A Postcard from Montenegro — Surprising Blessings

I (Mike) arrived in Montenegro on July 2, a day before the team from St. James UMC in Athens, GA arrived. We’re in the Montenegrin mountains for two purposes this summer — 1) to help host a church retreat, and 2) to help run a youth camp.

We’re staying at a house on the edge Tara Canyon, the second deepest gorge in the world. It’s a bit of a working farm, but we didn’t know that when we booked the house a few months ago. Pictured above are Lee Davis of Athens and Sasha, one of the young men attending the camp. They were helping gather hay, building a relationship as they worked together. As I planned this trip, I never expected I’d take a picture like this. Our time here has been full of great surprises.

A little background — the population of Montenegro is about 650,000.: Christ Church, a Brethren assembly. Vladimir Cizmanski is the pastor, and his wife Marijana (pronounced like marianna) leads worship.

The church retreat last weekend went very well. The church members and our team were a good fit. This is the first retreat in the church’s 10 years of existence. Everyone enjoyed it very much and want to do it again next year. We’ll see them again this weekend at their church service. It was surprising how quickly we bonded with the church, and our short time with them felt much longer. They love to worship the Lord. The are picture at left and below on the right.

Vladimir has hoped to run a youth camp for 10 years, and now we’re able to help. It’s an honor to help establish traditions that we hope will continue for years to come. There are four kids from a refugee camp; they’ve lived there for about ten years after their families fled from the war in Bosnia. One of the young men told us that this camp the best thing that has ever happened to him. At left are the kids on an outing we took to Durmitor National Park.

We are teaching about godly relationships, but since many of the children have not heard the gospel and know little about church life, we’re also telling them basic truths about God and the church. For instance, when Jerry Meredith, the pastor of St. James, introduced himself as a pastor, Marijana (who was translating) said, ‘they don’t know what a pastor is so I need to explain it to them’.

Each day has many pleasant surprises, and this is a joyful time for us all. I am honored to be serving this church and these people. We are in the midst of a precious and special time. As we prepared for this trip, we sensed that God wanted us to focus on loving Him, loving each other and loving the people we meet. People are more important than programs. And I can say that we have experienced the power of God’s love.

Olga is in Russia now. She’s been helping the mission teams there as well as visiting Elama and the campers there. She is now at dacha. It’s good for her to be there, since her grandparents’ health is failing a bit and they are very happy to have her with them. I’ll return to Russia on the 17th and immediately go to Elama to work with the youth camp there and visit the teams we have working in other camps. This summer is full of good relationships, good work and good places. It’s a blessed time.

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