Mission to Montenegro newsletter

Blog entry for 17 April 2021

April 2021 Mission to Montenegro Newsletter

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, 
according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us 
in all wisdom and prudence… Eph. 1:7,8

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

Although we have not yet formally celebrated Easter (May 2 for us), every day is a day to rejoice in the riches of Christ's sacrifice.  Note:  Vicki's "Snapshot" series begun last month in honor of 25 years on the field continues and is appended at the end.

  • In our morning services, Stan has wrapped up the prologue in John 1:1-18, that glorious and majestic revelation of Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son full of grace and truth.  In the evening, Stan has begun Hebrews 11, the heroes of the faith chapter, encouraging us to continue on in faith, seeking the great I AM.  Please pray for Stan as he prepares to preach God's word and that the many who listen would have ears to hear.
  • We give thanks that our children-meeting-in-another-location Sunday School has gone so well, for those spaces are a five minute drive from our church facilities.  Please pray for the souls of these young ones and for the parents, helpers, and teachers as we seek to raise the children up in the way they should go. 
The next generation
  • The short video series Osnovne Istine  (Foundational Truths) is progressing and currently the first episode is in final editing. The Book Translation Project also has picked up speed.  Please pray that much fruit would come from these labors, that many people would be both encouraged and convicted and would draw humbly near to God.
  • We give thanks that despite Covid, the English Language Club outreach has been flourishing.  Both old regulars and new people have been showing up.   In order to comply with the measures, they can no longer sit at a cafe and talk, so the group breaks up into twos and threes and goes for walks instead! Please pray for meaningful conversations and a freedom for the young people to ask (and answer) life's big questions of purpose, meaning, and God.
  • Country-wide, Montenegro's Covid-19 metrics are slowly improving, but we here in Nikšić are still under a number of restrictions.  However, vaccinations are ramping up—we received our first dose yesterday.  Please pray that the lowering case count would last and that we soon will be able to fully resume in-person church activities as well as summer camps and outreaches.

With great love and appreciation for your ongoing prayers and support to make this all happen,

Stan and Vicki Surbatovich

Snapshots: We Make our Plans but God Directs our Steps, Part 2

Last month's Snapshot ended with the shocking denial of our visas, wrestling with the ethics of accepting money for the mission when we didn't appear to be getting any closer, and fearing that we might soon be both homeless and jobless....

Why homeless as well as jobless?  Well, because our  successful fundraising efforts appeared to make ministry possible, and our visa situation had seemed pretty secure, we figured out a perfect plan for the interim between Navy Days and Yugoslavian Move: the Navy would pack and store all our stuff (for FREE!) while we rented a fully furnished beach house in the off-season, all beautifully timed for us to be leaving for Yugoslavia just as the low season (and more reasonable prices) ended. 

With the denial of our visas, we realized with sinking hearts that we were going to have to move and had no where to go and few options:  families with four children are not generally welcomed with eager arms.  Since I was on complete bedrest due to early pregnancy complications, Stan went out house hunting solo for a month-to-month rental.  

Each day he’d come back weary and empty-handed. Each day the pressure mounted: we were up against a firm date for vacating our current home. We needed to leave before the rent would quadruple to “high season” prices, and as that day relentlessly drew nearer, we alternated between semi-despair and praying for the impossible—but never the both of us at the same time (Two are better than one...)

However, God is GOOD and FAITHFUL.  As our timeline for moving reached a mere week and then the days started counting down: six, five, four, three (gulp!), two—He provided!  A home that suited our current needs.  Our FCC family pitched in and helped us move our personal belongings from that beach house to the new place the next day and did ALL the cleaning (no easy task with beach sand and children) the final day.  Within the week, the Navy delivered all our stored goods.  We began settling anew but still had the “how long?” question hanging over us.  How long til we made it  (if ever) to Yugoslavia?

In the midst of trodding this dark valley which hit Stan especially hard, God brought around the same man who started us on this journey.  Whether Stan ran into him at a conference, or if the man just heard about our plight because we interact within in the same circles, I don’t recall, but we did make contact.  He informed us that it was possible to circumnavigate the “Yugoslav” government as an entity for obtaining visas.  We were astounded.

Because the former Yugoslavia was carved out of seven (some unwilling) independent Republics, quite a bit of administration had continued to be handled or could be handled at that level.  Our fount-of-info suggested that Stan fly back to Hungary, enter Yugoslavia again on a 3-month tourist visa (freely granted), and try to get longer term visas through the local bureaucracies in the cities we were contemplating going.  At that time, our plan was to join one of the existing churches in Serbia, one of the five which Stan had visited on his first trip, in order to be helpful, learn the language, and eventually raise a team to go into Montenegro which was our ultimate aim.

Accordingly, when I was stable in pregnancy, Stan flew back AGAIN and did a second loop of visitations mimicking the first. He revisited each of the churches from his original exploratory trip, taking an extra day to visit each city’s government offices, passports in hand as recommended, to acquire our needed visas.  Each city politely declined.  Plan B was a strike out.

However, as before, Stan went for a round of another set of visits with close relatives in Montenegro.  And while there, he hit upon the idea of seeing whether he could get our visas approved by the Montenegrin government.  

Even though Nikšić is the second largest city, it is a close-knit community, and through his relatives he met some city officials.  With his father having been born in Bršno, the ancestral village of all Surbatoviches located a mere fifteen minutes outside the city of Nikšić, Stan was warmly welcomed as a returning son. In very short order, visas were granted, passports stamped, and we had, by God’s wonderful weaving of circumstances, a direct path to our ultimate hoped-for destination:  Montenegro.

Montenegro, here we come!

Original link: https://christianitymontenegro.blogspot.com/2021/04/april-2021-mission-to-montenegro.html
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