BACK TO BODERISTE
by David J. Sheehan
The Word Became Flesh and Dwelt Among Us. (John
How does the Word become Flesh and dwell
among us today? God gave me the answer in June
of this year.
In March, I received an invitation from St. David's
Relief Foundation to participate as a volunteer
for a water project in Bosnia. The task would
be to work with the local villagers of Boderiste
to install the main water line for a state-of-the-art
water system. As I had pressing matters on the
home front, I said "No" in my head when I received
this invitation. Our Lady, in her quiet and persuasive
way, let me know that she wanted me to go on this
trip. I have learned in the past not to argue
with Mama, so away I went, fully prepared to shovel
dirt, sand, or whatever else I might step in for
the honor of God and Our Lady. A knight could
not have a higher calling.
We landed in Sarajevo, about 30 volunteers in
all, with our Gray Friars of the Bronx as our
stalwart companions and spiritual leaders. Since
last year, Sarajevo's airport had changed from
looking like a set from a 1940 Humphrey Bogart
movie. It now has the trappings of a modern airport.
This first glance of the new Bosnia was a sign
of things to come. Our bus ride up to Boderiste
retraced the route we had taken two years ago
when I worked my first mission with St. David's
doing roofing. Along the way, we noted new industries
of lumbering, concrete, and construction springing
up. The country had new life in it, and was moving
away from the sad legacy of the war.
We arrived in the village of Boderiste late Monday
night, June 11. Our meeting place, a local café/restaurant,
was newly refurbished, and inside on the wall
hung a 3' by 5' Texas Flag with the crucifix upon
it. Christ and Texas; what an unbeatable combination!
The mayor, Slavko Blazevic, soon had us parceled
out to our hosts for the week. My joy was that
I would be staying with Josyp, a young man who
had his right leg damaged in the war by a mine.
He and I had become good friends from my last
visit. As the week progressed, his English became
better, and my Croatian, well, let's just say
it is a work-in-progress. The next day I was able
to see the children of Boderiste. My, how they
have grown in two years! Still unspoiled by the
pleasures of modern life, they take pleasure in
little things like ice cream and a quick game
of football. Thank God, there is not a Gameboy
On Tuesday morning, I go to visit the grave of
Stjepan Androsevic. St. David's has dedicated
this trip to his memory. Stjepan, a veterinarian
by trade, was a friend of mine and a great help
to the mayor in the rebuilding of the village.
He died untimely at the age of thirty-five last
year of a heart attack. Stjepan always made us
feel welcome with his warmth and sense of humor.
Now I will say the rosary of the resurrection
at his graveside. As I approach the gate of the
village cemetery, I wonder how I will find his
grave. God provides. A man riding by on a bike
sees me. I try to talk to him first but make no
headway as my Croatian is fit only for the deaf.
Then, I draw out my notepad and begin to scribble.
I only complete word "Stjepan" when he nods, stops
me, opens the cemetery gate, and walks resolutely
to Stjepan's final rest. He leaves me alone. The
grave is still new. "Stjepan Androsevic, 1965-2000"
is inscribed on a wooden cross. In time, it will
have a granite headstone. I say my rosary and
think of this kind man. His widow and two young
children live in this village. Thank God they
are surrounded by family. St. David's will take
up a collection for them later in the week. For
now, I am alone with my thoughts and rosary, but
again with God we are never alone, and Stjepan
lives, for all are alive in Him. (Luke 20: 38)
At the onset, it is apparent that the townspeople
have the work well in hand and are out in force.
For our part, we Americans fill in along the work
line wherever we can be of use. It gives us the
opportunity to work side by side with our Croat
and Muslim brothers. Here, they do not fight but
work together. I wish all of Bosnia would learn
this lesson. The project is very simple. At the
town center, there is going to be a modern filtration
plant. Water from four local wells will be drawn
to this plant, purified and then sent out the
main line to feed water to the homes of the villagers.
Our part this week is to get the main line installed
throughout the village. A trenching machine first
digs a trench about five feet deep and eighteen
inches wide. After it passes by, we go into the
trench, leveling it out as best as we can, then
we put three inches of sand as a base for the
pipe to rest on. The plastic pipe is 4 inches
in diameter and deep blue in color. We have difficulty
uncoiling the pipe, and a gang of us must pull
on it as we stretch the pipe along the main road.
