In the ministry of the word Sunday mornings, Stan just wrapped up John, Ch. 16, with a focus on v. 17: In a little while you will see Me no more, and then after a little while you will see Me, highlighting our many blessings in seeing Jesus as He really is.
In the evening service, Stan continued with Rev. 9 and the 5th trumpet heralding the first woe to come to pass upon those without the seal of God. These are hard words to hear, but in this Gospel age, God mercifully invites all to turn to Him before the Great Day of Judgement.
Please pray for God's Word to reach many and that His church would be built upon sound doctrine and love.
Please pray for Vicki and Jelena V (of our congregation) who will be attending a TGC Europe training event Oct. 19-21 dedicated to spreading Word-Filled Women’s Ministries. The goal is not merely to be blessed with knowledge and understanding ourselves but to return and teach other women throughout Montenegro. Along with prayers for safe, uneventful travel, please pray for our personal growth and connection with like-minded women in Europe and the Balkans.
This coming weekend we will be hosting Matthias B, a representative of the European Evangelical Alliance, meeting him directly and setting up visits/talks with other Montenegrin pastors for the “purpose of building on existing relationships and strengthening communication, cooperation and fellowship.” The Protestant/Evangelical Church is still not recognized by the national government and forming a local alliance is one step towards that. Please pray for fruitful discussions and next steps taken.
Tada! The books have arrived!
Please join us in giving thanks to God, to the author Phillip Cary and his publisher who gave permission to translate this work, to Jelena S-P for her translation skills and perseverance, and to those groups and individuals who donated seed money for this book project.
We have already distributed a few of the books to our own congregation but still need to find ways to inform other churches and Christian organizations of this excellent resource. We would like to charge a modest amount for the books in order to fund the *next* book publishing endeavor. However, the how-to-do-it is something we are also trying to figure out. Please pray that all the books would make it into the hands of believers (particularly young ones) who need to hear these encouraging words.
(Note: If you feel moved to make a specific donation to our ongoing book fund, that would mean we could donate some of these books for free or at a lesser cost. Contact us for details.)
Update on Car: It has been a month of research and prayer, and of discovering, sorting, and discarding various options. Please pray that with the knowledge gained, we will be announcing the blessing of a new (to us), reliable car in the next update.
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: Touched by War, Part 3
Those first awful days and weeks after NATO’s bombing in Kosovo were taken up with wondering what was happening, breathlessly watching conflicting news reports, trying to get on with normal life, too. Early on we met up and hosted Daniel Pearl as he gathered information to write an article for the Wall Street Journal.
Then in April we had a real-life problem to face—we were due to go on our much-needed, much desired, first furlough ever in June after three years on the field. We had a lot of family, friends, and churches to visit. The problem? Montenegro’s airport in Podgorica was a dual civilian/military airport and it had been strategically hit the first night of the bombing campaign; therefore, no flights operated out of Montenegro.
This personal mini-crisis ended up showcasing God’s goodness and unity of His people.
To get back to the States now meant driving and flying out from another country. Since we planned to be gone for a good three months, we didn’t really want our car in some long-term foreign parking facility (like Italy, for example.) Thus, Stan began to look if there was a possibility to leave the car with “someone” in a country that we could fly out of.
Since the earliest days of the Church, God has connected His people (proof: Book of Acts and the Epistles) into one family, brothers and sisters united in Christ. So too today. So too back in 1999. Stan perused the Reformed Baptist Church directory and came across a like-minded church somewhat close to London: Maidenbower Baptist Church pastored by Austin Walker. In God’s good providence and their diligence to help us, they found a family who would be able to house our car for the three months we were gone—no small feat in an area where parking and/or garages are scarce.
So off we set in mid-June on another road trip across Europe.
