Warm and Comfortable

It was after eleven p.m. when Patti and Dan Burnett, members of the Summit County, Colorado, Search and Rescue team, received the phone call. Ryan, a sixteen-year-old boy had become separated from his father that morning while grouse-hunting. Now he was lost in a wilderness area high in the Rocky Mountains, wearing only jeans and a thin shirt. Worried, Patti looked out her window at fog and sleet. No one dressed so lightly could survive long tonight.

Rescuers drove to the area, and Patti felt a high level of urgency as she and her search dog, Hasty, began to walk. "The sleet had turned to snow, and the wind was strong," she recalls. "I couldn't help thinking that by now, Ryan's wet clothes were probably frozen."

Hasty picked up Ryan's scent and forged ahead, but even with her head lamp, Patti's visibility was poor. She heard other searchers on motorcycles and above her, a National Guard helicopter. But there was no sign of Ryan.

Struggling through the marshes, Patti thought of her own children safely asleep, the Thanksgiving turkey ready for roasting. She thought of Ryan's distraught family. God,˙please help us, she prayed. And keep Ryan warm.

The long night continued, and exhausted searchers began to lose hope. Then, shortly after dawn, Patti heard the unbelievable news. Ryan had been found alive, with no sign of frostbite! But how?

Later, surrounded by rescue workers, the teen explained. Lost in the dark and shivering uncontrollably--one of hypothermia's first stages--he had laid down under some trees, and slipped into sleep. Under normal circumstances he should have gradually frozen to death. But something wondrous happened instead.

"Ryan awakened in the middle of the night, feeling warm and comfortable," Patti explains. "Astonished, he discovered that, although his rifle was at his feet, two female elk had come out of the forest and were lying against him, one on either side, protecting him from the cold. "We searchers were dumbfounded, since such behavior is completely uncharacteristic of elk." But there was no other explanation for Ryan's healthy condition. Later, evidence of the animals' presence was found under the trees.

Patti drove home, exhilarated. She was remembering a night centuries ago, when animals kept another Child safe and warm.

Copyrighted 1998 by Joan Wester Anderson. For more tories of God's love, check the website at: www.joanwanderson.com

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