I am Henri, I’m thirty years old, and I come from Belgium. I am thankful to be able to share that which is beautiful and successful in my life. Since I was a child, God was present in my life. True, in my family there were events and things that happened that weren’t so nice, but even in those moments God was present, he didn’t abandon us. I remember that when my father and mother argued and when bad things happened, and I’d go behind the house, where there was a path that lead to the Church; I’d enter, and go in front of the tabernacle and ask Jesus that my father and mother would stop arguing. If you’d ask me how I could do such a thing, or who taught me how to do this, I wouldn’t even know how to answer! It was something that was inside of my heart, independent of everything else.
Like many other youth of the Community, I was also an addict. I was addicted to heroin and cocaine. I came to the Community at a very young age; I was a teenager who was already desperate, already dead. I came to know the Community through a friend of my aunt, who had been to the house in Medjugorje, and there, had heard a testimony. And so, I found myself amongst those guys, and even today I don’t really understand how it all came to be. When I entered I experienced a sensation of being at home, of being in a family; seeing the guys, I felt that this was truly my place. Inside myself I denied this, every day I wanted to leave because there were too many difficult things that I had to deal with, but then I decided to accept everything that was being proposed to me, and I experienced the true friendship, the work, and the discipline that I was lacking.
Once I had known freedom, I had the opportunity to travel around, helping the other guys, I was also at the house in the United States for two years. Through all these beautiful experiences of life, I encountered God, I felt like he was with me, on my walk. But then I realized that it wasn’t enough to discover this just once to resolve all the problems of a lifetime: I found myself in a difficult situation in Florida. I realized that I still had many difficulties to overcome, but on the other hand, I wanted to stop fighting, walking, and suffering, and I wanted to convince myself that I was already ready. So I turned my back on God, I didn’t trust anyone anymore. I returned to Belgium, where I immediately found a job and even a girlfriend… but shortly after, I fell and began to use drugs again, this time falling deeper then I had before, because I needed a lot more of this evil to suffocate the truth that was inside of me. I knew very well that God existed, and my conscience screamed out to me, but I didn’t want to hear it anymore.
I ended up on the streets, I was a bum, I put a needle into my veins every two or three hours, I begged, stank, and stole, I had lost my dignity as a man. I went forward with this lifestyle for two years, and the only reason I didn’t die was for the fact that many people were praying for me, until one day, while I was on the streets, in an underground parking lot, and high, a woman that I knew tapped me on the shoulder and said to me, “Henri, I have a letter from Mother Elvira for you.” I said to myself, “But, how in the world? She’s in Italy!” The amazement I felt caused the effects of the drugs to pass immediately, I opened the letter: she told me to return to the Community, she spoke to me of Medjugorje, she knew that I was in a pitiful state, and that I couldn’t continue living like this.
I was baffled, I questioned myself, but I didn’t know how I could return to the Community, I was afraid of the “withdrawals,” I didn’t have any contacts, but God placed a lady at my side, a real “guardian angel.” With her I began to take my first steps to taking myself off the drugs, and to overcome the “withdrawals,” to put me on my knees, to cry, to repent for the errors that I had committed. Then I re-entered, but this time with the desire to change for good. I already knew that I wouldn’t be staying for a short while, because I was returning to my home. I met Mother Elvira and when she saw me, she said to me, “I was waiting for you,” and she embraced me! I should have deserved a gigantic slap, but instead, she told me, “Finally, I know that you have come back.” This “upset” me very much: I wasn’t able to forgive myself, I wasn’t able to accept myself because I had “spat” on the plate that I had eaten from. This was the biggest wound, the wound that I had caused with my own two hands: to have received a lot of good, and to have done a lot of harm to this good. But all of this was transformed into peace thanks to the Mercy of God and of my brothers!
It’s been a few years now, but I realize all the more that my life doesn’t belong to me. Even in the Community, if I stop praying, I immediately stop smiling, I don’t love anymore, I’m not able to love myself, or the others. Instead when I pray, I don’t know why but I love and I’m able to do unimaginable things, I discover gifts that I didn’t even know that I had, I’m happy. Today I thank God that I’m still alive and I thank all the people who prayed for me. I’m sorry that I hurt my parents and that I suffered for many years because I saw that there was still a gap between us. But this year a “miracle” happened, they began to frequent the meetings for the parents, and this was a great joy for me.
Today I love my parents very much, I don’t feel hate or anger towards them anymore: something has changed, as if inside myself a new horizon opened up, a space of freedom and peace that I never knew before. I love you, Mom and Dad, thank God and thank you for the gift of my life!