‘Miracles’ in the pandemic
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‘It’s amazing. I went from a horror movie to a Hallmark ending, in 14 hours.”
Keith Johanson was recalling the “miracle” he witnessed Jan. 29 on a highway in Wilson County, when a child, to all appearances dead, was restored to life.
Keith and his wife of 50 years, Becky, were headed from their La Vernia home to Pleasanton to take part in a church singing with three congregations at the Pleasanton Church of Christ. Sunglasses on, visors down, Keith was paying close attention to the road as they traveled toward the setting sun on S.H. 97, a few miles west of Floresville.
The couple were engaged in conversation when suddenly, “There was a sound so loud, I said to Becky, ‘What in the world was that?’” Keith said.
She thought a tire had blown out and immediately looked around, but saw nothing. Keith could discern nothing wrong with the vehicle.
“It didn’t feel like we’d run over something,” he said.
Mystified, the owner of La Vernia Pump & Supply turned the vehicle around.
There were no other vehicles on the road as they backtracked about half a mile.
There, lying a few inches from the center stripe on the highway, was a little boy.
“I pulled over,” Keith said, certain that he was looking at a dead child.
“He must’ve crossed the highway and been coming back, and ran right into the left front fender of my vehicle,” Keith speculated.
There was no one in sight.
Keith got down and checked the little boy.
“I just screamed at the top of my voice, ‘God, help this little boy! God, save this child!’”
He wasn’t breathing, and his eyes were glazed over.
“I just screamed at the top of my voice, ‘God, help this little boy! God, save this child!’” Keith recalls screaming, over and over. He screamed himself hoarse, pleading for the life of the little boy, as he carried the apparently lifeless body to the side of the road, and laid him in the grass.
The occupants of two passing vehicles, seeing Keith carrying the child, stopped. They, too, were convinced the boy was dead.
Alerted by Keith’s screams, two children appeared. They, too, began screaming and crying.
They turned out to be the older brother and sister of the little boy, Norman Butler.
Keith kept praying, shouting his pleas to heaven.
Soon, the toddler’s father, Austin Butler, appeared. He fell to his knees beside his tiny son, and began patting the boy on the back and calling his name.
Someone called 911.
“Everyone was convinced he’d gone on to be with God,” Keith said.
“How am I going to live with myself, knowing that I had a part in the death of this child?” he wondered, praying the whole time.
He heard a siren, signaling the pending arrival of an ambulance.
Then, Keith heard “the most beautiful sound I ever heard.”
The little boy had started crying.
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“Becky said she’d seen him twitch as his dad called his name,” Keith said.
The ambulance crew assessed the child and transported him to University Hospital in San Antonio.
The whole time, Keith — a father of two and grandfather of four — prayed without ceasing.
“I couldn’t believe in my heart that he’d make it through the night,” said the La Vernia Church of Christ elder.
“I couldn’t believe in my heart that he’d make it through the night.”
Texas Department of Public Safety and Wilson County Sheriff’s Office personnel had Keith walk through the event, retracing his steps to the center stripe of the highway.
“It was obvious [Norman] had to be on the south side of the road, moving north, and he had to be moving,” Keith said, recalling the sound of the impact.
He prayed through the night, unable to sleep. The next morning, he headed straight to the hospital. Recalling the sound of the impact, Keith wasn’t sure what he’d encounter.
He found little Norman sound asleep in the bed. Keith identified himself to the boy’s mother, Cori.
“We both just started crying, and we hugged,” he said.
Once she was able to compose herself, Cori gave Keith more good news.
“He’s going to be all right,” she said.
All the toddler’s organs were functioning normally; he had no back or head trauma. He did, however, suffer a broken femur and needed stitches for a gash on his forehead.
“Monday night, I slept like a baby,” Keith recalled. All his anxiety and feelings of guilt were replaced by thankfulness and joy.
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Growing up as the son of a minister and being a lifelong man of faith himself, Keith is convinced of one thing: He witnessed a miracle.
He’s seen people’s lives turned around through faith and prayer, even seen some things on television that seem “like acts of God,” he said.
“But I’ve never personally seen anything of this magnitude.”
The Butler family attended services Feb. 5 with the Johansons at the La Vernia Church of Christ and received hugs and prayers from everyone at a fellowship meal afterward.
“I’m overwhelmed with just joy and thankfulness,” Keith said. “I don’t know when I’ll come off this high.”
“We bumped into each other accidentally, but that bump turned into a connection that will last through my lifetime, for sure,” he said. He has stayed in constant contact with the Butler family, and will continue to do so; he hopes to celebrate Norman’s second birthday next month.
This past Sunday, Keith was teaching a class at church. They’ve been studying 1 John. The class was his personal witness to two verses, Keith said.
“What will stay with me forever is this: God hears our prayers.”
“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us — whatever we ask — we know that we have what we asked of him” (1 John 5:14-15).
“What will stay with me forever is this,” said Keith, still hoarse from his pleading on the roadside. “God hears our prayers.”
Reprinted here with permission; this article originally appeared in the Feb. 9, 2023, issue of La Vernia News in La Vernia, Texas.
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