Do you believe in miracles? If you don’t now, you might after reading Saline County resident Karl Seibert’s story.
In 1999, twelve years into a successful career with the United States Postal Service, Karl’s world turned upside down. On a return trip from Houston, Texas, Karl’s truck was hit head on at an impact speed of 140 mph. With his massive head injuries and lack of pulse, heartbeat and respiratory functions, the emergency responders declared him dead on arrival. One EMT, who was also a youth pastor, found Karl’s Bible with a picture of his four daughters stuck between the pages and knew he had to keep trying.
Karl grew up in Saltillo, Mexico, near a family-owned mine. His friends and neighbors were Latino, and as a child Karl spoke only Spanish. He was 13 when the mine failed causing the Seiberts to relocate to New Jersey, near his grandparents. After high school Karl earned baccalaureates in biology, chemistry and physics at Rutgers University.
Looking back, these great academic accomplishments paled in comparison to a life-changing moment at Shea Stadium. “Living in Mexico, my father had developed some prejudices against Latino people that influenced our family. But when I got saved at the age of 16 at a Billy Graham crusade, God opened my eyes to the fact that all people are equal in His eyes. I understood that God’s Word is true, and this set the course for my life.”
Although Karl had been an international resident, he moved to Saline County in 1977 with the intention of going to medical school. During that time, Karl worked odd jobs on his grandparents and uncles’ dairy farm and new housing development off Salem Road, the Helmich addition. This is when, through mutual acquaintances, Karl met his future wife, Mary Anne Pelton in December of 1978. The two were married on July 14, 1979.
Starting in 1980, Karl shared his love of science through teaching biology at Benton High School to students who were having a difficult time learning. “I loved the kids and took the responsibility of teaching kids who had been overlooked very seriously. I challenged them to do better and most of the time it changed their attitude about achieving goals. Also, I used every opportunity to tell the students about God and how He changed my life,” says Karl with a smile. During that time, Karl also worked two other jobs so Mary Anne could stay home with their growing family.
Karl left teaching and took a position with the USPS in 1987 working a split shift 6 days a week. “My customers became my second family.” One “family member” on Karl’s route is Carolyn Erwin of Promotional Products and Apparel. “Karl’s work ethic and his concern for his customers has been exceptional for us. It’s never been just a job for him; he really cares for the people on his route,” Carolyn recalls fondly.
Karl’s head-on collision was on June 22, 1999. When the EMTs arrived, his eyes were fixed and there were no signs of life, but thirty minutes into resuscitation a slight pulse was found. After seven weeks in a semi-coma condition, with Mary Anne by his side, Karl began the slow process of rehabilitation to re-learn everything. Mary Anne left the hospital only once in those seven weeks. “A loving family and close friends got us through,” remembers Mary Anne.
Initially, Karl thought his wife was his mom and his four daughters, Hannah, Emily, Melissa and Abigail, his sisters, but eventually he recognized his daughters, although all memories of their childhood were lost. For the weeks and months to follow, Karl and Mary Anne spent hours watching home videos and scouring through pictures to build the part of his life that was gone. Mary Anne admits there were hard times during his recovery. “It was sad for the girls because their dad didn’t remember their childhood. The doctors told us he could go to Timber Ridge because I was going to have the hard work once he came home, but I never thought of doing that.”
Following six months of sick leave, he was cleared to return to work to re-learn his routes and reconnect with his customers, his second family. It took five more years to gain as much information as possible about those precious lost years and regain his physical strength. “The accident has taught me to appreciate life. If the weather is bad or something bad happens, I don’t get anxious or nervous anymore. I just don’t think about unimportant things, and allow God to conquer everything we may encounter,” says Karl.
Now it’s time to begin a new chapter. Karl retired on Friday, February 28, after 32 years of service. He says he would love to have continued his career as a mail carrier because of his customers. “They have given me another family and an opportunity to share Christ every day!” Karl’s absence will have a profound effect on his customers as well. “He’s been an inspiration to us. He is a man of character and strong faith. Whenever I’m having a tough day, I think about all the obstacles he’s overcome in his life and it helps put things in perspective for me. He’s never lost his joy, always has a smile and brings a ray of sunshine with him,” shares Carolyn Erwin.
Mary Anne and Karl believe that “from this point on, with God’s direction, our lives can be anything we make it.” One thing is for sure: the Seiberts intend to spend their retirement years continuing to share the news that “God is good and merciful in all things.” “I’m so thankful I went to that Billy Graham crusade. I know that God will answer your prayers if it fits into His plan. God allowed me to survive to be a witness for Him, and I always start a conversation about the Lord with, ‘Do you believe in miracles?’”