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April 2024 Mission to Montenegro Newsletter

Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us,
But to Your name give glory,
Because of Your mercy,
Because of Your truth.

Ps. 115:1

Grace and peace to you in the name of God our Father!

Greetings from Nikšić where we've been enjoying the daily, faithful mercies of God.

In our Sunday morning service,  Stan most recently preached from John 20,  looking at Christ's admonition to Thomas to not be unbelieving, but believing and Thomas's heartfelt confession: My Lord and my God!” 
In our evening services, we're continuing in the book of Revelation, with an introduction to the City of Man (Babylon the Great) in the context of its certain utter destruction and the triumph of the City of God (the New Jerusalem.)

  • Please pray for the ongoing ministry of the Word, and for the Holy Spirit to be active in both preachers and hearers.

Join us in giving thanks and praise to God that we've had an increased number of visitors this past month!  Some purposed to come and see what we are about, some came with a believing family member, and some were just passing through and wanted to spend the Lord's Day with fellow believers.  
  • Please pray that God would open the eyes and hearts of many here in Niksic and Montenegro that they may confess and be counted among those Blessed ... who have not seen and yet have believed. John 20:29b

Upcoming Events for Prayer:
  • Here in Montenegro we will be celebrating Easter on May 5.  This year May Day (a big deal!) and Easter fall close together, so many families have a week+ of vacation days. We expect several families to be away visiting relatives. Please join us in praying for God to bless our time of celebration and bring even more new faces to hear and understand the greatest event in history.

  • We, Stan and Vicki, will be in the States for three weeks in May.  Our primary purpose is to celebrate our daughter's graduation with a PhD in Electrical & Computer Engineering.  (Congrats, Milijana!) We will also be visiting a few churches, visiting and helping out family, stopping by the DMV, and more.  It will be a packed three weeks.  Please pray for safe, healthy travels, joyful meet-ups with saints and family, and a completely checked-off To Do list.


Finally, please pray for the regular ministries:  Sunday services, weekly prayer meeting, the monthly Ladies’ Brunch, the Food Pantry, plus all the EUS activities overseen by Danijel P.  Our desire is to be faithful; may God bring the increase! 

We so appreciate your earnest 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: Back to the Beginning Part 3: Fellowship Lunches

As mentioned in previous Snapshots, the core nucleus of the church formed out of an English Language Student Bible study, so we naturally had a preponderance of students and singles attending church.  

Once we started regular Sunday services and a midweek prayer meeting, the Student Bible Study morphed into its own gathering on Saturday evenings, often led by some of those volunteers mentioned last month. These early young believers also often met up for coffee, to hang around together, to go on outings, and to study the bible.  In short, they functioned like a college/high school youth group. 

But as time passed, these students and singles finished school, started working, got married, and had kids.  All wonderful things, but their opportunities to spend time together as before were greatly diminished with increased responsibilities and family obligations.

So, while *our* family was happily seeing members of the church on a regular basis between Sunday services, midweek meetings (often held at our house), general meet-ups *and* including different people in our Sunday Lunch tradition,  the core-nucleus-now-with-young-family church members were lamenting a lack of connectedness.

After much prayer and discussion, we introduced the church to the idea of Fellowship Lunch.  Here is a newsletter excerpt from that time (June 2016):


This Lord's Day will mark the start of a new tradition for us:  A regular monthly Fellowship Lunch following after the celebration of the Lord’s Supper in our morning service, with an emphasis on connecting as a church family and not as an evangelistic outreach event. Our desire is that this not be construed as an imported Western custom (potlucks are unknown here) but rather as one deeply rooted in Christendom (So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart.  Acts 2:46) and as an opportunity to contribute to a contemporary Montenegrin Christian culture.


Did you catch the phrase “potlucks are unknown here”?  Yes, to my surprise, the concept of potluck is not universal, so we had to explain the idea—multiple times.  Now to clarify,  in Montenegro the concept of “group meals” exists and is practiced, just not potluck-style. 

Partly because living spaces are fairly compact, there are few big gatherings involving everyone eating a meal together (unless at a restaurant!).  Slavas— celebrations of a family’s patron saint—often involves inviting many guests, but people come over a period of hours, if not throughout the whole day.  The hosting family preps tons of food in advance and keeps the serving plates full as guests come, eat, visit, and then leave as the next group of guests comes in and needs a place to sit.

For weddings (which often have a limited guest list due to money constraints) and when babies are born, especially first babies, it is culturally expected that people will be coming to give congratulations throughout the first week to a month.  As part of that visit, a meal will be offered.  So once again, mega amounts of food are prepared and kept in readiness to serve all the relatives and friends dropping by to give their well-wishes and gifts. (Note, sometimes the wedding or baby gift is actually a roasted lamb or giant tray of homemade cake to be served to the post-wedding/baby guests.).

Thus when we introduced the idea of a church-wide Fellowship Lunch, we carefully explained that 

  1. We would be eating all together at the same time, and 
  2. That each person/family would need to contribute just a *part* of the meal because if we each did our part, we would end up with enough for everyone. 

That first fellowship lunch was a delight—the joy of being all together from the oldest Baba (gray-haired grandma) to the youngest baby was priceless.  But that first lunch also proved to be a learning experience. The local members couldn’t help but model their contributions off of preparing for weddings and slavas—so we shared a really lavish, abundant feast where nearly every dish could serve thirty, forty, even fifty people.  Our tables groaned under the weight of SO MUCH FOOD.

In the weeks afterward, we had church members coming to us privately, saying how wonderful it was to connect with everyone in such a fun way at the Lunch,  but they didn’t think they could handle the cost of doing this every month—a very fair observation!  So we again explained as clearly as we could that people needed to prepare a dish for just 10+ people.

Not unsurprisingly, our next Fellowship Lunch lacked a bit in the food department as people remembered the abundance of the previous month and did their best to counterbalance that tendency. However, the joy of being together made up for the lack  and we all determined to establish this new (but ancient) practice of celebrating love feasts, as Jude 12 puts it.  (July 2016 M2M Newsletter)

Just a month later we realized that Our monthly fellowship lunch has proven to be especially refreshing and helpful for new people to the church to quickly build relationships with all the brethren and see themselves as part of the local body/church family. (Aug. 2016 M2M Newsletter)

And while we never intended Fellowship Lunch to be evangelistic in nature, but rather to nurture a healthy community, God blessed us beyond all that we asked.  Just four months after starting, we wrote:

These gatherings have been very well received and proven to be a great ministry especially to those families where only one spouse is a believer. We have (happily!) seen a cross-over increase in church participation these past few months.  (Sept. 2016 M2M Newsletter) 

Now we’ve celebrated nearly eight(!) years of Fellowship Lunches  and they’ve become a highlight of our month and a vital part of our local Christian culture.  And Fellowship Lunch is the right term!  Our meal isn’t really a potluck at all because we easily coordinate over Viber the various entrees, salads, breads (a MUST!), and desserts we will bring.   So while enjoying sweet fellowship, we also dine on a meal that really satisfies.  Soli deo Gloria!