Testimonies & Conversion Stories

"Testimony of Medjugorje International Relief "

Lets get a van, fill it with food, and take it to Bosnia

On a cold February evening in Manchester in 1993 this simple (some might say naive or downright stupid) idea was born. Perhaps even more unlikely was that it was going to work out and develop over the coming months & years beyond our wildest dreams.

God chooses the weak, the least qualified, the inexperienced and the barmy (crazy) to show His power and glory, and that is precisely what He did with us and still does.

No-one in the team had any experience of aid work, fundraising, or the myriad of difficulties we would be presented with, many were not even practicing Catholics at that stage. We just took that first step or decision and God took over”.

First we needed a place to store the foodstuffs that would be collected from donors and churches in the area. At a local church, (where we are still based 12 years on) there was a pre-fab, formerly an old school building which would make a good warehouse. The PP immediately gave his permission for us to use it.

Next we needed to start collecting food. A handwritten poster was made and photocopies distributed to churches in the neighboring parishes along with big conspicuous cardboard boxes. More volunteers arrived and word started to spread further a field.

Food was flooding in, so fast we couldn't pack it quick enough; the carrier bags full, soon turned into car boots full and even Van loads started to arrive from churches of all denominations from all over the city and beyond even Cheshire and Derbyshire.

Funds started to come in too, the local council even allowed us to have street collections, city-wide for 3 weekends on the run. (quite unheard of).

Success brings new problems ! How could we get all this food over to Bosnia, we would need a fleet of vans ! Which despite the fundraising was still well out of our grasp.

As we pondered this, a new volunteer arrived, with an incredible story, and the answer to my prayers (even though I did not pray then).

He was a landscape gardener at Manchester Airport and on his travels had seen a number of redundant (but in good working order) vehicles rusting on the apron.

He went to see the Managing Director of the airport and asked if we could have them to take to Bosnia, He said yes and a few phone calls later, they were signed over to us (filled with petrol !) and we drove them back (quick, before they change their minds).

There wasn't one mechanic between us and so we would have to beg for help once again. Again, all doors were opened to us, Quicks carried out urgent repairs to one van and all the rest were given a thorough inspection and service by the Territorial Army transport corps whose base was round the corner from our warehouse.

We were all set, and this was only the first trip to Medjugorje. Others followed as did many tons of food, toiletries, blankets, medical equipment, ambulances and vans.

Another little surprise awaited many of the drivers once they arrived in Medjugorje, a change of heart , a new found faith or renewal of a luke-warm one. The writer needed several trips to penetrate his stubborn heart, but Our Lady never quits !

Over the next 12 years the appeal has continued but with a wider remit, sending millions of pounds in aid to 25 countries throughout the world.

Still a bunch of amateurs, still in a shed in Old Trafford, still relying on providence for all we need, our catch phrase might be “God softens the hearts and we pack the boxes and sign the cheques just directing traffic !

One man’s good deed is another mans miracle on the first trip to Bosnia, we visited a refugee camp the day after the refugees arrived with nothing, (very timely!). One old man approached us, as we unloaded boxes of food, he had been forced to leave his home by soldiers and only given a few minutes to gather his possessions and had lost his spectacles, did we have any ? As an after-thought, just before we left England, we put a small box of specs in, to fill a space. He rooted through the box trying different pairs on and found some that were just right ! He was filled with joy, such an easy thing for the donor to give, but the gift of sight to this poor man.

God Has Saved us for the last 2 years, much of the fundraising has been directed to the slave redemption programme in the Sudan with partners Christian Solidarity International On one recent mission, one boy and his grandmother were set-free from slavery and the Boy said I want to become a Christian and be called William, because God Has Saved Us!

Hold the Front Page - a letter from Kenya we received following a donation sent to enable them to keep a pro-life newspaper running, read as soon as we received your letter, we immediately ran to the church to thank God for His provision.

There are many other examples, the point being that this work is in the hands of God and the recipients receive it as such. Every 6 months we have an empty warehouse and an empty bank account, and God fills them both up as we embark on thenext project He has in store for us.

Evangelisation ? - a funny example was applying for a minibus permit from a government office. We had to submit a constitution for the charity,, and naturally enough included information about Medjugorje. The phone rang and the clerk who was processing our application, a lapsed Catholic, and her boss, another lapsed Catholic, wanted to know all about Medjugorje ! You get the picture !

Icon of Our Lady Queen of Peace

Two of our volunteers, a husband and wife team, commissioned an Icon of Our Lady Queen of Peace, based on the descriptions of Our Lady given by the visionaries in Medjugorje, in May 2002.

It was written by a Russian Orthodox Iconographer in Walsingham and interestingly completed in October as the Pope gave us the new luminous mysteries of the Rosary and declared a year of the Rosary.

Subsequently the Icon ,after debuting at Medjugorje International Relief’s 10th anniversary day of prayer at the Schoenstatt shrine in Manchester, has been traveling across the city to many of the churches that have helped over the years, sometimes just for a day of prayer or for extended periods.

There have been some interesting stories associated with its presence.

At one church the PP decided to have devotions on a Wednesday night during its stay, Rosary, a talk about Our Lady and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.

This continued for some months and then all-day adoration started on the Wednesday preceding the Rosary in the evening.

Now, some months later, the parish has an adoration chapel which is open all day and every day ! As the familiar saying goes, to Jesus through Mary.

Interestingly, our income also rose by about 300% during that time.

A picture of the Icon can be seen on our web-site at: http://www.manchestermedjugorje.cjb.net

Note from Medjugorje USA: Article courtesy of "Medjugorje International Relief"

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