Keawalai Congregational Church
United Church of Christ (USA)
Sunday August 21, 2010
"Set Me Free"
We love our heroes, whether it is Robin Hood rescuing the Maid Marian or Super Man swooping down to save Lois Lane. We love our heroes. I was saddened a few months ago when I heard of the passing of one of my heroes. I say this cautiously because there was a time that I “hated” him, well maybe hate is to strong a word, perhaps loathe might be better for you see Charlie was a friend and a playmate but when he left Kamehameha to go to Punahou School, our hated rival, he became the enemy. I am speaking of Charlie Wedemeyer. The name may be familiar for Wedemeyer is well known in the annals of Hawaii sports history. Charlie’s older brother “squirmin” Herman was a star athlete at St. Louis High School in Honolulu and St. Mary’s College in California. Following graduation from Punahou, Charlie went on to play football at the Univ. of Michigan under Duffy Daugherty. I knew Charlie back in the mid 50’s. I was in the fifth grade but he was a year older then I. Even then we knew that Charlie was a great talent, something special. He was confident, quick and hard to catch as we played touch football before classes started in the morning. I always wanted to be on Charlie’s team because he was good and I knew Charlie’s team would win.
Charlie left Kamehameha in the seventh grade and went on to be one of the great legends in Punahou sports. He lettered in football, basketball and baseball and was selected to ILH all-star teams. You must remember in those days prep sports ruled the Islands. The Univ. Of Hawaii was there but they were not that good. Friday and Saturday would find the old Honolulu Stadium packed with 25,000 people to watch a high school football game.
My senior year in high school, Kamehameha lost the championship game to Punahou 20-6 because of Charlie Wedemeyer. After U of Michigan, Charlie became the football coach at Los Gatos High School in California, where he would develop a winning record. In 1976, tragedy struck when he started to show symptoms of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis disease, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. In 1978 he was diagnosed and given two years to live. ALS causes the muscle to waste away and would render him unable to move, speak, eat and even breathe. ALS did not hold Charlie down; armed with his love for God and Jesus Christ and the love and support of his high school sweetheart and their two children he faced life’s difficulties. He continued as coach and held the position from 1977-85 achieving a record of 78-20 and won seven West Valley Athletic League championships. He would sit in a golf cart on the sidelines and his wife, Lucy, would read his lips as Charlie called the plays and she would relay the plays to the coaches.
Charlie Wedemeyers life affected and touched the lives of so many teenagers Charlie was named California High School Coach of the Year, one of his many honors over the years, including: Punahou School Athletic Hall of Fame (1980), Jack Breslin Lifetime Achievement Award for individuals whose post-collegiate careers brings honor to himself and Michigan State athletics (1987), Disabled American of the Year (1992), the San Jose Sports Hall of Fame (1995), and the National High School Sports Hall of Fame (2007). In addition, the Almaden Valley Rotary Club’s Silicon Valley Classic is called the Charlie Wedemeyer All-Star High School Football Game, and is now in its 36th year. Charlie was still coaching up to 2005. We cannot imagine the difficulties that Charlie and his wife Lucy and their family were confronted daily for his care but we can see that their faith and love in God was drawn upon to make Charlie’s life as full and rewarding that it was.
This is a quote from Charlie:
I think it is important to remember that we will all be confronted with some adversity or challenge in our lives that may seem insurmountable and when it does happen we have to remember that God has given us freedom of choice. We can choose to feel sorry for ourselves and be bitter or angry and cause everyone around us to be miserable, or we can choose with God's help to become a better and stronger person.
I never spoke with Charlie since he left Kamehameha, however, over the years I would read and hear of his accomplishments. Even though he did go to Punahou, he was a playmate, a friend and a hero. God bless you Charlie Wedemeyer.
Jeremiah was sort of a hero, but more so, he was a prophet of God. Fate had placed him in a very tenuous position, his fellow countrymen had been taken to Babylon as prisoners and God had chosen him to be God’s spokesmen to the people of Israel. Jeremiah at first complains of his inabilities but God assures him to trust in God. Jeremiah was not a popular man with his people because he told them of their downfall and what would happen to them because they turned away from God.
Life changes us. In our youth we engaged ourselves in new challenges, exposing ourselves to new things, seeking different adventures and yes sometimes getting ourselves into trouble, probably because we did not give sufficient thought before trying something. As life progresses we often times become too comfortable with ourselves. However, it is times like these that God will make His presence known. That is when, like Jeremiah, God will call on us.
My mana’o or thought this morning is entitled “Set Me Free” for when I began writing I was thinking of the women in Luke who was afflicted with this evil spirit for 18 years and how Jesus, by His touch, was able to set her free, but as I thought more and more of Charlie and this next hero I realized that these two, un-like the bent over women, were not captured or imprisoned at all. The heroine I am speaking of is Fanny Crosby.
Francis Ann Crosby was born in 1820 just about when the Gospel of Jesus Christ was being brought to Hawaii. At the age of 6 weeks she was suffering from an eye inflammation. The treatment prescribed was to apply hot poultices to her eyes; the treatment destroyed her eyesight. At a young age she was determined not to permit her blindness to restrict her enjoyment of life to its fullest and to be productive. It is said that in her lifetime she has composed over 8,000 hymns. The hymn we sang earlier is her composition. Other hymns she has composed are Blessed Assurance, Praise Him Praise Him, Pass Me Not O Gentle Savior, and a favorite Himeni with in the Hawaiian Churches, Nu Oli or Glad Tidings.
Her hymns are filled with the love of God and God’s grace. The first verse of Blessed Assurance is:
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! O what a foretaste of glory divine! Heir of salvation, purchase of God, Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.
She has spoken of her blindness in saying:
The two heroes of mine took on the adversities that life had brought to them. They were able to over come their limitations, to over come the handicaps that they faced. And through all these difficulties they were still able to sing the songs of God’s grace. Charlie in his struggle with ALS, his life was extended 33 years longer then the doctors had predicted and was filled with proclaiming the message of God’s love especially to the young people the youth. Fanny Crosby words of inspiration and peace of God’s love resounds through out the churches of God every Sunday and through all worship.
It seemed intended by the blessed providence of God that I should be blind all my life, and I thank him for the dispensation. If perfect earthly sight were offered me tomorrow I would not accept it. I might not have sung hymns to the praise of God if I had been distracted by the beautiful and interesting things about me.
God bless heroes Charlie Wedemeyer and Fanny Crosby.
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