Montenegro (Crna Gora in Serbian) translates as ‘Black Mountain’. About half is covered with thick forest. The poet Lord Byron described it as “the most beautiful encounter between the land and the sea”. The tiny republic has an Adriatic coastline, lowlands and high mountain ranges. Once a part of former Yugoslavia, Montenegro is one of Europe’s youngest countries, declaring independence from Serbia in May 2006.
Montenegro escaped most of the devastation accompanying the violent breakup of the former Yugoslavia but was still affected by economic and political problems. Tourism is again a major part of the economy; over the last ten years Montenegro has started becoming one of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations with a rich historical heritage and stunning national parks. The younger generation often feel both ‘Mediterranean’, ‘western’ like Italians and Spaniards, whilst retaining kinship with Slavic Balkan culture. Increasingly affluent and developed, Montenegro seeks EU membership yet off the ‘tourist trail’, areas of poverty remain.
FROM RELIGION TO FAITH
Two-thirds of Montenegrins have an Eastern Orthodox identity; the remainder are mostly Muslim or Catholic. Few people practise their faith, however cultural identities are very strongly held, and in common with other Balkan societies, superstition dominates the thinking of many people.
There are approximately 100 evangelical believers in the whole country. In Podgorica, the capital city, there are two vibrant churches with about 20 – 30 members in both congregations. There is another church in the North as well as church plants in a few other communities. Because Montenegro is a small country the body of believers is close knit, and almost everyone knows each other.
Vision statement: “to recognize needs – to act – to win and to excite people for Jesus Christ”
OM’s first contacts with Montenegro came through port visits in Kotor by the ships LogosII and Doulos. The OM Montenegro team started in autumn 2007, with three people moving to the major port city of Bar, which had no body of believers.
Language learning, cultural adaptation and relationship building were the focus of the first year. In the beginning of 2008 “Organizacija Milosti” was officially registered as an NGO. Since then, the team has opened ‘The Living Room’, where weekly language classes and kids’ clubs are held. Other ministry work includes working with local groups such as kindergartens, a handicap centre and visiting Roma families. Hosting short term teams and summer programmes are also a regular part of the team ministry.
The team has the long-term goal of establishing a living church in Bar; the first step in this was launching a regular Sunday worship service (since September 2010) in ‘The Living Room’ which local people are joining on a regular basis.
With thirteen team members now serving in Bar, OM Montenegro is considering launching a second team, in another city. Will you join them?