Only nine days have passed since Becky and Frank Ball of Fort Frances returned home from their trip to Bosnia and already they are thinking about going back.
The retired couple spent eight days in Medugorje, a relatively small Roman Catholic/Muslim community in the former Yugoslavia, known in faith circles for its religious visionaries and sacred sites.
In 1981, four girls and two boys aged six to 17 who lived in Medugorje began receiving visions from the Virgin Mary. The visions have been daily events in their lives ever since, and are said to include some of the 10 holy secrets about what will happen to the world.
Television documentaries have been done on Medugorje with countless reports of physical, mental, and spiritual healings there.
“People go there to gain a little deeper sense of their own faith [and] I would have to say it was the most incredible experience of my life,” Frank Ball said yesterday from his home.
“Yes, it did change my faith from an intellectual level to a heart-felt level,” he added.
“We would sure go back . . . the peace that reigns over there is phenomenal,” he continued. “Almost to the point where there is a supernatural presence there--something just awesome.”
“We believed everything about Medugorje before we left and we didn’t have to go there to have our faith restored,” echoed his wife, Becky. “We were lucky enough to go to the Holy Land [once] but I’d take Medugorje over [it] any day.”
The Balls, who are Roman Catholics, took the Minneapolis-based tour to Bosnia with a group of 28 other tourists. They said the NATO bombing attacks in Kosovo (some 250 miles away) never deterred them personally from going.
“Many [people] cancelled because of fear of the war but there was no need,” said Ball. “You could hear the [U.S.] planes going over once in a while but we were not remotely connected to Kosovo at all.”
While there, the Balls stayed at the home of one of the visionaries, Vicka Ivankovic, now in her mid-30s. They attended church at least twice a day where, despite seating for 1,600, the faithful spilled over into the aisles, doorways, and outside each time a service was held.
“The church was huge [but] it was very difficult to get into,” noted Ball.
The couple also joined in pilgrimages up mountainsides to visit the 14 stations of the Cross on Cross Mountain and Apparition Hill, where visionaries believe the Virgin Mary will someday reveal one of the 10 secrets.
“It is said that you will be able to see it and take pictures of it but not touch it or feel it,” said Ball.
The couple also said they were among countless others that week to witness two miracles, including a mysteriously lit cross on Cross Mountain.
“There is no electricity up there and yet [the cross] periodically lights up,” noted Ball, recounting how he and his wife saw it happen at 1:30 a.m. on their way to catch the bus back to where they were staying.
“The funny thing was that it stayed lit until we got to the bus and then it just sort of faded,” he recalled. “That was an awesome feeling to see that happen.”
The other phenomenon, known as the “Miracle of the Sun,” involved brilliant--sometimes pulsating and spinning--visions of light and colour while staring at the sun.
Ball said he would have questioned himself on whether he had seen the miracles if there had not been so many other people there who witnessed them at the same time.
Meanwhile, the tour group also visited a Bosnian refugee camp where they delivered humanitarian goods brought from home for the refugees.
“These people live in rail cars. It was a pretty heart-wrenching sight to see,” Ball stressed. “These people live a very meagre existence.”
The couple befriended one elderly man named Rofo and his daughter, Jelena, to whom they intend to continue sending periodic humanitarian aid.