My Pilgrimage To Medjugorje.
Who could believe that one email would change my whole life? I was busy starting up a travel business in Uganda where I live and was working hard on trying to make it a success . It involved a lot of time and energy.
Then it happened. I received that email from a member of my International Internet Prayer Group (IIPG) about a pilgrimage to Medjugorje. His name is Johannes Dittrich. Johannes lives in Germany. I emailed him back to see if he would pay for me and by a miracle he agreed to pay. He did so because he trusted me even though we never met and then he sent me the money for my expenses. The Blessed Mother was really working because she has a plan along with Her Divine Son.
I had no idea how complicated and involved it would be just to go to Europe. Visas were required for Bosnia and Croatia. In Africa, these embassies are only in Egypt,Morocco, Libya and South Africa. Since the Bosnian Embassy in South Africa was closed, I decided to go to Egypt for the 2 visas which would require me to stay for 2 weeks.
Egypt being a Muslim country, they only speak Arabic which is not my language. I figured I had to begin trusting the Lord to get me to a hotel where they speak English and to get my paperwork done.
So I left on the morning of September 16, 2008 to fly to Addis Ababa and then on to Cairo. When I arrived at Addis Ababa, I was not familiar with the airport and couldn’t find the gate to Cairo. I asked the security guards who couldn’t understand me since their English was poor. Shortly after someone from my home country came over and asked if I was also going to Cairo. He studied there and was willing to go with me. I thanked God for this divine intervention in sending me someone who could also speak Arabic.
Upon arrival at the Cairo airport, there were six friends waiting for him and they were also from Uganda. They all greeted me, hugged me and offered to help me with finding the embassies in Cairo. I was so thrilled to know how much God takes care of me especially when I am on pilgrimage to His Mother’s shrine in Medjugorje.
The heat in Egypt is extreme because they have no trees and the sun reaches even to the ground. As we went to find the Bosnian Embassy, it was an adjustment for me to this kind of high temperature. But we were fortunate that we were able to see the Consular and have him look at my papers. They were in order but I needed one more letter and it was from the Bosnian police and I had to get the voucher stamped.
Back at the hotel, I contacted Johannes to let him know that 2 more documents were needed to obtain the visa. Thank God for Johannes who has friends in Medjugorje who have a travel agency. They were able to get the papers and Fed Ex them to Cairo. But one more problem arose. It was the Moslem month of fasting and they were celebrating and the offices were closed. So it took one week before I was able to obtain the necessary papers and go to the embassy
After looking at my papers at the Bosnian Embassy, the Consular said everything was in order but that it would take 4 to 5 days to get my visa to Europe. Since my original visa to Egypt was expiring soon, I was concerned that the authorities might take me to the police for an expired visa before the visa to Europe arrived. I went back to the Bosnian Embassy on the next Sunday and the Consular handed me the passport.
Then I had to head to the Croatian Embassy to get a transit visa which would also take another 4 to 5 days! More difficulties!! Since my visa for Cairo was expiring, I flew immediately back to Uganda.
I was supposed to meet Johannes with his German group in Frankfurt at noon on October 16th and I was stuck in Uganda.
When I arrived back in Uganda, the German Embassy where I could obtain the transit visa was closed. But God was helping. The next day when I went to the embassy , they gave me my visa and I arranged to fly out that very night at 10pm to Amsterdam and then to Frankfurt to meet Johannes. There were a number of delays and I wasn’t able to make it in time to Frankfurt to leave with the German group. So Johannes stayed back to wait for me.
Meeting up with Johannes at Frankfurt, he drove immediately to the Croatian Embassy as they were closing soon. We were able to get the visa in one day only. What a break! Then began a drive through a number of countries to get to our final destination. We spent a night in Bavaria and then on to Austria where there are so many old churches and big mountains that have snow all year. That was an experience for me since my country doesn’t have any snow. Then we drove non-
Then as night was coming on, we entered Bosnia and I began to read signs saying ‘Medjugorje.’ I thought that we had arrived but Johannes said there are still 60 miles we have to travel to reach our destination. I smiled as we were very close and I was very tired from so much travelling.
We arrived at about 8pm in Medjugorje. We could see St James Church. The ‘Vasilj’ house was where we were staying for seven days. The daughter, Andrjana welcomed us in her native Croatian language which I didn’t understand but I felt the warmth from her greeting. Johannes immediately introduced me as Stephen from Uganda who only speaks English. They were happy to have a visitor from Africa staying with them. Johannes did the translating in German and we were directed to our rooms upstairs which each have the name of a different saint. I was given a choice and I picked St Michael the Archangel.
Next morning, I was greeted with, “Guten morgen,” which translated means “Good Morning.” They sang hymns and I joined in even though I didn’t know the language. After breakfast, they went to the German Holy Mass. We waited for the English Holy Mass at 10 am and we prayed three rosaries afterwards.
At 1pm we found ourselves in a large hall filled to capacity waiting for Fr. Jozo. Everyone was so excited that we clapped a long time for him when he arrived. Fr Jozo said so many things to us that day that it is hard to remember them all. But I do remember him telling us about being faithful to the messages of our Lady of Medjugorje and the sacraments. As well, Fr. Jozo stressed the necessity of reconciliation, penance, fasting, reading the Holy Scriptures and praying on a regular basis – especially the holy rosary. Putting God in the first place in our lives is the main message of the gospels but this generation has lost this focus and Our Lady has come to bring us back to her Divine Son.
