Java, Indonesia when the Lord’s call came. I was the Government Representative for the five WEC fields, preaching most Sundays (at a moment’s notice) in Kediri, East Java, then applying for visas for new workers in Jakarta once a month.
I had trained as a fitter and machinist, so now with this business management role, I learnt how to handle records and situations via a correspondence course. The final three lessons were on dealing with the media, preparing press releases and public relations.
WEC then announced, in London, that there was a need for someone with experience to produce good quality audio-visuals. Photography had been a serious hobby in my teenage years, but given-up when challenged by the Lord, at the age of 22, to put it aside and follow Him. I thought it had become “a god” but the Lord indicated in Java, it was actually “a rod” which He had asked me to lay down and now wanted me to pick it up and use it for Him.
We had three children, two girls and a boy, when this new challenge came along. Dorothy was not sure we should leave Indonesia but twelve months later we had a seal. Triplets (all girls) were born at the Southern Baptist Hospital, Kediri, but we were told our babies would not live, as they were too small.
They were normal size and Dorothy commented that if they lived, that is the Lord’s seal to go home and start this new ministry. They lived. We came home in November, 1967.
At the Billy Graham Crusade in Sydney, 1968, I noticed that, at a pre-Crusade ministers’ meeting, the local media photographer photographed Billy Graham speaking, but did not recognize church leaders to whom Mr Graham spoke afterwards.
“Where is the Religious media?” I asked a committee member, the Reverend Fred Nile. “There isn’t any and none have requested media passes for the Crusade which starts this week,” was the response.
A phone call to the editor of the New Life newspaper in Melbourne resulted in my offer to supply him with photos, free of charge, if I could officially represent New Life. A media pass granted and I started on a new course of action not anticipated before, media photography – for the Christian media.
By 1975 it was obvious that others needed my services more than WEC, audio visuals and displays. Worldwide Audio Visuals and Photos Ltd., was created as a non-profit company and continues to this day.
Many missionaries wanted to present their own audio visuals, using their own voices, but the need for media coverage of general interest events continued. Reports and photos told others what others were doing for the Lord.
This became our mission statement: “Telling others what others are doing for the Lord.”
Christmas, 1974, Cyclone Tracy hit Darwin early Christmas morning. What had happened to the churches? — The children’s homes?
A quick check with the ARPA executive, by phone on December 26 (Boxing Day holiday in Australia) and I was authorized to say to the Royal Australian Air Force, that I represented the Religious Media. Could the RAAF help me travel to Darwin?
“Yes, we have a Hercules transport ‘plane going to Darwin at 06.00am tomorrow morning and you can come on that. Your food, clothing, sleeping gear and water must all fit into your camera bag, as we have no extra room for baggage.” I chose the biggest camera bag I could find, packed it with my supplies and hung the four cameras around my neck!
Four days in Darwin were spent checking, reporting and photographing every church as well as reporting by phone to a Sydney radio station what had happened to the churches.
Attending, reporting and photographing cyclones in Fiji, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and North Queensland followed, but none compared to Cyclone Tracy in Darwin.
Ready for the unexpected can lead to many interesting “situations”. Evangelist Dr. John Haggai was so satisfied with my coverage of his crusade meetings in Brisbane, Queensland, that he asked if I could photograph his training courses for third world leaders in Singapore, tomorrow! I was there within 24 hours – and home again in 48.
When Christians held a National Gathering in Canberra, in 1988, surrounding the new Parliament House and offering prayer for the nation and politicians, I reported the event through USA Radio Network across the United States. That report brought more responses than the local media coverages.
Every Royal visit to St Andrew’s Anglican Cathedral, Sydney, has been photographed for the Anglican media. A visit by Princess Diana to a children’s center was photographed for Barnardos, with a classic photo taken of Her Highness holding a child – after the official media pack had left.
Musicians have been interviewed, reported and photographed including Barry McGuire; Leon Patillo; Cliff Richard; Rose-Marie Longe; Vickie Watt; Andre Crouch; Keith Green; DeGarmo & Keys; Colin Buchanan; Darlene Zschech; Esther King; Francine Bell; idea of north; Mike Rawson; Paul Terracini; Rebecca St James; Sandra Prowse; Steve Grace and Marina Prior.
Now that I have had to think back over these past experiences my reaction has been: “God has been good!”
He concluded by saying, “Thank you Dan Wooding for making me sit down, think and write about my own background.”
His ministry is known as Worldwide Photos – The Religious Media Agency, and his mailing address is: 49 Beamish Street, Padstow, NSW 2211, Australia; and e-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Why not send Ramon Williams a message of encouragement? I know he would be delighted to hear from you.
Photo captions: 1) Ramon Williams with his special award. 2) Ramon covering Cyclone in Namu, the Solomon Islands, 1986. 3) Ramon Williams on assignment. 4) Main Street, Darwin 1974. Four days in Darwin were spent checking, reporting and photographing every church as well as reporting by phone to a Sydney radio station what had happened to the churches. 5) Ramon’s photo for Barnardos of Princess Diana holding a child. 6) A recent picture of Ramon Williams. 7) Dan Wooding with Dr. David Cho, in Pyongyang, North Korea, during his reporting trip to the secretive land.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 76, is an award-winning author, broadcaster and 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 54 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. He has written some 45 books, and has one radio show and two television programs all based in Southern California. While still living in London, Dan worked as a senior reporter for two of the UK’s top circulation newspapers, the Sunday People and the Sunday Mirror, and also did radio interviews for the BBC. He is one of the few Christian journalists every allowed to report from inside of North Korea.