Willie was a young teenager when she felt God’s call on her life, and she thought she would spend her life in remote villages deep in Africa, sharing God’s Word with people who had never heard.
Willie did go to Africa, but God broadened her vision, and for well over six decades Willie has been giving help and hope to lost, hurting, impoverished children, men, and women throughout the world.
Willie was born on a farm in Friendship, Arkansas, right in the heart of the Great Depression. It was a struggle for her parents, Charles and Stella McDaniel to provide a living for their family, so they moved to Southern California to find greater employment opportunities.
Willie learned the value of hard work at an early age. The family grew most of their own food on a mini-farm, and she helped milk the cow, care for the livestock, and worked with her mother to freeze and preserve the vegetables and fruits the family enjoyed all year long.
Her parents were Christians, and brought up their children in a small Baptist Church, where Willie walked to the altar to receive Jesus Christ as her Savior at the close of a Sunday evening service when she was seven years old.
Although she was only a child, Willie immediately realized she had a responsibility to share the gospel with others, and the next morning she walked up to her school teacher and asked her if she was saved. “Saved from what?” the teacher responded.
The teacher’s indifference only strengthened Willie’s commitment, and she worked at an egg ranch after school to earn money to attend a youth camp when she was thirteen. At the week’s closing service she felt God’s call to serve Him, and has never wavered in her commitment.
During the summer of 1949, she attended the Mission’s School for Personal Evangelism, where she learned to share her faith, and to serve the poor at the Mission on Skid Row. After completing the course she began spending her weekends speaking in schools and churches, challenging young people to commit their lives to serve God.
Willie’s commitment to share the gospel was contagious, and three days after graduating from high school in January, 1951 she embarked on a three month speaking tour in several states, inviting hundreds of high school and college young people to join her at the Mission during school breaks, where she taught them to share their faith, and to serve the needs of those whom Jesus called, “the least of these.”
Fred and Willie were drawn together by their commitment to Jesus Christ. They both were unwavering in the conviction that God had called them to serve Him, and both had a profound sense that God’s call was sacred. They also shared a common vision of serving God by serving others.
When Fred asked Willie to be his wife, he told her that his love for the Lord would always come first in his life. But with a twinkle in his eyes, he added, “But Baby, that places you second only to the God of the universe, and that’s a pretty secure place to be!”
Hand-in-hand through the years they shared God’s love with the lost, and cared for the physical needs of hurting people – from the streets of Skid Row, to the far corners of the world, training and sending missionaries, and building orphanages, schools, churches, hospitals and mission stations in Hong Kong, Japan, Argentina, Taiwan and Mexico.
And although Willie never actually lived in Africa, their son, Tom, now Mission Executive Vice-President, lived for nearly a year deep in the bush in Liberia, West Africa when he was just a teenager, working with Maggie Lampkins, and other missionaries sent by his parents, and working in the schools, missions and churches they had built.
Tom also went with his parents to Ghana, West Africa, to work with Vincent McCauley in the schools and churches built by funds from Mission partners in the U.S. Vince attended the Mission’s evangelism training school in the Caribbean before being sent to Ghana as a missionary, where he served with Fred Jordan Mission for 44 years until his death.
Miki Kim brought a new dimension of fulfillment and joy to Fred and Willie, and he was the one that walked the floor at night whenever a child was sick or restless. He often told Willie that he was glad to take care of the children at night, as long as she took care of them during the daytime.
Willie often tells friends that the greatest joy in her life was to make Fred’s life and ministry easier. She loved cooking and caring for him and for their children, as well as for their friends and associates in their growing ministry.
Daughter Miki was soon joined by six siblings: Fred, Jr., Mei Ling, Billie Lou, Tom, Joe and Peter, and their home was never boring. Fred and Willie made it a priority to have dinner together with their children every night possible, and Fred said that’s where they all caught up on each other’s days. Since their ministry was global, they spirited discussions were broad, and included politics and world affairs, as well as the individual interests of each other. They nearly always seemed to have missionaries as house guests, so the children learned first-hand about other nations and cultures from an early age.
