Bridge To Heaven (revised and updated), by Michael H. Brown
(with Drew Mariani), the book of interviews with famed seer and stigmatist Maria
Esperanza -- the extraordinary visionary associated with the
Church-approved site of Betania and widely regarded as perhaps the greatest
Catholic mystic since St. Padre Pio -- her life, her prophecies, her views on
world affairs, her healings, and her spiritual advice.
GRIPPING NEW BOOK DETAILS ALLEGED APPARITIONS AND PROPHECIES OF PAGAN BOY IN DEEP AFRICA
This is a book for our time; still to be discerned; no doubt about that; but exploding with words that are in equal measure powerful and dramatic.
It's The Boy Who Met Jesus, the story of Emmanuel Segatashya -- a 15-year-old pagan shepherd born illiterate and penniless in the deep recesses of Rwanda not far from the Church-approved apparition site of Kibeho, a teenager who -- like so many shepherds before him -- became a visionary with stark -- and in this case outright apocalyptic -- warnings.
For our discernment.
His apparitions -- especially, allegedly, of the Lord -- would come to join with those of Kibeho, where starting in 1981 the Blessed Mother was warning other teens, all girls, that Rwanda and the rest of the world was in for tumultuous events. Let's make something clear at the onset: only three of the original seven seers at Kibeho gained official recognition. Emmanuel was not one of them. Neither, however, were his experiences condemned. His apparitions began about an hour's walk away -- bringing to mind secondary apparitions at places like Lourdes, where dozens claimed apparitions after the initial reports of Bernadette (and where these ancillary ones were eventually rejected or even forbidden).
But priests, theologians, and bishops alike found this young Rwandan man -- in his sudden and deep understanding of the Catholic faith -- to be humble, sincere, and inexplicable. We try still to fathom what he -- and his messages -- were all about.
They began on July 2, 1982, when Emmanuel was checking on his father's bean fields, hoping the crop had not succumbed to the dry weather as in previous years. It was eight months after the initial apparitions at Kibeho, where the Blessed Mother -- coming as "Our Lady of the World" -- first appeared to a female Catholic boarding student in this part of the world that harbors the poorest of the poor: youngsters so unfamiliar with material possessions that they wear the same hand-me-down t-shirt for up to a year and look on our technology -- for example, automatic cameras -- as sort of magic.
On that warm sunny morning, after tending to the goats, Segatashya had set out for the fields. Kneeling down and inspecting the beans, he noticed to his befuddlement that not only weren't they withered, but they looked more beautiful and somehow different than any beans he'd seen before.
After showing the beans to a neighbor -- who noticed nothing unique about them -- the young man walked down to the river for a drink and was resting under a tree on the way back when (in his sister's recounting) he experienced "the most beautiful voice he'd ever heard." He heard it a second time. "You there, my child!" it said. Segatashya described the voice as like music playing in his heart. "You there, child, if you are given a message to deliver to the world, will you deliver it?"
And here we get into the challenge of discernment. For Segatashya said he was told mankind was quickly approaching monumental events, and in fact the end of the world, according to this book by well-known Rwandan genocide survivor Immaculee Ilibagiza (with Steve Erwin).
It may be for that reason -- that it was such an apocalyptical prophecy, along with the fact that this supposedly was Jesus (not the Virgin Mary) -- that a bishop's commission did not sanction Emmanuel (as it also did not sanction a seer from Kibeho, Agnes Kamagaju, who likewise claimed to see "Jesus" and had prophecies pertaining to the end of the world -- something one must always be particularly skeptical about). The Lord, said Segatashya -- who was later killed in the incredible Rwandan genocide -- told him to go to a house and say that "Jesus Christ sent me here today to tell you, and all men, to renew your hearts. The day is soon coming when things really get hard for humanity. So now you cannot tell Me that I haven't warned you."
And this pagan boy was not only ridiculed for his claims but repeatedly beaten, including by his father; hundreds were soon swarming around his hut. Inexplicably, when going to his neighbor's land, he suddenly found himself naked -- as Jesus was also stripped and humiliated during His various tortures.
A woman wrapped a blanket around Emmanuel and it was at this point, he later told his sister, Christine, that "I looked upward, and suddenly the blue sky above my head parted in the middle like a piece of fabric being torn in two. A dazzling light was so blinding that everything else around me disappeared in a flash -- the people, the farm, the hills and trees, everything vanished."
The sky then filled with what seemed like a "million" flowers that sparkled like stars and in the midst of a great luminosity allegedly was Jesus.
To repeat: we do not accept end-of-the-world predictions. What has been indicated at many major sites since the "Age of Mary" began in 1830 has been a time of tribulations, cleansing, and chastisements.
