By Jen Bakken
Suitcases. They come in many brands, colors, and sizes.
For Jim Herzog of Delano, it’s not the color, size, or outward appearance of the suitcases that is important it’s what’s inside them and where they go.
Herzog packs each suitcase with up to 50 pounds of much needed medical supplies, donated by major hospitals, for trips to Bosnia, and those suitcases don’t come back.
“I don’t even know where the suitcases come from,” said Jim Herzog. “They are all donated, and with word of mouth. Sometimes I’ll come home and there’s three or four suitcases at my garage door.”
Once in a while, Herzog has some very nice suitcases donated, and said sometimes they still have the price tags on them.
“I don’t know why people sometimes give away such beautiful suitcases,” he said with a laugh. “But, I have never had to buy any.”
Between October and November, two groups will travel to Medjuguorje, Bonia, with the help of Herzog. Each person is allowed two suitcases, one of which will be packed full of donated medical supplies. The suitcases then remain in Bosnia.
While Herzog prepares for his 13th trip to Bosnia, he remembers many of those who have traveled with him over the years people from all around the United States.
How did this Delano resident end up collecting suitcases and medical supplies for the people of Bosnia? If you ask him, it all began with a book.
The book was about the Virgin Mary, whom he said has continuously appeared to six Herzegovinian-Croats in Medjugorje. This small Catholic parish in Bosnia and Herzegovina consists of five villages Medjugorje, Bijakovii, Vionica, Miletina and Surmanci.
“Since 1981, she has been appearing to these six people,” said Herzog. “And I tell you what, I believe. I believe.”
Millions of people from all over the world have come to Medjugorje for one reason the reported daily appearances of the Blessed Virgin Mary to these six people who live there.
This is the reason Herzog first traveled there, and has continued to do so for all these years, but he has another reason the medical supplies packed neatly into all those suitcases.
A typical trip, chaperoned by Herzog, is 11 days long. They visit the old wall in Dubrovnik, climb the mountains of Medjugorje, and visit churches, and an orphanage.
About every three weeks, Herzog picks up the donated supplies such as syringes, gloves, gowns, tape and even some medical machines.
They are taken to a warehouse (also donated) in Plymouth to be sorted and packed carefully into suitcases, not exceeding 50 pounds.
The time and mileage Herzog invests is not reimbursed, but is all well worth it in his book.
“I think people wonder where all the suitcases end up,” he said. “The purpose of the trips is the pilgrimage, and the medical supplies, well that’s just something I do.”