A Postcard from Montenegro – Truly Significant

I recently returned to Russia from Montenegro and Austria. I made initial contact with a ministry in Vienna and had a great time visiting Matt and Liz Eck. I hope one result will be a partnership between Stoneworks, Calvary Chapel-Vienna and the youth ministry in Montenegro.

The picture above is truly significant. While it may appear to be one of many such Christian youth meetings, it is much more than that. With a population of about 600,000 people, Montenegro has less than 200 Evangelical Christians. There are three main fellowships in the country, the largest being the Brethren Assembly in the capital city of Podgorica. On any given Sunday, perhaps 35 people will attend their service.

So here is why the picture above is so significant: twenty six teenagers attended the youth meeting a week ago. Twenty six! This is a VERY significant number of people for such a small church. Not all of the teenagers are yet followers of Jesus, but all have been invited to hear more about Him and all have willingly come. Some have been involved in the Brethren youth meetings for a few years, some are part of a Roma (gypsy) fellowship, some received Samaritan’s Purse shoe-box Christmas gifts and expressed an interest in the youth meetings.

Vladimir and Marijana Cizmanski have ministered there for many years; Violeta Pavetic, an early convert of Vladimir’s ministry, is now the youth leader. They are laying their lives down for Christ, and the fruit is the beautiful souls and loving relationships so evident in the meetings. As is always the case, challenges and difficulties accompany the expansion of God’s Kingdom. Please keep Vladimir, Marijana and Violeta in your prayers as they fight the good fight.

Olga and Valerie have their passports and visas, and we will arrive in Athens, Georgia on March 5. I’ll make a quick trip to Estonia next week and hope to give a great report on Sunbeam then; we are so VERY close to opening the program. We’re also beginning to plan the summer. We’ll host mission teams in Russia, Estonia and Montenegro, and we’ll have interns serving in Montenegro. It’s great to be a part of so much life and growth. The Lord is good to us.

Young Pioneers

Some of our work takes place in ex-soviet pioneer youth camps. Our camp Elama is on the grounds of an old pioneer camp. Here is an article about the Young Pioneers, the soviet youth organization:

Young Pioneer organization of the Soviet Union

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Emblem of the Young Pioneer organization of the Soviet Union

The Young Pioneer Organization of the Soviet Union, also Lenin All-Union Pioneer Organization was a mass youth organization of the USSR for children of age 10–15 in the Soviet Union between 1922 and 1991.


After the October Revolution of 1917, some Scouts took the Bolsheviks’ side, which would later lead to the establishment of ideologically altered Scoutlike organizations, such as ЮК (Юные Коммунисты, or young communists; pronounced as yook) and others.

50 years, Stamp, 1972

During the Russian Civil War from 1917 to 1921, most of the Scoutmasters and many Scouts fought in the ranks of the White Army and interventionists against the Red Army.

Those Scouts who did not wish to accept the new Soviet system either left Russia for good (like Oleg Pantyukhov and others) or went underground.

However, clandestine Scouting did not last long. Komsomol persistently fought with the remnants of the Scout movement. Between 1918 and 1920, the second, third, and fourth All-Russian Congresses of the Russian Union of the Communist Youth (Российский коммунистический союз молодёжи, or Rossiyski kommunisticheskiy soyuz molodyozhi) decided to eradicate the Scout movement and create an organization of the communist type, that would take Soviet youth under its umbrella.

On behalf of the soviet government Nadezhda Krupskaya (Vladimir Lenin‘s wife) was one of the main contributors to the cause of the Pioneer movement. In 1922, she wrote an essay called Russian Union of the Communist Youth and boy-Scoutism. However, it was the remaining scoutmasters themselves, like Innokentiy Zhukov and some others around Nikolaj Fatyanov’s “Brothers of the fire”, who introduced the name “pioneer” and convinced the Komsomol to keep the scout’s motto “Be prepared! – Always prepared!”

Just some days before the Komsomol conference the Moscow scoutmasters adopted a “Declaration of the scoutmasters of Moscow concerning the question of the formation of a children’s movement in the RSFSR” on May 13, 1922. Thereby they suggested to use the system scouting as a foundation of the new communist organisation, and to name it “Young pioneers”. Continue reading

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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