As human beings, we sometimes find ourselves in a place devoid of light, filled with sharp edges and sorrow. As we walk forward in this fearsome inner landscape, an abyss opens up before us, and we are helpless not to tumble into it—unless grace extends its gentle hand to save us. We do not always know how we arrived at such a precarious point; but once there, we know we need healing, meaning, love, peace, hope, and happiness. We know that we are seeking something to fulfill us and take away our angst and our sadness. What we do not always know is that we are seeking God.

The true life stories in this book reveal people who have teetered on the edge, in seemingly hopeless situations, and arrived at the other side of grace. As diverse as they are, these individuals—a homeless drug addict, a lonely youth, a nightclub stripper, a cocaine abuser, and a confused atheist, and a Nobel Peace Prize Nominee—all possess two vital elements in common: they have discovered hope and healing in a loving God, and they received help in their journeys of faith through the Blessed Virgin Mary’s presence and messages in Medjugorje.

Following each story is a message that Mary has given to the world, a message that speaks to the storyteller’s life, and perhaps to our own. And for those eager to probe the deeper, reflective waters of discipleship—either alone or within a prayer group—a Scripture passage, prayerful reflection questions, and a spiritual exercise at the end of each chapter offer an opportunity to enliven our faith. These explorations can show us where we are on our spiritual journey, as we peer into the places in our lives where God can touch us more deeply, bringing us healing and wholeness, and molding us into the likeness of his Son.

I have had the privilege of meeting each of the protagonists in this book. They came my way providentially, and shared their remarkable tales with me, true in every detail. While on pilgrimage in Medjugorje, I encountered the man nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, the former stripper, and the former homeless drug addict-turned happy family man. I was the confused atheist, brought back to life. The onetime cocaine abuser joined my prayer group and became a friend of mine, and the lonely youth became my husband.

Because I wanted the raw candor and the breadth and depth of each person’s journey to remain as accessible and immediate to the reader as they were to me when I first heard them, I transcribed and edited the tellers’ own words from our lengthy interviews, shaping them into first-person narrative form. In telling their stories, these ordinary people opened the door to their extraordinary lives—to a view more fantastic than fiction—and showed how God lifted them into his loving arms, often out of a living hell, and raised them up to the heights.

“Are these people telling the truth?” one might ask. Can God do such things in people’s lives, or are miracles and dramatic transformations relegated to the pages of the Bible? These questions only the reader can answer, for they lie in the heart, in the delicate balance between empiricism and faith.

Whatever the answers might be for you, may these stories bring you close to the living God and his beautiful mother, as they take you on a journey that reveals a Creator who loves us, even when we’re at our worst.