He told us about the 5,000 children he is taking care of from the war in the 1990’s and told us to go and do the same as he is doing in our communities and countries. How did he manage to build that massive place for the poor? Fr. Jozo said that one pilgrim from Italy came and donated $5,000,000 for him to do his work. He was advising us that if we go and do the same, Our Lady will provide the money needed if we pray and trust in Divine Providence.
This hit a cord in me and it was working on my mind quietly. Johannes noticed that I was quiet on the trip back from Siroki Brijeg to Medjugorje. I mentioned the poverty in the rural areas of Uganda and the trafficking of children, witch craft and so much other evil in my country. How would Our Lady inspire me to work in my own country with my own people? What was in the future for Our Lady and me? Did our Blessed Mother bring me to this oasis of peace for a reason?
The next day we went to see Vicka . She was seeing English speaking pilgrims from 7am. Her face was radiating peace, joy and love. She was so kind she spoke to us for two hours and allowed us to ask questions.
An Irish Franciscan priest asked Vicka, “Why did God give a lot of powers to the devil to the extent of killing even human beings?”
Her reply was, “The devil is powerful because you don’t pray. If you pray the devil cannot overpower you. Our Lady told us to pray and carry religious objects with us so that the devil doesn’t harm us.” Then Vicka said,” I am going to pray for all your intentions and for the sick people.”
Before she could do this, a lady started to scream continuously which scared everyone.
I immediately told Johannes, “That lady must be possessed with a demon.” At healing masses in Uganda we see that all the time. So I was not afraid and I knew whenever God’s children are gathered to pray, the devil tries to disrupt it. The priests and nuns inside Vicka’s house came out with their rosaries in their hands and began praying. Vicka told us to pray and not look at the screaming lady and gave a sign that the lady would be fine. After five minutes the demon was gone and there was quiet from the woman. Vicka continued to pray for 30 minutes which was unusual. Johannes who has been to Medjugorje 19 times never saw Vicka pray that long.
The following morning found us driving to Mt Krizevac after the English Holy Mass. We did it Station by Station which took one hour. At the top we met with 150 Irish pilgrims. Some were climbing barefoot and others were crying. I witnessed the Spirit of prayer at work in them. I admired the way they prayed the Stations of the Cross and I could understand them because they spoke English. Then we prayed three rosaries at the big white cross. We were told that Fr. Slavko climbed this mountain every day and I stood at the place where he died and prayed for some minutes.
At St James Church the confession rooms were always full of penitents. Pope St. John Paul II said that when people are in Medjugorje if they are going to confession and coming back to God, then it’s very good.
The subsequent day we visited the place of the first apparitions together with the Irish group. The leader of this group told us that a Korean mother of a young deaf boy donated the statue of Our Lady because her son was healed. There was a gentle mood of prayer with everyone praying and weeping at Our Lady’s statue.
After this we went to the Blue Cross and met up with the German group and prayed together.
With the remaining few days we had left, we visited the weeping Jesus statue and Fr. Slavko’s grave and then with Mirjana. After all that, we went to the Oasis of Peace for adoration.
Upon my return to Uganda my spiritual director, Fr. Bakka said that I would be giving talks to many people to tell them about Medjugorje and how to live Our Lady’s messages. Uganda has 52 languages and people want the messages translated for them to follow and grow spiritually
So what happened inside of me from this pilgrimage to Medjugorje, the confessional of the world? Well, I went back to making my travel business a success. I used to see the poor children sleeping on the streets, begging day and night but I would think, “This is not my responsibility. There are so many rich people who can do this. And, besides, there are many NGO’S who can care for them.”
I concentrated on my travel company but God had another plan for me that didn’t include my being so selfish. I signed partnerships with two companies: one in China and one in India. Unfortunately (or more accurately from God’s point of view – fortunately), I did not deal with the right people. All my money was swindled and I was confused.
I went to Fr Raymond Johnston to pray for more blessings and perhaps, sign a new partnership. For me it was always my travel company that mattered. Fr told me, “God has anointed you for His charity work and you will help the children with a school.” I didn’t know where to start from, but I surrendered all to Him.
First it was a younger boy named George whom I met in the hospital. His private parts were cut off completely by a witch doctor. He was in great pain and his parents had no money for the surgery. It was a very desperate situation. I had no money to help this bot who was crying in great pain. I had nowhere to start from, but I contacted a friend from Medjugorje who was able to collect the needed funds for the surgery to be done. Now the boy is fine and in school.
So despite working sometimes full time with my travel agency when we are busy with safaris, I discovered that Our Lady wants me to help Her children. Every time I went to the villages, I saw many orphans and needy children – over 800 of them without any education. Some tried going to school but had to drop out because of financial difficulties. Some were almost naked walking to school without shoes and with bugs eating at their feet. The poverty rate is very high. People are without any income, food, shelter, etc. I have to be the voice for these villages of orphans affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
In 2013 a group of Canadian Missionaries led by Fr. Raymond Johnston arrived in the villages and donated piped water covering over 5 kilometers. Now, over 70 families have access to clean water and no longer get dirty water from ponds. He said, “You will also get the school.” Our school is still under construction. We have so far built one classroom and a school toilet. We still need funds to add more classrooms and be able to open the school by February 8th, 2016.
In November 2014 another group of 12 people from the United States, Canada and United Kingdom arrived in the villages. They were deeply touched with the children’s smiles and the community who welcomed them with lovely songs and traditional dances. Among the 12 there were Pam Kossan and Linda Farrand who are now raising funds for us to build the St Philomena Primary School.
We are hoping for many kind and generous people to respond and sponsor a child for $25 per month and save a child. This amount covers the cost of teachers, breakfast, lunch, school uniforms, water bills, desks, scholastic materials and stationery. Our website is www.greenvillagechildrencenter.org