"Oh, mi milagro ... my little miracle."
"Mom, do you have to call me that?"
When our youngest son was 10, we went to El Salvador with members from 4 other church families to celebrate Christmas with our sister church community. It was a real adventure for the kids, staying in a new place with new foods and making new friends. We went Christmas caroling, ate Christmas tamales, and led a "Snow School" (sharing with the Salvadoran kids a whole bunch of fun activities to give them insight into our snowy Christmas times at home).
At 4 a.m. after a lively dance and a fireworks-filled New Years Eve, we boarded 2 old school buses, one big and one little, and headed out to the beach. New Year's Day at the beach is a Salvadoran tradition, and what better way to spend our last day in the country than celebrating at the beach with all of our friends.
We spent the day playing in the waves and the sand, eating lunch at a little restaurant, and finally watching the sun begin to sink into the sea. We knew we were going to stay somewhere near the beach, and what a surprise when the buses took us not 5 minutes away to an old abandoned farm cooperative. A few buildings surrounded a sandy field with scraggly weeds. This was not quite what we were expecting...camping out without a water source on the night before heading to the airport. We were standing around discussing the possibilities when our son started jumping up and down, trying to kick his sandals off. He had stepped into the path of marching fire ants, and they marched right into his feet, stinging along the way. We poured the water from his water bottle on ants and spritzed some OFF here and there, and soon the ants were gone.
But the effects were not gone.
"Mom, I feel hot." And then he started breathing fast and shallow, pulse racing.
What happened next has been pieced together from a few people who were there, because at this point, I went into The Mom Zone. The two of us were ushered into one of the buildings, and I sat on a desk with our son sitting between my legs, leaning on me. I put my cheek next to his. He was hot and red. I remember trying to breathe with him, for him, through him to slow him down. People handed us water and I made him take 4 Benedryl and drink in between breaths. I remember thinking maybe it was good to try to dilute the poison. We closed our eyes and just breathed.
Outside, someone had called the police to see if they could help or get us to the hospital. We were 3 hours from San Salvador.
After some time, I am not sure how long, maybe an hour because by that time it was dark, we stood up and walked outside. The crisis was over and our son was breathing normally.
Our sister pastor's wife took over. She piled all 78 people into the two buses, putting the guest families in the center and Salvadoran adults standing to block each window so that no one could see in during our drive back to the capital. Our son sat on my lap, and we tried to reassure everyone (and ourselves) that he was OK. She took us a hotel that she knew would take us in and we were checked in, each family with a room. The little bus stayed with us - our transport to the airport the next morning - and our Salvadoran friends traveled in the big bus, going home in the middle of the night, not exactly concluding the week of celebration as they had planned.
I spent the night in bed with our son, watching him sleeping and breathing peacefully.
We had pancakes for breakfast. In the daylight, we could see that the hotel was absolutely lovely. Some of our friends showed up in the morning to make sure we were all OK and to say good-bye. We have lots of photos of hugging from that morning.
After returning home, I took our son to an allergist. I told the doctor the story, just as I have told you. The allergist said to our son, "You should not have lived. It was a miracle."
I had a dream that week. In my dream God spoke to me and said that a cloud of witnesses had surrounded us... that my son and I were surrounded by a cloud of witnesses. I called my friend Greasy, who had also been on this trip with her family. "What were the Salvadorans doing while my son and I were sitting on that desk."
"They were in circle around the building, praying."
It was a miracle.
Many months passed before I could tell this story. Even now, as I write it for the first time, my hands are shaking and tears are in my eyes. And every day, I give thanks for the cloud of witnesses who called down the power of God to be present in my little milagro.