Tributes paid to gospel adventurer and writer Mike
Tributes have been paid to gospel adventurer and former Fleet Street journalist, Mike Wiltshire, who died peacefully in Bart’s Hospital in London yesterday (November 9) surrounded by his family, writes Keith Morris.
Mike’s wife Lois and his four children were all around the bed worshipping God and he was part of that and then he literally stopped breathing, said the family.
Mike, aged 81, from Norwich, helped to reach literally millions of people with the message of Christ thanks to his pioneering work with mission ship charity Operation Mobilisation. More recently he was heavily involved with the FGB both in Norwich and nationally, editing their magazine Voice and with East Anglia Friends of Israel.
In 2013, at the age of 75, Mike had a complex heart valves operation at Papworth Hospital: “The surgeon later smiled when he told me the outcome was ‘a minor miracle’,” said Mike in a 2015 article. But true to form, Mike, showed very little sign of slowing down in his life’s work to communicate the Gospel in as many ways as possible continuing to write for local and national Christian publications.
Barrie Lawrence, president of Norwich FGB said: “I followed Mike as president of Norwich FGB, and then as director of the East Anglian region. It was a daunting prospect following such a godly, gifted and truly spiritual man, except that he was always there for me, advising, helping, inspiring, supporting, encouraging and showing such warm friendship. A truly remarkable and outstanding man of God. Already so greatly missed.”
Jill Gower, from East Anglia Friends of Israel, said: “Mike was such a kind, humble man with an unwavering passion for the Lord. In recent times he helped set up East Anglia Friends of Israel, and became such an important part of our team. We felt so honoured to him on board and his contribution to the group was invaluable. We knew we were in safe hands with Mike’s great ability with accurately reporting our events, writing newsletters and sending out mailings.”
Keith Morris, editor of Good News for Norwich & Norfolk and www.networknorfolk.co.uk, said: “Mike wrote for our publications over a number of years and was always very professional and accurate with his many articles which really brought people’s stories of faith alive. For me he was a truly great man of God and an astonishing journalist, right to the end.”
John Wright, from FGB UK, said: “I have had the joy of praying with Mike most weeks over many years. It was a Godsend that brought Mike and Lois to Norwich. Mike was always positive, cheerful and a great source of wisdom. I called him 'The Bouncer' because of the many times, as it were, he came back from the dead. He was also a great blessing to FGB UK in his production of Voice Magazine and publicity. Now he will have had the joy of hearing Jesus welcome him home with the words, 'Well done, thou good and faithful Servant.'”
Nigel Fox from East Anglia Friends of Israel said: “Mike was always so cheerful, even in facing difficulty, truly one of the happiest people on earth!”
Paul McHenry, from Living Stones, said: “I will miss Mike for sure, he was always so positive and encouraging, it was an honour when he was with us at Living Stones. He brought such wisdom to us which we drew upon.”
In 1963, as a young journalist and a church youth leader, Mike met George Verwer, founder of Operation Mobilisation, then a student movement working in 20 countries. It was the start of a 50-year friendship.
In his 20s, Mike, with others, drove 4,000 miles overland to India where the OM team set up a massive publishing programme and saw the distribution of 100 million pieces of Gospel literature in 12 different languages.
After five years in India and Nepal, Mike was sent to Scandinavia with a key mission - to look for a ship that OM could buy “by faith”. In Norway he found and secured the Umanak, which was renamed Logos (which means ‘Word’ in Greek) by OM and became an iconic ocean-going mission ship.
The ship eventually set sail from London to India with 200 tons of literature and a volunteer staff and crew of 120 young people, comprising many nationalities. In 18 years, the ship visited 108 countries and more than 370,000 people attended conferences on board.
Mike was given the key role of pioneering line-up man, travelling ahead of the Logos and arranging programmes in dozens of ports, before the ship’s arrival. On one day, 15,000 people queued up at an Indian port to go on board, and everyone received a packet of Christian literature before they left.
The work took Mike to 50 countries across the world. Eventually, four ships were purchased which, through scripture distribution and meetings, have shared the gospel with a billion people.
While travelling the world, Mike also had the honour of meeting many well-known Christians. Mike recalled encounters with evangelist Billy Graham, China pioneer missionary Gladys Aylward, and Bible teachers such Martyn Lloyd-Jones and John Wimber, as well as Bakht Singh, who planted 400 churches in India.
While working with OM, Mike was also developing a career as a newspaper journalist. “I won my first job as a newspaper reporter after offering to sell papers on a street corner if the editor would just give me an interview! Cheeky, maybe, but I was offered several interviews,” recalled Mike in a 2015 article for Network Norfolk.
“I started on weekly papers at the Kentish Times, moved to evening papers, such as the Lancashire Evening Post, became deputy editor of a group of London regional papers and finally worked with the Financial Times on Fleet Street for more than 20 years.”
After “retiring” in London, Mike and Lois, moved to Norwich some 13 years ago. They had four children and nine grandchildren. Their son, Mark, who was born in India, is a London pastor. He is also national missions’ leader for 550 churches with Assemblies of God in the UK.
Once in Norwich, Mike showed no signs of slowing down and has been a national director with the FGB, the Christian businessmen’s fellowship, also editing two magazines.
Inspired by the life of Billy Graham, Mike recalled a “crazy prayer moment” when, as a shy young Christian, he nevertheless asked God “to use him to reach millions for Christ – with no idea how that prayer would be answered.”
There will be a celebration of Mike's life at St Andrew's Church, Eaton, Norwich, at 1pm on Saturday December 8, followed by interment at St Andrew's Cemetery and then light refreshments back at St Andrew's Church. All are welcome.
Pictured above are Mike and Lois Wiltshire.
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