A flashlight and muffled voices awakened me from a deep slumber. As I grabbed my glasses and peered in the direction of the light, I saw Aluisio and Julie staring at the hall floor separating the bedrooms. Upon closer examination, I saw it, too, increasingly with horror—thousand upon thousands of army ants, marching through our home. They had entered through the front and were scattered everywhere in the kitchen and in the children’s bedroom, had a freeway running into Julie’s room and were on her bed. Several freeways were running through Josh and Joy’s room, and were starting to get on their beds. We quickly scooped up Josh and Joy and brought them to our room, where the ants had not advanced yet. Upon looking outside, Aluisio saw the entire veranda covered in ants, geckos, insects and spiders of all kinds were frantically trying to escape, and leaping onto the walls of the house. Some were surviving, some were not. There was not peaceful trilling of crickets this night—all was in chaos outside.
Now from what we had learned previously about army ants, it is a good thing when they enter your home, because they are scavengers and clear out all the dead insects and other undesirables, as well as any living ones in there path. They can reach places where no one else can and do a thorough job. This does sound like a remarkable thing, except when you are in the house as we quickly surmised.
Close to panic, we had to make a decision: fight or flight? The truck was at the front of the house and we did not know if we could make it into the truck or if they were also in the truck. Furthermore we had nowhere to go. A quick call to a relative received a reluctant response to hosting our family of five, two large dogs and six newborn puppies in the middle of the night. Since we had nowhere else to go, we decided to fight. Quickly, Aluisio marched through the ants outside to the poison sprayer, which he strapped onto his back and began his merciless counterattack. We strategized to isolate our bedroom with poison all around to provide a safe base for the family. Then we proceeded to each of the rooms in the house, while the children consoled the puppies I rescued from outside and had deposited them into a laundry basket and also kept watch for scouts seeking to enter the room, armed with brooms.
Next, we proceeded outside, still in our pajamas and flip flops, doing the ant march to keep the biting ants off of us—Aluisio in front and I right behind, aiming the flashlight. Ants were everywhere, as well as dead geckos and insects that were being carried off. The ground all around the patio was covered in streams of ants. After spraying the veranda, (and stopping to kill a poisonous snake coiled up on the veranda), we sprayed the ground around the veranda, and tried to divert the ants around the house, which worked. Meanwhile, the children gave frequent reports about the progress in the bedroom, and kept ants off the bed (and off still sleeping Joy) and swept them out of the house.
Following two hours of battle, we were exhausted and bunked down together in our room. After checking outside a couple more times, I finally was assured that they were truly gone, returned the puppies to the pen and got a few hours of sleep. In the morning we had a huge cleanup job to do, as the floors had been sprayed with poison and the veranda was littered with carcasses. As we cleaned up, we thanked the Lord for His mercy. In every trial, we try to find the blessings, and in this one there were several: we had enough poison on hand to counterattack; we had power (something we never take for granted anymore due to frequent power outages) and the flashlights were sufficiently charged, so we had enough light to see and did not have to battle in the light of a cell phone or candle; the children really chipped in and helped, and the whole family worked as a team; Julie had woken up and sounded the alarm before it got too out of control; It was not on Sabbath, when emergencies usually happen for us. I was also especially thankful that Aluisio was home and I did not have to handle it without him (as I had to do with the termites a while back). Furthermore, we had just wrapped up a camp meeting several days before from the School of the Prophets prophecy class. If the ants had invaded then, it would have been disastrous for those sleeping in tents.
We heard that when the ants come they do not come back for a long time, but to our dismay that was not our case. A couple of weeks later, on Sabbath night, they came again, but this time Aluisio was out of town and Josh had sounded the alarm. The children again rallied to help and cheered me on, as I reluctantly but dutifully took charge and did the ant march in my pajamas and flip flops with the poison strapped to my back--wand in one hand and flashlight in the other. They had approached from the back of the house this time, and we caught it earlier, so it was not quite as bad as the first time. But the battle continued for a couple of hours, and I grew weary as the straps dug into my skin and I longed to crawl into bed. As I prayed for strength and that the Lord would give us victory, the Lord encouraged me with words I had read earlier about trials. Trials serve to strengthen our character and prepare us for the last days when there will be a great time of trouble. In one of Sister White’s visions, she saw a group of believers ascending the narrow way. As the route became more and more difficult, she noticed that all who had not experienced trials and difficulties in their lives had given up and were no longer a part of the procession. The trials previously by the believers prepared them for the arduous journey, and surely this ant experience was preparing us, too. When tempted to complain about trials we face, I can thank the Lord for placing trials in our path to strengthen us and to give us endurance. The apostle Paul’s words ring in my ears: “We glory in tribulation also, knowing that tribulation worketh patience. (Romans 5:3)
Within just a few days the ants attacked twice more, and I thankfully had my fearless warrior by my side, but the last time we had no ammunition. The poison was gone, and we pondered what to do. We had caught it even earlier, as I had awoken during the night and ventured outside to patrol and see if the coast was clear. Aluisio remembered that his friend the Indian Chief had told him that the ants do not like water, so he quickly stepped out to get the hose and began spraying water while I rather doubtfully filled buckets at the kitchen sink and dumped them on the veranda outside. Sure enough it did work and the ants rerouted.
The Lord tells us through Solomon to consider the ant and her wisdom (Proverbs 30:24-25; 6:6). Watching the perfect organization, cooperation and tenacity of the army ants as they went forth to complete their mission fills me with admiration and leads me to consider how effective the Lord’s people could be in these last days if we would consider the ant and copy her ways. What tremendous results we could enjoy if we concentrated our efforts on waking up the sleeping souls in darkness and worked together around the world to hasten our dear Lord’s soon coming and rid the world of loathsome sin.
As we focus on our corner of the world here in the Amazon, leading Bible studies for non-believers and School of the Prophets Prophecy classes and deepen their understanding of present truth, teaching Adventist youth how to adopt a vegetarian diet, aiding in the spiritual and academic growth of the preschoolers and their families in our private school, and raising up our own children to work for Him, we are inspired and encouraged in the reading of the accounts of other missionaries throughout the world in the Mission project international magazine and the tremendous work that is happening in these faraway places. We are not lone ants, but a part of a great force which is growing and gaining strength. Let us consider the ant,…., and go forth to hasten the Lord’s return.
Sandy De Senna