Once we have it stretched out, we are able to
place it into the trench, attaching each new section
of pipe by using a cast iron collar and rubber
gasket. With the pipe placed into the trench,
we cover the top with eight inches of sand and
then fill in the rest of the trench with the original
dirt and clay. Not exactly rocket scientist work,
but a future benefactor of mankind may drink from
this water. And I think of Him, from Whom living
waters flow. (John 7:37-38)
A typical workday for us is an early morning breakfast,
Mass, work in the line, lunch, return to work
in the afternoon, and the day ends when a tractor
comes by to collect the shovels. The trencher
proceeds ahead of us, blazing the trail. Wisely,
we maintain Eucharistic Adoration during our sojourn.
Without God, we can accomplish nothing. (John
The villagers are kind and very patient with us.
I had a conversation with one of the villagers
as I told him the wonders of using spray paint
to mark the spot in the street where the water
junctions are. He smiled and nodded as I gave
him this piece of advice, and then proceeded to
inform me how they were using GPS (Global Positioning
Satellites) technology to record all the nuances
of the water system. Humbled as I was, I graciously
accepted his offer of Rakija (plum brandy) later
in the week when heavy rain canceled our work
for the day. Whatever knowledge we bring with
us and impart to the villagers, they teach us
more by their example of how to live and what
is really important in life.
At the end of the week, the main line has been
completed. Our portion of the work is over for
this year. The villagers will continue the project
after we leave. In this week, we have been the
beneficiaries for we have learned from
them the facts of life, death, and resurrection.
Saturday night, the villagers throw a party for
all of us. Food and "refreshments" flow freely.
It is a celebration not only of getting the main
line installed, but celebrating the bond of work
and friendship that have made us a part of their
village. We started the week as guests and leave
as family. Our departure Sunday morning is difficult.
My friend Josyp asks me if I will be coming back
next year. I reply that all of this is in God's
hands. I cannot think of a safer place for our
We then leave for Medjugorje. I have much to think
about. What really happened in that little village
of Boderiste? What made that village able to recover
so quickly from the war and now enjoy the fruits
of its labor?
I believe that God's goodness and mercy are like
kegs of rich wine. These people by their faith
and trust in God were given the keys to God's
storeroom. The first thing that they did after
the war was to rebuild the Church. Our Lord took
His place again in the tabernacle. He had never
left them nor abandoned them. His throne in the
tabernacle became the beating heart of the village.
The Word made Flesh became Flesh again in the
minds and hearts of the villagers. The impossible
became possible. Homes were restored, families
united, and love and life flowed back into the
village like living water. Resurrection happened
and Stjepan will be reunited again with his family
in the mansion of the Most High.
And these good people did not forget His Mother,
their Mother. At the foot of the altar in the
village church, there is an icon, Mary, Mother
of God, with her Child on her lap. Her large brown
eyes captivate me. They are quizzical and yet
hold a touch of her good-natured humor. In spite
of my 48 years of age, I am a three-year-old boy
in her presence; a little three-year-old boy who
has been playing in the dirt all day. The mother
has no choice but to hose down this child in the
backyard and the child stands laughing in the
shower of water and love, naked as a jaybird.
His laughter becomes infectious and the mother,
who was cross at having this additional chore
to do, now catches the laughter of the child and
begins to laugh herself. Only Our Lady makes me
feel this way. Her icon beckoned me closer. Why
come closer? My curiosity of a child gets the
better of me and I do come closer and see she
is motioning me to come to her Son and receive
something. He is giving me His blessing. He is
giving all of us His blessing and if we allow
Him to, He will turn us back into children, changing
us into the sons and daughters of the One Father,
the Most High God.
He came to His own, and His own received
Him not. But to all who did received Him, who
believed in His name, He gave power to become
children of God; who were born, not of blood nor
of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man,
but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt
among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld
His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.
Receive Him today, become flesh of His flesh,
bone of His bone, and let Him dwell among us again.
Become a child again, a child playing in the palace
of the Most High God. And He just might let you
play in the dirt again, as He allowed me in the
village of Boderiste!