Prayer group member since the year 2000    
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Here's a picture of me and my daughter Lauren at World Youth Day in Cologne, just before our third visit to Medjugorje.

My life has never been the same..

Greetings IIPG members!  I joined you in the year 2000, when there were around 500 of us.  Now, in 2006, I see that we are more than 2700 members.  Thanks be to God, and to the great efforts of our Blessed Mother, and to you, my brothers and sisters. 

I was born and raised Catholic, but at age 11 my parents divorced and we stopped going to Mass.  By the time I left home in Southeast Alaska for college in California in 1971, I no longer believed in God.  I guess I thought it was just too good to be true.  Within a short time, the realities of growing into adulthood, after living a very sheltered and self-centered childhood, began to weigh heavily on me, and by the spring of that first year of college I was spending a great deal of time feeling depressed and sorry for myself. 

One night I was out riding my bike when I ran into a born-again Christian named Jeff who lived in my dorm.  Our conversation soon turned to my personal problems, and he offered an explanation.  “There’s a God-made hole in everyone’s heart that only Jesus can fill.”  Jeff gave me a little booklet called the Four Spiritual Laws, and later that night I sat down under a tree and looked up and said, “God, I don’t know if you are up there or not, but if you are, please let me know, and I will give my life to you.”  I was hoping for a big sign, some kind of miraculous response that would seal my fate.  But I didn’t get one.  That was very hard at the time, because I felt that if God was really there, he could easily let me know.  Today I’m grateful for the way things turned out, because it really is more blessed to believe without seeing, but at the time I wanted to see.

In the end, I decided to become a Christian anyway.  I guess I figured that I wasn’t really worthy of a sign from God yet, but that if I gave it 100%, it wouldn’t take me long to become worthy.  So I became a maniac.  I prayed, fasted, read the bible and attended every service and prayer meeting that was available.  My parents, at first encouraged that my interests now included faith in God, soon became concerned that I had gone from one extreme to another, which was in fact the case.  And so, not surprisingly, within three years I burned out and gave up.  From being the most zealous of Christians I became a  “backslider”, and before long became acquainted with a new depth of depression and self-pity.

I wandered aimlessly for a couple of years.  After working on the Alaska Pipeline and saving a lot of money, I decided to go back to the San Francisco Bay area in 1975 and try to find some answers to the spiritual questions that were still smoldering in my heart.  It was there that I met the Moonies, although it was several weeks before I learned their true identity.  The Unification Church theology was basically Christian, with a call to devote one’s whole heart, mind, soul and strength to the building of the Kingdom of God.  I jumped in with both feet, and by the time I learned that Reverend Moon was our leader, I was convinced of the authenticity of our mission, and was ready to defend him against what appeared to be the same rejection that Jesus had endured 2000 years earlier.  Once again I started with a bang, and once again within 3 years I burned out.  I remember standing at a stop light in Chicago one morning with my bucket of carnations, looking up to heaven and saying, “I’m really sorry God, but I can’t do this any more.”

I returned home and tried to live a normal life.  I found a good job, built a house, met and married a loving wife and was blessed with two children.  But there remained, deep down and not always forgotten, a hole in my heart.  In 1996, friends invited me to their wedding at St. John’s Catholic Church.  It had been almost 30 years since I had been to Mass, but when we walked into that sanctuary on that beautiful spring day, the hole in my heart was gently but firmly touched by the love of God.  My wife was touched as well, and before long we made the decision to begin attending Mass.  Thereafter I made my first confession in 30 years, and my family began the process that led to their baptism, reconciliation, communion and confirmation.

This might have been the happy ending of my conversion story if not for the memorable Sunday of June 24, 1998.  That day my wife and I renewed our vows and received the sacrament of Holy Matrimony, and while we were standing before the congregation I recognized a visitor from a nearby town.  I had grown up with his son, and so after Mass I sought him out to say hello.  After offering his congratulations, the visitor pulled two rosaries from his pocket and told me the Virgin Mary herself had blessed them.  He said he had just returned from somewhere in Yugoslavia where Our Lady was appearing every day.  He was dead serious, and I was stunned.  After saying goodbye, I went immediately to our nun and asked if she knew any thing about this place in Yugoslavia.  She had indeed, and recommended that I watch a video about the apparition.
It was the classic Boston Center for Peace video from 1984, and I was slam-dunked!  I knew the moment I watched the visionaries fall to their knees that it was true, and my life has never been the same.  I have been blessed with the opportunity visit Medjugorje three times, and like you, my heart always aches to be near St. James, Apparition Hill and Cross Mountain.  I try to thank Jesus every day for giving us his mother to be our own, and I try to always follow her messages.  Though I often fail, our Father in heaven keeps giving me the grace to keep trying, for which I will never be able to thank him enough.  Peace be with you all. 

Your brother in Christ, Ralph Mackie