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Woodhaven History 101...
The following is based on an article taken from The Sunday Sentinel Star, Orlando, Florida dated November 24, 1940.
Three Boys Who Will Never Grow Up
“I’m sorry to tell you, Mrs. Siemer, but there is no hope for your son. Medicine or surgery can do nothing for him and his muscles and body will keep wasting away until he finally dies!”
The courageous and anxious mother had pressed for the truth of her son’s strange affliction. The physician had answered tersely.
The story properly started nearly 18 years earlier when Henry Siemer came into the world as a healthy, normal 10 pound baby with pink toes and a chubby little face, son of Mr. and Mrs. E. H. Siemer who live in a thinly populated section of Orange County near the county prison farm. Until he was six years old, Henry was the same as all Healthy normal young boys. That is, until he was stricken with pneumonia. Being healthy, it was only a short time before he had recovered sufficiently to be back at play.
Feet Seemed To Drag
The mother noticed however that he seemed to drag his feet when he walked. The child was taken to a physician who assured the mother that nothing was wrong other than that he had not fully recovered from the attack of pneumonia.
As the months slipped by the condition grew worse; the muscles in his legs did not seem to react in a normal way, and he started losing weight. Doctor after doctor examined him without knowing how to express to the mother the strange affliction affecting her son. And then, the mother begged the truth and received it.
The truth was horrible, almost unbelievable. Progressive muscular atrophy is the term of the strange malady for which science has failed to find a cure or alleviation. While the son was doomed to waste away, a living death, the mother was condemned to watch her loved one literally disappear before her very eyes. Not a pretty picture by any means, but it was only the beginning of the strange events in the lives of the honest and humble Siemers.
Another Boy Stricken
Three years later, another son arrived; another bundle of warm pink flesh, bright eyes and happiness for the mother. The joyousness of Leroy’s arrival was short lived for at the beginning of the sixth year, tragedy again descended.
“The first day I saw Leroy start to walk on his toes, I was gripped with a fear so terrible I wanted to die,” this unpretending simple woman explained. Again, the mother and her hardworking carpenter husband journeyed to the doctors throughout Florida, seeking some means, any means, to stop this horrible thing that sucked muscles and flesh away. And again, the couples were told there was no hope. Only hopeless invalidism and ultimate death.
When the third son, Herbert, arrived, Mrs. Siemer said she “just knew it would be the same with him. But I prayed and prayed for faith and guidance.” Long before “Herbie” became six years old, Siemers carried him to various physicians seeking their advice. One stated he had heard of the affliction appearing in two children, but never in a third.
When Herbert reached the dangerous age of six, he was perfectly healthy and normal. One day when Mrs. Siemer was watching him play under pine trees, as she explains it, a sharp pain stabbed at her chest and everything seemed to turn black for a few seconds. Herbert was walking on his toes and dragging his feet!
All Three Helpless
Today, the three youths - Henry nearly 18, Leroy 14, and Herbert 11 - sit helplessly on three wheel chairs, in a brilliant sunshine and under the same blue skies that saw them as healthy, vigorous youngsters playing in the year before they were six years old.
At this point, it would be entirely logical for the distraught mother to crack under the strain, to throw her hands and ask of the omnipotent what she had ever done to deserve the tragedies that had befallen her household. Instead, she gained renewed courage, ambition and light-heartedness.
“Put your trust in Jesus and have faith,” she said with shining eyes, “and everything will be all right.” That’s the way this amazing woman explains it.
One might well think that this woman who had found so much tragedy and grief in her life would have little ambition left for anything else. The three invalid children demand day and night attention and her aged parents who live close by depend largely on her help.
And then this amazing woman conceived the idea of establishing a Sunday School in the community – in fact on the front porch of their small home in order that the three invalid boys as well as neighboring children might learn a little about the Bible and the work of Jesus Christ.
Shortly after the classes had begun, tiny tots and young men and women tramped from the backwoods every Sunday morning to sit on the open porch with the three invalid children listening to the wondrous stories this woman of faith told them.
The classes, starting with only five or six children, grew larger and larger and many Sunday mornings, mothers and fathers of the children would come along.
The day this vibrant, wholesome 42 year old mother told her husband they must have a church in the community, he scoffed in ridicule. How on earth, he told her, could people as poor as they and others living in the flatlands around them build a church? Churches cost money to erect.
Undaunted by the disparagement of her husband, collections were started every Sunday morning on the front porch of the small home toward a church building fund. The first Sunday morning, 25 children and adults contributed $1.16. Not an impressive beginning for a church.
In a ghost town near Kissimmee, an old church was found that could be purchased for $35.00. The Church was torn down piece by piece and hauled by cars to the building site. Mr. Siemer re-erected the church on the new foundation at night while Mrs. Siemer held a gas light for him.
Faith and dedication
Through the faith and dedication of this woman the church was born and dedicated on July 7, 1940 at a cost of $137.00 and, until 1950, the church was non-denominational. Homer Taylor was one of the preachers and the first to instruct the members in the Baptist Faith.
On February 9, 1950, Holden Heights Baptist Church of Orlando sponsored Woodhaven Baptist Mission - now Woodhaven Baptist Church.
J.B. Barrow served as the first superintendent of the Sunday school. Mrs. E.H. Siemer as the Secretary and Treasurer of Missions and Homer Taylor preached the first two sermons on February 12, 1950.
Today, the work continues, but the message is still the same - “Put your trust in Jesus and have faith and everything will be all right.”
What an amazing testimony to God's faithfullness and love!