Rev. Karl J. Wiersum
Sept. 11, 1951 – Sept. 9, 2007
Rev. Karl J. Wiersum, pastor, chaplain, scholar, outdoorsman, runner, and cyclist, passed away Sept. 9, 2007, from injuries suffered some years ago.
Wiersum was born in Grand Rapids, Mich., in 1951, where he attended grade school and high school.
After attending Grand Rapids Junior College and Trinity Christian College, Palos Heights, Ill., he enrolled at Calvin College, from which he graduated in 1973. He then attended Calvin Theological Seminary, Grand Rapids, graduating in 1976.
Wiersum did graduate work at Northern Baptist Seminary, Fuller Theological Seminary, and Air Force schools. He married Lois Moll in 1972.
The pair entered the ministry in 1976 by accepting a call from Holland (Iowa) Christian Reformed Church. Service in two more congregations followed: First CRC, Des Plaines, Ill. (1980); and Enumclaw (Wash.) CRC (1983). In 1986 Wiersum entered the U.S. Air Force as a chaplain.
Concerning that part of his career, Rev. Herman Keizer, director of Chaplaincy Ministries for the CRC, wrote the following:
“In 1986 Karl became a chaplain in the U.S. Air Force Chaplain Services. For the next 17 years, Karl served his church and country with distinction, reaching the rank of Lt. Colonel. In August 2002, Karl sustained an injury to his back that was life changing: [he] became a paraplegic. After several attempts by the Air Force Chief of Chaplain Services to get an exception to policy, Karl was medically discharged in 2003 from the Air Force.
“Karl’s faith was tested in the crucible of disabling injury and the loss of a ministry he loved. He became a ‘wounded healer’ as chaplain for the Christian Living Communities in Denver. He retired from that position in 2006. He experienced the blessing of a call to become a chaplain in the Veterans Administration and was to begin his work with veterans with spinal injuries the week he died.
“Wiersum is remembered as a man of deep faith and commitment. Some of his struggles with his faith and his injury have been captured by Philip Yancey in his book on prayer. [Karl] served with distinction as an Air Force chaplain and was awarded the Bronze Star for service in Kosovo. In spite of his injuries and with the help of his loving wife, Karl continued to live a full life as he witnessed to God’s grace and reached out to others. Karl participated with great joy and vigor in the National Veterans Wheelchair Games and explored new hobbies.”
Wiersum’s memorial service at Third CRC, Denver, was led by Rev. Joy Engelsman and Rev. Tom Draayer. Words of remembrance and celebration were spoken by Chaplain Dean Dyke, author Philip Yancey, and by Brigadier General Cecil Richardson.
Wiersum is survived by his wife, Lois; by their children, Megan and Vincent Angelino, Nathan Wiersum, and Melita and Nathan Carnahan; and by his mother, Gracia Wiersum.