Jacob Carries on by Faith

by Luanne Byrd

You don't need ears to hear God," said Kristina Seymour, of Snellville, Ga., about the miracles she and her husband had experienced through their son Jacob.

At the age of 1, Jacob's deafness was confirmed through an Auditory Brain Stem test. Jacob was categorized as profoundly deaf, a condition that hearing aids couldn't correct.

Helpless, Brian Seymour, Jacob's father and a local public school teacher, happened upon a student in his seventh-grade math class whose sibling had just received a cochlear implant—a surgical procedure to stimulate hearing via an electrode device implanted in the inner ear.

After multiple trips to doctors and additional testing, Jacob was approved for his cochlear implant at the age of 18 months—precisely the minimum age to qualify for the surgery.

In the months between the diagnosis and the surgery, Kristina sought out God through prayer. "God, please give me lessons that I can teach Jacob. Teach me to teach him," she fervently prayed. She worked with him at home on foundational concepts such as counting, sorting, and "hot" versus "cold," and also enrolled him in the Atlanta Speech School.

To Kristina's surprise, Jacob said his first word when she was using a baby wipe in changing his diaper. "Old," Jacob said. Kristina knew he meant "Cold," knowing that he had watched the formation of her mouth in saying the word.

"I wanted God to actually speak to him. My prayer was that when Jacob began to speak, his knowledge and understanding of the world would be so great that people would have to acknowledge that God had been speaking to him the entire time," Kristina said.

Disappointment mounted, however, in the weeks prior to Jacob's surgery. He had not sounded another word. But during her daily Bible study, Kristina was led to Psalm 147:19: "He declares His word to Jacob...." Spilling her coffee in astonishment, she sensed that God had provided confirmation. And she recalled how the Lord had laid on her heart to name their son Jacob. Had she not, she realized, she never would have come across that Scripture verse. It's no coincidence that the Seymours' other child, an older daughter, age 10, is named Faith.

Jacob's cochlear implant surgery was a success and, after a time of healing, the device was turned on. "His face lit up when he heard his first beep, but he was scared to death when he heard the nurse's voice. He crawled up into my arms," Kristina recounted.

Immediately, Jacob re-entered the Atlanta Speech School, where the teachers were amazed at how quickly Jacob progressed. "The teachers asked me what I had taught Jacob and how I knew what to teach him, not having had professional training," Kristina said. I told them, Whatever I haven't taught him, God taught him.'"

Jacob graduated from speech school at the age of 4, right in time to be mainstreamed into a 5-year-old public kindergarten class. There he continued to excel, reaching third-grade math skill level while still in kindergarten.

"Jacob is a testimony of God's faithfulness. Now he hears the world, but he knows the voice of God," Kristina said.

Over time, Jacob became inquisitive about God, asking his mother numerous questions, with Kristina praying that God would give her wisdom and insight to answer them.

"For Jesus to be Lord of our lives, first we ask Him into our hearts," Kristina explained. "I want to do that," Jacob said. He went on to repeat a prayer with his mother: "Dear Jesus. I know I am not perfect and I know You died on the cross so that I can be forgiven of my sins and save me, so that I can go to heaven and get a new body and be with You forever when I die. I ask You to come into my heart and save me and help me. Amen," Jacob said.

Kristina told her son, "Jacob, you know with Jesus in your life, it doesn't mean things are going to be easy."

"I know, Mom, life is hard, but now I have help," Jacob said.

Jacob continued to have problems with his balance, which is common among children with hearing impairments. And in another visit to the doctor, the Seymours were told that Jacob's hearing loss and lack of balance were caused by Usher's Syndrome.

The doctor recommended that the Seymours see a geneticist, but Kristina quickly went to the Internet for information and was shocked to learn that Usher's Syndrome often leads to blindness.

The Seymours took Jacob to Emory University Hospital in Decatur, Ga., where Usher's Syndrome was confirmed. "The whole time we were going through Jacob's hearing issues we kept telling ourselves, Thank God it's just his ears, not his eyes,'" Kristina recounted.

With Jacob's retinitis pigmentosa (degeneration of the retina) progressing as a result of the disease, the Seymours have placed Jacob into a public school in their county that offers a full Braille and speech therapy program.

"I remember the first week was so hard. He was sad about recess and not knowing anyone. I told him that Jesus was there with him and that He was his friend"—counsel that helped Jacob adjust to his new setting.

Jacob, now 6, faces many unknowns. He has lost his peripheral vision but is still able to see well enough to get around.

"We serve a God who can heal," Kristina said, "but that doesn't mean He is going to heal everything. The ball is in His court."

Feeling vulnerable in public from the emotion of their ordeal, the Seymours "took a break" from attending church for a short time. Expressing his concern, Jacob asked his mother why they had stopped going to church. Jacob conveyed his love for church and his desire to go to the "big, fun church."

"Because of Jacob, we had the strength to go back," Kristina said. They attend the Atlanta-area First Baptist Church in Snellville, where the family is surrounded with prayer.

"We don't have to worry about tomorrow. Regardless of what tomorrow brings, God is still there," Kristina said.

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