March 2021 Mission to Montenegro Newsletter
How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed?
And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard?
And how are they to hear without someone preaching?
And how are they to preach unless they are sent?
As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!”
Rom. 10:14, 15
Grace and Peace to you in the name of our God our Father!
Can you believe it? This month marks the 25th anniversary of our arrival in Niksić! In light of this momentous occasion, over the next months, Vicki will be including an addendum. Like Mary from the bible, she has pondered and treasured many things from these past 25+ years and has taken to writing her perspective of those early years of ministry. What follows will be her “snapshots” of this grand adventure.
But before we get to that..... an update on the most important thing: the regular ministry of God's Word.
- Stan continues to preach from the Gospel of John, Ch. 1 in the morning, mostly recently touching upon Jesus the Light. In the evening, Stan will be wrapping up Hebrews 10. In order to comply with the most recent measures regarding maximum number of people allowed, the children are meeting in a separate facility, and adults are encouraged to come to either the morning service or the evening but not both.
- Despite threatened border closures, we managed a meet-up with BGU's Director of Global Internship, Doug G, who made a whirlwind trip to visit all the interns serving in the Balkans. Our team was greatly encouraged by his coming, and we discussed what a future partnership might look like. Exciting times ahead!
|The Great BGU Meet-Up
Additional Upcoming Ministry and Prayer Requests: With Covid still raging, all the same prayer requests as last month:
- For the preaching and teaching of God's Word.
- For those hearing the Word, to embrace the truth and to walk in its light.
- For continued good health.
- For continued progress being made with respect to the videos and book translation.
- For the children to grow in the nurture and knowledge of the Lord.
- For wisdom in discerning the feasibility of future outreaches and events later this year.
Once again, we must emphasize our great love and appreciation for your ongoing prayers and support to fulfill the mandate of Romans 10: 14-15,
Stan and Vicki Surbatovich
Addendum: Snapshots Preface
Where to begin? So many places, times, events. Ever since becoming believers in our late teens/early 20s, we had a desire to serve God together and, heeding the counsel given us at the time to equip ourselves, Stan finished his bachelor's and went on to get his M.Div while I finished my B.S. in Math/Computer Science. We started serving in our local church—hosting house groups, participating in children’s ministry, and preparing and leading Bible studies. We worked and saved and had kids. Stan felt the call to serve God as a Navy Chaplain and ministered in that arena. We were active, happy, and enjoying life. But that seed, of willingness to be sent, was still there, lying dormant, waiting for God’s timing to sprout.
Germination occurred in the early 1990’s when Stan, still serving as a navy chaplain, came back from a pastor’s conference where he had met a man who actually had been to Yugoslavia and knew evangelical pastors there. Evangelical pastors in the former Yugoslavia, that communist state, the land of his ancestors? Phone numbers were exchanged. Emails were written. Within a month, Stan placed a staticky call to Pastor Simo Ralević, ministering in Yugoslavia, to gain his perspective on coming as a missionary. Pastor Ralević replied that the need was great, the workers few, and why didn’t Stan just come see for himself?
|Stan, at the beginning of this journey
By God’s providence and the generous leave policy of the United States Navy, he did just that. Off he went to Yugoslavia via Hungary; because of sanctions surrounding the Bosnian War, there were no outside flights into Yugoslavia. On a 3-week whirlwind tour, Stan met up with five pastors in various parts of Serbia, the northern part of (the former) Yugoslavia.
However, being in the same country as all his Montenegrin relatives (from both his father’s and mother’s side), he had to visit them. In Montenegro, extended family (relatives of relatives) is not actually considered “extended family” but “close family”, so he spent a week visiting people he had never met before, snapping pictures like crazy so I would know, too, what it was like.
This two-pronged trip, churches and family, gave us good perspective on the realities of life there along with a glimpse at God’s working through the churches. After much discussion and prayer between ourselves and in consultation with our own local church leaders at Faith Community Church, we purposed to move to Yugoslavia and serve the Lord there.
We Make our Plans but God Directs our Steps
As most missionaries know, one of the most trying periods of preparation is securing the funds to support the mission (both family needs and other logistics such as traveling expenses and meeting room rents). We were told by people that we should expect to fundraise for at least a year, closer to two. Not only is fundraising trying, it is distasteful. It is hard to go from a steady, relatively generous pay check to being dependent upon the giving of others. And even harder to have to ASK for it. Nobody likes to beg. But the Apostle Paul was not ashamed to ask and neither could we afford to be, so we set our faces to the task.
We did not seek to come to Montenegro with a missions agency but rather through the oversight of our local church (in California) in cooperation with other local churches. Thus, within the loose circle of churches that Faith Community aligned with, Pastor Anderson sent out a letter to those churches explaining that we as a family were planning to go to Yugoslavia with FCC’s full moral support and partial funding support; were any of these churches interested in finding out more and perhaps adding to our support, both prayerfully and materially?
We were delighted with the relatively quick response of churches saying “Yes!” to a visit. Stan spent quite a few of the next weeks visiting churches, some in California, others back East. We were even more delighted when so many of these churches responded favorably. In God’s good timing, a number of these churches were in a healthy state of stability and growth, with hearts beginning to turn to the outer world, to the lost. And then… here we were, planning to do just that, taking God’s Word to those walking in darkness. Our financial footing grew quickly, funded in weeks not months.
We breathed a sigh of relief. Surely, this quick fulfillment signaled God’s definite stamp of approval! Our momentum towards Launch Day increased.
With growing enthusiasm now that fundraising was behind us, we turned towards getting our visas for living there. We decided to apply via the Yugoslav Embassy in Washington, DC. Papers, passports, certificates, documents of every kind were gathered, forms filled in, and a huge packet sent off. Now we merely awaited the gears of bureaucracy to grind slowly towards approval so we could BUY OUR TICKETS.
With Stan’s full-blooded Montenegrin heritage to support our case, we were numbed beyond belief to receive back our visa requests stamped “DENIED.” Was it because we had forthrightly declared our purpose: to help Christian churches? Was it because of tit-for-tat diplomacy? With the Bosnian War raging, the US had been denying visas to Yugoslavs merely wanting to come visit dying relatives in the States, so Yugoslavia was denying some visas to US citizens in return. Or, maybe God was protecting us as I was unexpectedly dealing with a difficult fifth pregnancy? Regardless, ensuing phone calls to the embassy proved to be a dead end.
We felt so lost. What did we do wrong? Had we misread God’s leading? If a country’s embassy says “No, we won’t allow you in,” what other options did we even have? Along with this major disappointment, we wrestled with the moral dilemma of continuing to accept $$ for a mission that didn’t seem like it would even get off the launch pad. Were we shortly going to be both jobless and homeless?
Til next month....