Despite the relatively small distance (400km out of 2400), the slowest portion of our trip was traveling north for a slog of 8 hours on narrow, winding roads from Nikšić, past Sarajevo (Bosnia), and all the way up to Slavonksi Brod (Croatia) where we finally met up with a Proper Highway, the A3. Two lanes going in the same direction! Straight roads as far as the eye could see! The thrill of 120km speeds! (Seriously—Montenegro had no highways; ergo, max speed limit was 80kmh=50mph. Whizzing along the roadway felt so civilized, so modern!)
We marveled at how much more advanced Croatia and Slovenia were compared to Montenegro even though all were part of the former Yugoslavia. We wandered through the Austrian countryside and grieved at the multitude of wayside shrines found at the edges of fields and lonely intersections.
When forced to go up and over the Alps due to road repairs and maintenance on the major thoroughfares and long tunnels, we were met with unexpected kindness.
Traveling over the rarely used mountain pass, we saw the lights on in this Gasthof and were thrilled that we could get a much delayed dinner. However, it turned out they were still closed as the summer season had not yet begun; they were merely enjoying a big private family celebration. However, once they realized we had hungry children and still a ways to go, they generously fed us a delicious meal.
We took special care while driving on the German Autobahn because with no speed limit, a clear lane to move left wasn’t clear for very long. We made the mistake of deciding to stop “when it got dark” that last night in France, not realizing that as far north as we were, darkness didn’t come until well after 10pm. We marveled at the engineering feat of the Chunnel but found the experience itself very boring—ferry crossings were definitely more fun. We arrived in Dover, ready to eat breakfast, only to find shops and restaurants still closed because the time changed backwards by an hour with our crossing. Oops.
The best part, of course, is that at the end of our trans-European trip, we met up with the brethren. It didn’t matter that we had never met before—God unites His people into one family. The warm welcome, the ready-willing-able hands of help, the knowledge that we could trust people we didn’t know to keep our vehicle safe for months—all priceless riches of God’s grace. We were (and are) much blessed.
After our busy furlough, we were again met on our return with warm hospitality and kindness. We were picked up directly from Heathrow (a labor of love!) and given a place to stay. The Phillips hosted the seven of us for several days so that we might take care of some needed errands and recover from jet lag before setting off again on the long drive home.
Mr. and Mrs. Phillips graciously watched the children while Stan and I were out and about. I still smile when I recall their concern that the children might be ill because of their listlessness (Mr. Phillips was a retired doctor), only for them to realize later that the kiddos actually had tons of energy; with eight hours difference in time, it’s just that they didn’t get raring to go til 5pm on. The Phillips gamely answered excited questions and bore with “watch this!” even at 10pm. :-)
You may wonder how and why I can have a Touched By War, Part 3 when NATO’s Kosovo bombing campaign lasted a mere ten weeks in Montenegro.
That marked event brought noticeable twists and turns in the trajectory of our lives. In the past two Snapshots I mentioned the shock of bombardment and our bittersweet encounter with Daniel Pearl. In this Snapshot I’ve shared a glimpse of our first hand experience of blessings bestowed by the universal family of God.
I can also mention the fact that our leaving a war-stricken area and then returning four months later proved to be a huge testimony of our commitment to the fledgling NK fellowship as they secretly didn’t expect us to return at all after reuniting with family and friends.
Another ripple from those 10 weeks manifested itself years later as Montenegro moved toward regaining its independence from Serbia. Tensions and fears of another civil war loomed large. The local army and police (which were under one umbrella) moved to show their presence. Thus, fully-armed soldiers stood guard on major street corners, stood guard on the steps of government buildings, and stood guard along the walking streets. Government buildings were sandbagged. It was a tense time, knowing it only takes one maverick to fire a gun to set off war.
But the losses Serbia suffered during the NATO bombardments in the Kosovo War proved sufficient to deter armed force against Montenegro, with justifiable fears that NATO would intervene on behalf of MNE. Once Serbia’s staunchest ally in the former Yugoslavia, Montenegro gained independence without bloodshed.
Yet, the ramifications of that war back in the '90s are not over. There are continued stirrings of trouble between Serbia and Kosovo. Will that affect us? Possibly, but our hope is in God to whom belong all majesty, honor, and praise.