But we are willing to consider this totally fascinating account because of its details, attachment to Kibeho, and resonance. After his encounters with Jesus, when Emmanuel spoke, said those who interviewed him, it was like listening to a scholar or apostle. He was described as having a "miraculous" quality to his voice, and wisdom vastly beyond his education and years.
Moreover, at the time of the first Voice, Segatashya was not even all that familiar with Who exactly "Jesus Christ" was -- and had never heard of the Bible.
The Lord, claimed the boy, was in His thirties and had a dark-skinned complexion but not nearly as dark as a Rwandan's. He was dressed in a traditional African tunic and the material, recounted his sister, "was glowing as though it had been sewn with thread of silver and gold."
Again, this would seem fanciful but for the fact the Segatashya was repeatedly grilled by Church and other authorities and tested by medical experts who went so far as to stick pins in him and zap him with electrodes during ecstasies -- evoking no response from the lad.
At one point Jesus reputedly directed Emmanuel to head for Kibeho and join the seers there; like them, he was shown horrid images of the coming genocide -- predictions that were registered as thousands now watched the visionaries during their ecstasies. These are apparitions that garnered so much attention across Rwanda that military helicopters buzzed overhead and even Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana landed at the Catholic high school -- later spotted having a private meeting with Segatashya. An illiterate boy whose own birthday was not even recorded counseling the nation's leader about Jesus.
By all accounts, Segatashya had a way with words that recalled the Apostles.
But could it have been a deception? Are we really approaching such drastic times? Will the world be thrown into the kind of chaos Rwanda was (where a million were slaughtered twelve years after Mary predicted it at Kibeho)?
Your reckoning is as valid as ours. At Medjugorje, which began the same year, indications are of coming events that will break down and simplify the world -- not end it. Nor has there been anything said there of the Second Coming, which seers at Kibeho, including Emmanuel, also pronounced.
We won't spoil the rest of the book. Though it's hardcover, we think enough of it -- as a topic for discernment -- to offer it at a paperback price. There are passages about the nature and origin of Satan. There are explanations of Creation. But to quote Christine, who was in turn quoting her brother (about Jesus):
"He is a much better being than any human I have ever known. His power is wonderful and terrifying, but so is the power of His love. He loves every person in the world with a force greater than the heat of the sun or strength of a thousand waterfalls. He created this world and everything that is in it, including all people everywhere. He told me that the world will end in fire and that He will come back to the world and carry everyone who lives with a pure heart and who loves Him up to paradise to be with Him forever. But our hearts must be pure when He returns; we must live like He lived when He was on earth long ago. He is the most honorable Man and purest spirit in the universe."
Loving God and other people is what He will look for. He disdains materialism.
The sun will become very hot, Segatashya said he was told, and there will be drought and wars and famine. The devil will appear as a false leader who alleviates this distress in certain places. We will know the "end" is near when religious wars erupt. There will be earthquakes in all the corner of the globe and relentless winds will carry away soil. The tribulations will be carried forth by seven archangels. The major fire will come up from the earth.
"Tell all those who will listen to prepare their hearts for the Day of Judgment, for the last days of earth draw near," Emmanuel claimed to be have told by the apparition. "Satan is the author of all lies and is not to be trusted; he has been trying to separate mankind from God's Love since Adam and Eve. Don't be afraid, but have faith! Pray to Me and confide in Me, and I will find you wherever you are -- if you are on a mountaintop, I will seek you out; if you are under a bridge, I will find you. Call to Me for strength and courage when the dark days come, and I will give you strength."
There will be an explosion of dreams about Jesus, said the alleged and unapproved revelation -- something that also had been implied by the Venezuelan mystic, Maria Esperanza (who also said there would be great quakes because the earth's core is out of balance but who emphasized that we were not facing the world's end, as did the "1990 prophecy").
The "end," or a denouement? According to Segatashya, on the "last day," a rainbow of colors will traverse the sky and a white cloud will form. "At that moment, you will see Me emerge from the cloud carrying My Cross," he quoted the Lord as intoning.
This is heavy mystical traffic! Perhaps a bit peculiar is author Ilibagiza's claim of her own mystical experience during which Emmanuel -- who died in 1994 -- came to her in a dream and told her to spread the message even though it was not yet officially accepted by the Church -- that the message could not wait for such approbation. What are we to make of that? Was it actually Emmanuel, speaking to her in a dream? Would it be disobedient?
"When I heard that Segatashya had been shot by a death squad, I cried for him, and I cried for the world's loss of such a great messenger of God," she says in this expertly written book. "He was a voice of truth in a world too often shrouded in lies and deceit. He was a light in the darkness and brought us messages from God. If we listen to them with open hearts, they can lead us out of the darkness and into the loving arms of the Lord."
[resources: The Boy Who Met Jesus and Our Lady of Kibeho; see also The Final Hour]
[Michael Brown prophecy retreat in northern California]
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