Fred’s greatest desire for his children was that each one would serve God, by serving others. He even wrote a letter to his Mission partners in 1968, asking them to pray for God to call his children to serve Him. One woman took exception to the request, and wrote back, “How dare you and Willie pray for God to call your children? What if they want to do their own thing by being a doctor, a teacher, or a lawyer?”
Fred’s response was quick, and public. The following Sunday he answered the woman’s challenge on the Mission’s weekly TV program, (aired weekly since November 4, 1951,) “Let doctors give birth to doctors, let teachers give birth to teachers, and let lawyers give birth to lawyers! Willie and I have committed our lives to serve God, by serving others, and I believe we have the God-given right to ask God to call our children to do the same!”
The mother of seven children, Willie couldn’t be more pleased that most of her children have chosen to serve God through serving others. “We took our children to Skid Row from the time they were 4-weeks-old, and it certainly didn’t hurt them to realize that we don’t need to go half way around the world to find people in need.”
Eldest daughter, Miki now heads a large charity with six decades of helping those who are blind, visually impaired, or multi-disabled. She has on her office wall a cherished picture showing her father, Fred holding her on her first birthday – on a Skid Row street!
Tom spent his 13th Christmas, and his 14th birthday deep in the bush in Liberia, Africa, sleeping in a primitive thatched-roof hut. And following nearly a year with no electricity, no running water, and few of life’s “necessities,” he has a greater understanding of families in poverty on Skid Row. Tom has committed his own life to serve God, by serving the poor in the ministries founded by his father, and shared by his mother, Willie. Willie often calls him her right hand, and he serves as the Mission’s Executive Vice-President.
Some of Peter’s fondest childhood memories includes trips with his parents to visit partners that give generously, and even sacrificially to support the ministries of the Mission, including a visit when his father asked him to quote his latest Bible memory verse. Peter began, “For God so loved the world that He gave . . .” Forgetting the rest of the verse, Peter timidly asked, “What did He gave, Daddy?” But when Peter preaches in the Mission’s Chapel services today, he never forgets “what God gave.”
When their daughter, Mei Ling, was 11-years of age, she wrote a school essay titled, ‘I Grew up on Skid Row.’ And all of those years of serving needy families at the Mission, helped prepare her for her career in the medical field.
After spending more than ten years serving on Skid Row, son, Joe, and his wife Kris started a similar ministry of evangelism and outreach in California’s Coachella Valley, named by the Federal Government as one of the seven poorest area in the nation. Their focus is to declare the gospel through teaching God’s Word, and to demonstrate the gospel through feeding hundreds of migrant workers and their families each week.
Their daughter, Billie, always loved caring for the babies and the younger children on Skid Row. She is now the Director of a Pre-School, and her favorite thing to do each day is to take time from her other duties, and go into the nursery and rock the babies!
“Taking our children with us to Skid Row throughout their childhood brought the results Fred and I always prayed for – today our children love God, and they are all loving, sensitive adults, with great compassion for people in need,” Willie says.
During Fred’s three weeks in the hospital following his massive heart, Willie was devastated by the realization that Fred’s death was imminent. How could she go on without him? His reply was simple, “Remember what I have always told you: Get a cause that is bigger than you are, and a calling greater that is greater than yourself. When you are part of God’s mission to “seek and to save the lost,” your own concerns will become smaller.”
Since Fred’s death in 1988, Willie has found that the needs of a lost, hungry, hurting world continue to grow, and she continues the work that she and Fred shared, with the encouragement of all their children, and the hands-on help of her son, Tom, and his wife, Teresa; her son, Peter and his wife, Sophia, and in recent months she is encouraged to have their grandchildren joining the family in serving the poor on Skid Row.
Willie’s greatest joy comes from the thanks she sees in the eyes of those who know she cares. “The future is unlimited,” she often exclaims. Then she adds with her irrepressible humor, “When you commit yourself without reservation to serving God by serving the poor, you have an enormous advantage - - virtually no competition!”