Mission to Montenegro newsletter

Blog entry for 17 August 2022

August 2022 Mission to Montenegro Newsletter

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Good and upright is the Lord; therefore He instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble His way.
 Ps. 25: 8&9

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

We survived (and thrived!) through a packed, busy month.  Read on to see God's goodness in action.


In our regular services, Stan has been preaching from John 10 in the morning.  This past week, he explored the richness of Jesus’s proclamation: I am the Good Shepherd, and the ultimate blessing we have in a Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep. 

Because we’ve been in the season of camps and outreaches, Stan has been spending the last few Sunday evenings looking at Biblical examples of conversion, distilling essentials, that we might rightly understand when someone crosses over from darkness into light.  Thus far we've looked at the blind man healed (John 9), the great conversion in Acts 2,  and the Phillippian jailer (Acts 16).  Please pray that many Montenegrins would turn to God and ask What must we do to be saved?

Danica and Gaber

'Twas a blessed event!  After a long interval driven by Covid sanctions, Danica (from our congregation) and Gaber (from Slovenia) celebrated their marriage with a Christian service and a festive Montenegrin reception!  When Covid upended their plans in 2020, they officially married at the courthouse (required of all marriages) with just a few people. (Sadly, no one from Danica’s family could be there).  

However, they wanted to renew their vows before God with their church and family present, and for their ceremony to be a witness to unbelieving family. Prior to the ceremony there was some concern that those family members might skip out on the service with its Scripture-based readings and sermon and head straight for the reception room, but every one stayed, every one heard of God’s goodness, every one witnessed His blessing of marriage.  Please pray for Danica and Gaber, that they would continue to love God, love each other, and live a life together that glorifies the Lord and blesses those around them.

Camp Monty was held the last week of July amidst scorching temperatures.  After a two-year hiatus, it was great to see old faces and meet new ones amongst the international volunteers. Soccer, basketball, tennis, volleyball, and English sessions were attended by over 150 young people.  By the end of the week, 15 or so indicated that they would appreciate follow-up to know more about Christianity.  Please pray for these young people, that their interest would grow and that fruit would bear.  Pray, too, for those involved in the follow-up which is challenging in this season of August "comings and goings" and people being away on holidays.

In early August, Stan along with other representatives from the registered Protestant churches, met with a government official from the Ministry of Justice.  This particular official wants to see Protestant Churches have an agreement with the government similar to the ones that currently exist with Orthodox, Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim communities; having one for the Protestant community will give us a legitimacy in the public arena.  Because August is the month for holidaying, the official writing and signing of the agreement has been put off until September.  Please give thanks to the Lord for this opportunity and pray that this agreement will be a force for good in establishing Biblical Protestant churches throughout Montenegro.

Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands! Ps. 90:17

While we've said good-bye to teams and interns, we are continuing to host and meet with individuals and families in town for an afternoon, a day, a week.  While we love these ministry opportunities, do pray for us to be strengthened in the Lord, for mutual edification, and for God's glory to be made known.  Pray, too, that we would find (make?) a window of opportunity for our own refreshment as well as time in the States; this is an ongoing challenge for us.

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

Stan and Vicki Surbatovich

Vicki's Snapshot:  New People and New Faces

Being in foreign country meeting lots of people in a short time presented quite a challenge.  Because the names were so different, I found them hard to pronounce and hard to remember.  And without a name as an anchor, faces were harder to remember as well which led to some interesting situations. Here's an account of one such experience I had in those early months.

Before we left the States, our two older girls had been fitted with dental appliances to help straighten their teeth without needing actual braces.  This was a therapy that we’d been assured we could continue here and fortunately there was an orthodontist a few blocks away, within easy walking distance of our rental house in a pedestrian-only section of town.

This particular dentist, like many private practice professionals at the time, had two offices: one in Nikšić and one on the coast.  Thus, she was in our town only some of the days of the week, and as they weren’t posted (and considered changeable), we had to guess when she’d be there.  Close as she was, this was no great hardship in general.

Stan and I had gone several times together with the girls for check-ups and readjustments. When the day came that Stan needed to be away for 3 weeks, it was up to me alone to take them for their needed check-up.  Nervous about doing this all by myself with as little language as I knew at the time, I womaned-up and got the kids ready and out the door.  I was dismayed but not surprised when we got to the office and it was closed.  OK. Tomorrow should do it.

Fortunately, next morn while fixing breakfast,  I looked out of our big kitchen picture window and I saw, could it be? the orthodontist walking down our street in the direction of her office?  I peered more closely.  Yes, it was she!  We finished up breakfast, got ourselves ready with teeth well-brushed, and headed over. I was very surprised to find the office still closed. 

I began the habit of peering out the window each morning while we ate breakfast. The next time I spotted her, the exact same scenario occurred:  we gobbled down breakfast, we washed-up, I made sure everyone was dressed, I packed two kids into the stroller, I set 3 kids by my side, and we walked to the dentist's office.  And once again found it closed.  

I was totally perplexed.  Was she perhaps going for coffee somewhere first?  Or to the public dental clinic to help out? Could that be a requirement to have a private practice as well?  Regardless, I determined that the next time I saw her walking past me to work, I was going to try to assess when she would actually be there and let her know that we’d be coming, so she could be ready for us.

A few days later my chance came.  I dashed out the front door to catch her, leaving the children with faces pasted to the window. With my broken Montenegrin, I pointed to my teeth, saying Zube, Zube (teeth,teeth); I indicated my girls by saying their names and miming little (hand down low); girls (indicated by suggesting long flowing hair); their need for a check-up (baring my teeth and mimicking a tightening action of their appliances); and uttered “Kad” (When?) Sada? (Now?). 

The dentist, wide-eyed, took all this in and nodded her head, and I was super proud of myself for my boldness and creativity in making it all clear.  With a departing Hvala (Thank you), I went back in and told the kids to finish up because we were going to the dentist that day.

Getting five kids dressed into cool weather clothes was no quick task, but within the hour we were on our way.  I was astounded to discover that she was NOT THERE.  That did it.  I gave up trying to get the girls in for their appointment; it would just have to wait until Stan was back.

When he returned, I explained all my efforts and said he really needed to give that lady a talking to about regular office hours and being there responsibly, etc..  And the next time I saw her walking down the street, I alerted Stan to go do his duty.  

He looked out the window, saw the woman, and turned towards me.

     “Are you sure that is the lady you talked to?”
     “Yes, yes, I’m sure!  Hurry, go and catch her.”

     “I can’t! That’s not the dentist!  That’s a lady from around the corner!”

Yes, a neighbor. She was on her way to work each time but not as a dentist. I had met her just once in passing and some how, in some way, managed to slot her face with the dentist’s.  And in subsequent years, I passed her many times on the street and blushed every time, thinking of the spectacle I had made. She always had a friendly smile, and the bit of twinkle in her eyes let me know she had not forgotten either.

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