Mission to Montenegro newsletter

Blog entry for 25 May 2023

May 2023 Mission to Montenegro Newsletter

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But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us,  even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
Eph. 2:4-6

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

"Hristos vaskrse!  Zaistina vaskrse!"  This lovely greeting and response (Christ is Risen!  He is Risen Indeed!) is the highlight of this past month because it is true and the reason why we are here!


For Easter, Stan took a break from preaching through John and focused our attention on the truth of Eph. 2:  Our resurrection and its many blessings, both now and in the final day, are secured by Christ’s Resurrection, that great demonstration of God’s love and mercy. We were thrilled to have a full house for Easter celebrations and enjoyed sweet fellowship afterwards.


In the ongoing ministry of the Word, Stan is currently in John 14,  just having covered Jesus's declaration I am the way, the truth, and the life.  In our evening service, we looked at the glorious description (Rev. 4) of the heavenly throne room resounding with praise: Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord!  Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power.  Amen!  

Please pray that many more from Nikšić and Montenegro would join us now and in that future day of giving God all the glory due His name.

We are sad to report that our website server has been hacked  and the server owner refused to pay the ransom.  This means that our church websites (both in English and Montenegro) as well as our longstanding Christianitymontenegro.org site have disappeared along with their content.  Many people have found their way to us through these websites, so please join us in praying that we find a new server provider, the ability to keep our old domain names, and the time and energy to restore the content.  Note:  that tech burden mainly falls on Peter Stonelake, so please pray for him directly as well!

Please continue to pray for the following upcoming happenings in April and May:  Ladies' Brunch outreach this coming Saturday (April 22), for returning believers seeking how God might use them in Montenegro, a baptism, ongoing EUS events,  a first-ever Ladies’ Mini-Retreat (May 19-21), and a church team from Georgia (late May, early June) coming to help us minister to families via good teaching and modeling.

We give thanks to the Lord for all of you reading this newsletter, praying faithfully, supporting us sacrificially; you are God's blessing to us and His people in Montenegro.  To God be the glory!

With great love and appreciation,

Stan and Vicki Surbatovich

Vicki's Snapshot:  On Being a Dinner Guest

One joy the world over is that of getting together with another family or two and sharing a meal together.  Our recent furlough inspired me to think back to those early days of being formally invited to a meal here in Montenegro and discovering how something as simple as a meal invite could be both familiar and strangely different at the same time. 

Here are just a few differences that stand out to me:

First off, coming as we do from Southern Cal with its laid-back, casual vibes,  I expect to chat a bit and help a little in the kitchen upon arrival because there is often a myriad of last minute things to be done in preparation of a good meal whether chopping, dicing, tossing, or putting out dishes.

Not so here. There are typically no last minute details to be seen to. All the food is cooked; Montenegrin meals  (although delicious) are not about fussy final finesses. The table will already be covered with a beautiful tablecloth and set with dishes.  On arrival, one is ushered straight to the table. 
In those early days, I would be alarmed, furtively glancing at my watch to see if we were late.  But no, we’d be right on time; they were just completely ready for us! 


Something else I learned early on is that the table is set for as many people as will fit there, not as many as are actually there.  It was quite a shock the first time we (a family of seven) went to have dinner at our neighbors (The Jovovics, a family of five) and realized that there were but 8 places set.

Our family took up six seats (Baby M didn’t need one), so we began to think there must be a kid’s table.  But  that was not the case.  As the guests of honor, we would be served the entire meal and only the head of household and eldest son would eat with us.  Mrs. J and her daughters stood by or sat on stools, ready to replenish empty serving bowls and fill up empty glasses.  They would eat after we left.  It was very strange to have the other family sitting and serving and waiting on us while we ate.  Now it’s familiar, but I can’t say it is yet comfortable.


Over these past few months while on furlough, we enjoyed many a dinner invitation into homes all across the continent.  We feasted on everything from a 4-course gourmet meal to a bountiful spread of home-smoked meats with five+ types of BBQ sauce to a potluck extravaganza, to a Mexican Fiesta to a quick grab of leftovers—each meal according to our hosts’ tastes and gifting and each an absolute delight.  

That kind of variety isn’t the norm here in Nikšić.  It took me a long time to glean that "A Proper Meal” menu even existed.  What finally convinced me was being served this exact repast at a 10am wedding; I went expecting a brunch but soon realized my error.

What is this menu of which I speak?  While some courses (like the mezze) may be skipped, the following is pretty typical:

The Mezze: smoked meats, sausages, young cheeses, pickles, and bread.  This can be quite elaborate and in our ignorance in those early days, we thought this *was* the meal and ate accordingly, a mistake we oft regretted.

The Soup: typically a light broth made from simmering the meat which will then be roasted, served with bread. There might be a few thin noodles and diced vegetables added for interest.  It most definitely will be seasoned with Vegeta, a ubiquitous salty seasoning chock-full of MSG.

The Main (Bountiful!) Spread:  Cool-to-Cold Roasted Meats* (remember, everything is cooked ahead of time), Bread, Russian Salad (an Enhanced-Potato-with-Veggies Salad), Potatoes and/or Cabbage (in some form), and possibly seasonal salads like lettuce, tomato, or cucumber in the appropriate months.  *If the dinner invite falls on a day of fasting (according to the Orthodox calendar) and the family observes such days (which happens even with people who never go to church), fish will be served in place of meat, much to Stan's chagrin.

The Dessert: or more accurately, Desserts, as just one is never served. Dessert will include 2-5+ small servings of different sweet treats:  amazing tortes, bombica (small cookie balls), oblande (wafer desserts with homemade filling), and more, lots more.  

Now a final, friendly hint for those of you who may have an opportunity to visit: An invite to coffee may involve more than a cup of coffee; it might just be the prelude to A Proper Meal. You are forewarned!

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