Couple’s faith never wavers during son’s difficult start in life

Published 4:14 pm Wednesday, March 10, 2010

“Believe in Your Chlidren and They Will Achieve Great Things,” is the title of Sheryl Register’s second grade blog page at Calera Elementary.

I sat across from her at the reading table as she talked about her and husband, Mancel’s, third grandchild, Jackman Dale Harper.

Sheryl is known for her rodeo classroom and Calera High alumni remember ag shop with “Reg.”

“You know your kids, but you really don’t know how strong they truly are until they go through something.”

On Aug. 12, 2009, their daughter, Lisa, and son-in-law, Greg Harper, interim youth minister at Concord Baptist Church, were told their newborn son had Esophageal Atresia. In layman’s terms, his esophagus did not reach his stomach. Jackman would remain hospitalized for several surgeries to stretch his esophagus.

When doctors inserted a gastric tube into Jackman, they found his intestines required surgery as well. This was hard news, but God’s grace supplied the peace that surpasses all understanding. “They never doubted the doctors,” Sheryl said. “Their faith never wavered.”

During Lisa’s pregnancy, Greg never asked God for a boy or girl, for him to be smart, athletic or talented. He asked only that God glorify himself through their child.

“Me and Lisa never did ask the question: Why?” Greg wrote on his blog one week after Jackman’s birth. They never considered Jackman’s condition a birth defect. It was when a cousin pointed to scripture they fully understood. “… that the works of God might be displayed in him.” (John 9:3)

At three months, doctors began stretching Jackman’s esophagus. He was sedated throughout the procedure to prevent the stitches from tearing. For 36 days, Greg and Lisa watched Jackman sleep motionless in the NICU. Then, doctors successfully connected his esophagus and stomach. After seven weeks of recuperation, five months and three weeks after his birth, the family went home.

Jackman’s captivating grin vied for my attention as I sat at their kitchen table. Greg and Lisa now experience the normalcy of new parents: Sleepless nights, exhaustion from fit-pitchin’ and joy in their son’s feats. Though Jackman still has a gastric tube while learning to swallow, they are pleased with his progress.

Lisa talked about returning to work.

“It’s not how I pictured it would be.” Her eyes watered as she looked at Jackman and smiled. “But it’s God’s plan, and that’s OK.”

Father, help Jackman experience the wonderful sensation of warm formula as it travels his esophagus to his tummy and one day the satisfying quench of a Sonic lemon-berry slush on a hot summer day.

Mollie Brown is the new community columnist for Calera. She can be reached at