We wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Blessed New Year! Thank you for being a part of Mission to Montenegro!We so appreciate your faithful prayers, your sacrificial support, your quick notes and cards, and the blessing of working together for God's name to be exalted here in Montenegro. One with you in Christ,
Stan and Vicki Surbatovich
Vicki's Snapshot: An Early Car "Adventure"
It has been such a joy to have a sturdy, reliable car again. The angst of going anywhere those last weeks with our failing mini-van brought back to mind an early adventure (nightmare?) with transportation here in Montenegro.
We knew when we landed in March ’96, we would need a vehicle. In a nation with tortuous mountain roads and many unpaved streets (even in town), a 4-wheel drive was deemed a necessity. From reading missionary biographies, it seemed to us (newbies to the field that we were) that the car to have was a Land Rover.
Stan diligently searched and found one. It certainly conjured up a rugged, missionary vibe, being a true no-frills utilitarian vehicle. The benches were sturdy but thinly padded. Instead of an air-conditioner, there were air flow vents that could be opened or closed. The engine was noisy; we learned to talk LOUDLY in order to be heard while driving.
Its redeeming grace was that in a land of tiny Yugos, the Land Rover could haul all seven of us plus a stroller and other kiddie paraphernalia. It had 4WD which we put to good use weather driving in the city, through the mountains, and even off-road (not for fun but some people lived literally in the middle of fields).
The Land Rover (and our children raking mountain hay)
But the romance of a Land Rover fizzled quickly. Despite being inspected by a mechanic before buying, that car proved to be anything but reliable. It was a Lemon with a capital L.
Breakdowns happened regularly and the local mechanic did what he could. But there came a day when he decided that he couldn’t fix the problem, so Stan paid to have the thing towed to a mechanic in Podgorica—it was that unsafe to drive.
A few days later the repair shop called. “It’s ready, come pick it up.” Stan caught an early afternoon bus to get it and bring it back. With an hour’s bus ride, some time at the mechanic, and the drive back, I calculated Stan home by early evening at the latest, knowing he might do some other errands while in the capital city.
Therefore the kids and I went about our day, and come evening, I fixed a light supper about the time I thought Stan should be back. Except he wasn’t.
I held off the evening meal a bit, distracting the children with “just another page” of our read-aloud, but as the minutes grew to an hour, I gave up. We ate dinner. I wondered where Stan was.
Bedtime approached, so I began to get the kids ready for bed. I wondered where Stan was.
I got all the kids into bed, stories read, kisses all around, lights off. I wondered where Stan was. It was now hours after I expected him to be home.
I scrubbed the kitchen well. I tidied up the living room; I paced a bit; I fought my thoughts. The road between Nikšić and Podgorica was narrow. Winding in spots. The route was dotted with roadside memorials and flowers for those who’ve suffered fatal accidents on it.
My bedtime approached, but who could sleep? It was now almost 11pm. Still no Stan. I climbed into bed anyway. I prayed. I imagined terrible scenarios. I pushed them aside and prayed. Tossed, turned, prayed.
When the clock showed 1:00 am, I couldn’t take it any more.
I decided to ask the neighbors to call the police and tell me if there had been an accident. Or find out if he’d been admitted to a hospital somewhere; I’ve read about doing that in old British novels.
I put my robe on and went outside. I paced up and down in front of the house, unwanted tears streaming, uncertain now if I should actually knock on their door.
Yes, knock, I can’t live with not knowing. No, no! it wouldn’t do any good and it’s weird to bother someone in the late hours of the night. But...but... I should know. I might well be a widow. A widow! Oof! How am I going to get all these kids back to the US?
Such logistics occupied my mind for a bit. I rechecked my watch. 1:30 am. The internal debate continued. I finally landed on I need to know. I decided I’d brave the knock. Let them consider me crazy. I hesitantly headed to my neighbors.
And then... lights coming down the dark street. Not our Land Rover, but a car. I stood still. I barely breathed.
As the car pulled right up to me, I steeled myself for the dreaded news. The passenger door open….. and Stan got out with a cheery, smiling “Hi, Hon!”
I’d like to report that I felt instant relief and gratitude, but the reality was that I was angry, very angry, furious even. I didn’t understand how he could have made me live with 8+ hours (that felt like a lifetime) of such worry and dread, and be so oblivious, not even attempting to get in touch somehow.
After a stiff embrace, we went inside and he told his story. He had picked up the car per plan. But halfway up the long ascent into Nikšić, that “just repaired” car conked out.
Mobile telephones were not yet a part of our vocabulary. Call boxes did not exist. There were no houses or other habitations within miles from where he was stranded. He’d been stuck on the side of the road, waiting for someone to stop and help him, but no one did for hours and hours. (In those days, there were far fewer cars, far less traffic).
When someone finally did take pity, there were problems with towing the car to a safe place which took them a great deal of time to solve. After getting the car better situated, the man and Stan shared a rakija (of course!) and a light bite to eat (naturally! they were hungry!). His rescuer was a hospitable man. Only after such pleasantries did the man drive Stan home.
Hearing his story, I alternated between disbelief that the “repaired” car didn’t even make 20 miles before breaking down again and being amazed that this kind person was willing to help Stan into the wee hours of the morning, and didn’t just shrug his shoulders with a “Too bad, Bub.” He was, I gratefully (finally!) concluded, a Good Samaritan sent in our time of need.
After The-Incident-That-Must-Never-Ever-Happen-Again, we decided to buy a more reliable vehicle—for all our sakes. God provided and the Great White Whale (our Toyota Land Cruiser) transported us and many others for years. A blessing indeed!
The Great White Whale in Action