Ramon Williams

Ramon Williams: ‘Telling Others What Others Are Doing For The Lord

Ramon Williams and Worldwide Photos are names known around the world, but their ministry, as a religious media ministry, has come to an end. Ramon has suffered back problems and is now in a nursing home with his wife, Dorothy. Mrs Williams suffered an increasing number of falls due to weakness in her legs and also needed full-time nursing home care.

The background to this unique ministry started in 1967 when Ramon and Dorothy were missionaries with WEC (Worldwide Evangelisation Crusade) in Indonesia. WEC felt the need for an audio-visual department to promote the work. Ramon felt led to offer his services and was accepted. However, they had both been called of the Lord to serve in Indonesia. Was this New Ministry of Him? Did it mean leaving Indonesia?

In May 1967, Ramon finished a business correspondence course to better equip him as WEC’s representative in business matters with the Indonesian government. The last three lessons taught him how to advertise, prepare press releases and deal with media. In May 1967 Dorothy was noticed to have an unusual pregnancy for their fourth child. She was too big!

Fortunately, they had become friends with the American Baptist personnel at the mission hospital in their East Java town. The doctors had an x-ray taken of Dorothy and felt termination surgery was needed. Something wasn’t right. There were two backbones! Paediatrician Dr Oliver Gilliland requested another x-ray when the American x-ray technician, Marion Misner, returned from holidays a day early. When the result was known, Dr Gilliland told Ramon and Dorothy the operation was cancelled. When asked, “Why?” he held up three fingers. “You’re having triplets!” he said. Ramon and Dorothy commented: “You’re joking!”

Dr Gilliland continued: “But they are not expected to live. They will be too small”. They then accepted the situation as from the Lord. Ramon and Dorothy believed that if the triplets lived, that was the time to return to Australia and set up WEC’s audio-visual department. The triplets were born on 30 July, and they lived! Ramon had his first “News Event” to photograph and report around the world.

“Triplets born to Australian missionaries in Indonesia.”
Back in Sydney, in 1968, Ramon noticed the lack of photographers for the Billy Graham 1968 Crusade. He offered to photograph it for New Life Christian Newspaper at no charge if they could afford to print the photos (publishing photos in those days required printing blocks and was a very expensive exercise).

The editor, Eric Daley, Agreed, and so the first steps towards a religious media agency took place. Ramon manufactured a portable display stand for WEC as well and produced several audio-visuals. Other missions also requested both. Meanwhile, Ramon continued photographing Christian events and reporting them for the denominational newspapers as well as New Life.

Following Ramon’s attendance and reporting of Cyclone Tracy in Darwin (Christmas 1974), WEC suggested Ramon set up a new ministry to serve all missions, and so Worldwide Audio-Visuals and Photos Ltd was registered in 1975. Over the years, many major Crusades have been covered across Australia. These included Bill Newman, Leighton Ford, Bill Glass, George and Rita Galieh, and Dr John Haggai – all with the same principle! If you can afford to print the reports and photos, there is no charge. The WEC principle of ‘living by faith’ was included in all that Ramon and Dorothy did for the Lord: ‘Telling Others What Others Are Doing For The Lord’.

Royal visits were photographed for Anglican Media in Sydney. Ramon was the only man allowed into the CWCI (Christian Women Communicating Internationally) rallies. He supplied photos for their magazine, Christian Women, for 25 years. They gladly paid for services rendered. The name was changed to Worldwide Photos Ltd when it was realised that missions had commenced making their own audio-visuals.
An aeroplane was chartered when the Katoomba Youth Convention moved into a tent during building renovations. A Hercules of the RAAF was used to fly to Darwin to report on Cyclone Tracy. Commercial flights had Ramon in Fiji, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu the day after cyclones in those areas. Ramon stayed in hotels so as not to be a burden to anyone. He invited missionaries to join him for a meal and freshen up in bathroom facilities. They shared their stories of need for support. Then Ramon photographed their damaged properties and reported their needs around the world.

UCB (United Christian Broadcasters) in London requested his services for a weekly report, by phone, for broadcasting to a footprint of 90 million across Europe. USA Radio News Network requested a 25-second report on any religious news event in Australia. His report on the 1988 National Gathering prior to the opening of the new Parliament House in Canberra went for 27 seconds, so this was refused.
Rev Gordon Moyes held a Farewell Thanksgiving Service in Ramon’s honour, saying: ‘He is going to have to retire sometime.’ Ramon de-registered Worldwide Photos Ltd in 2005 to save Dorothy any business activities, should he have an accident. He registered Worldwide Photos as a trading name the next day so that the name could not be used by anyone else.

Recently, with increasing age, Ramon’s health deteriorated, and back problems convinced him of the need for assistance in a nursing home. Meanwhile, in 2018 Dorothy had succumbed to Alzheimer’s and needed Ramon’s help. Her falls increased. Ramon and Dorothy agreed they needed aged care, and both have now moved into an aged care facility. So we come to the end of one unique ministry of helping others. Already Ramon is known in the nursing home as ‘that kind gentleman who helps others’ and tells the staff they can finish work early and go home. All say: ‘I wish!’ The concern for others continues.

Worldwide Photos has indeed been a unique ministry, and Ramon has been a true friend of editors across the broad spectrum of the Australasian Religious Press Association and beyond, who awarded him the prestigious Gutenberg Award (pictured above), for his many excellent contributions to the efforts so many of its members. My own debt to Ramon is incalculable, beginning with my very first issue as editor of Australian Presbyterian Life in 1981. I was stuck for a picture to put on the front cover when Ramon came to the rescue with one which was just right. We will miss him greatly and send our prayerful best wishes.

I can only echo Paul’s greeting to the Philippians (1:3-6), ‘ I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine … for your fellowship in the Gospel from the first day until now; being confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.’

– Written by Sen.Ed Rev Bob Thomas, for New Life Aus, 9 Mar 2022.