Gabrielle Russell, a female pilot from Malawi came to Medjugorje this September, and on that occasion, she shared with Radio “Mir” her experience of conversion and how she ended up working for Mary’s Meals.
It all began in 1981. I am a professional pilot, but due to the severe spine injury, I ended up in the hospital, thinking that my life was coming to its end as well as my career. Spiritually, I was nearly dead. Then I called nuns and told them to get me a priest as I needed to be reconciled with God and that is one most wonderful priest arrived. He confessed me and told me to get subscription for the Catholic Herald in London. I left the hospital after 5-6 weeks and got subscribed to the Catholic Herald. After I recovered physically, I got back to the world and everything that comes with it. I began to work as a pilot again and my world did not have enough faith in it at the time. In February 1984, when I returned home after one trip, my husband stood in front of the door and told me: “Here’s your Catholic Herald”. As I walked into the house, I opened the magazine and there was a short article about the apparitions of Our Lady to six children in Medjugorje. It also said that Our Lady was inviting us to fast on bread and water on Fridays and I did not like that at all. Our Lady was asking of me, not in words, but in my heart, I knew she was expecting me to do something really worthy. I thought about what I could do and I decided to write to the editor of the magazine and try to find out more about that place. I wrote anonymous letter to those journalists and asked them to deliver the letter to the person who wrote the article, as I wanted to find out more.
After couple of days I had another flight for the USA and when I returned, 12 days afterwards, I found this wonderful letter in 12 handwritten pages with two photographs of Magnus and his sister with the visionaries in Medjugorje. She explained all about Medjugorje to me and I was so excited. I wrote back to her and we continued to communicate for about six months in that way. From that time on, I was really trying to live Our Lady’s messages. When I came to Medjugorje for the first time, I felt as if I came home. I went for Adoration and while I knelt before the Blessed Sacrament, I asked myself: „God, why me, what do you plan to do with 12 million people in Malawi who would never have opportunity to come here. “
I returned home and climbed up to change and to go to my office when the phone rang. A person was asking if I was Gay Russel and I confirmed I was. He said that this phone call might sound strange, and he said: My name is Tony Smith and I am a businessman from England, but also a child of Medjugorje. It was two years ago when I felt that Gospa wanted me to make replica of Cross Mountain in England for all those people who would never be able to go to Medjugorje. Then he said he was not able to find a suitable hill for that, but it was last night he heard clear voice that told him to do that in Malawi for all those people who would never be able to come to Medjugorje. That is how the project of Medjugorje church and Cross Mountain was realised in Malawi.
It was only after Medjugorje that Gospa took me by my hand and my life was completely transformed. It was literally forever. Ever since that time, I did not abandon the Lord for a single day. She was the one who brought me back to Jesus and kept me with Him. I was useless on my own. I also wish to say that my husband had his conversion in Medjugorje.
My husband was a wonderful man. He was not raised without faith like I was, but he was the opponent of Medjugorje for some 28 years. When he retired, he said he would want to come there and he wanted to climb Cross Mountain. As we were walking to the base of the hill, I prayed the Rosary and then he asked me, “Is that it, are we done?” I told him we did not even start. I think that the climb that normally takes two hours, it took us six and a half hours. He tried to give up at the fourth station, later on at the thirteenth station he was even sick and began to vomit. But, he insisted we climb to the top and when we came there, he hugged me. I never saw my husband crying in all of the years we were married, but it was obvious he was going through the same experience I had many years before – the experience of God’s love that imbued him completely. When we finally came to the base, he was simply a different person. From that day on he was free of his anger and bitterness and he began to love Medjugorje. Someone once gave us a plaque that hung above the entrance door with the writing: This is where a wonderful woman lives with horrible, old man. Upon our return home, he forgot the keys and rang a bell and I came to open the door. Then he asked me: Is this the house where that wonderful man lives with horrible wife. I opened the doors and told him: She is a wonderful wife and she needs a huge hug. He hugged me really hard and told me: O Lord, I am having a heart attack. That is how he died in my arms. He left this world exactly a year after we came from Medjugorje and after his conversion experience. This gave me so much hope, as that was a wonderful way to die, without any suffering on his behalf, said Gabrelle Russell in her interview for Radio „Mir“ Medjugorje.
In 2003, Gabrielle brought Msgr. Tarcisio Ziyaye, Archbishop of Blantyre (Malawi, Africa) to Medjugorje.
Msgr. Tarcisio said;
“I am here for the first time. I came with a group with five priests and a religious sister and lay faithful. I am very happy to be here.
I have heard about Medjugorje in 1989, when one of us came here with my own bishop at that time. I am more involved now than before, because in the archdiocese of Blantyre, where I am now, we have built a replica of the cross that you have here on Cross Mountain.
I see that this is really a place of prayer. Indeed, we are very grateful to the visionaries who inspire us. One of them said that the idea of the coming to Medjugorje should not be to see them, but to pray and to deepen our spiritual life, to deepen our devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
I am also very grateful to the Parish. I think that they organize the programme very well. They really help people to pray, to come before God individually, to be free, to be in touch with one’s inner self. It is really good to be here!
We are taking home many, many rosaries! In Malawi, there are over 3 millions of Catholics out of about 11 millions of inhabitants. We want to share, because sharing is influencing our faith and the faith of others. I believe that if we put God first, if we fight against spiritual poverty, God will intervene for the material poverty. Sometimes we think that we can do it alone, but this is wrong. The spirit of sharing enriches everybody.
All of us – in Europe and in Africa – should preach without preaching. We should preach with our life.”