Welcome to our newest partner: the Montenegrin Roma ministry. This realtionship is a natural extension of our ongoing work in Montenegro partnering with the Brethren Assembly. As Stoneworks helped run retreats and youth camps, we crossed paths with the Roma youth and Siniša (Sinisha) Nadaždin (below, with guitar), the leader of the ministry. As we got to know each other more, we sensed that the Lord was building the relationship, and we’re very glad to now welcome them as official partners.
The ministry serves the Roma and Ashkali/Egyptian population in Podgorica, Montenegro. The Roma are a culture quite separate from the slavic population of Montenegro.
Roma and Ashkali refugees from Kosovo live in ‘temporary’ housing that was built many years ago. The refugee camp is built on the site of an old dump.
The Lord called Siniša in 2002 to help the poor and “the lowest of the low” in Montenegrin society: the Roma and Ashkali/Egyptian refugees.
In January of 2003, Siniša and friends started their first project – a preschool for Roma children, which quickly grew to 35 children. Other service projects followed. (Read more about the ministry here.)
In 2008, Centerville Baptist Church in the USA started sending teams to Montenegro and became very involved in the Roma ministry, sending multiple mission teams each year. CBC continues to be very active in the ministry and we are very thankful for their continued faithfulness and service.
Only in the summer of 2010 did one of the Ashkali men, who worked with a CBC mission team on a construction project, pray to accept Jesus in his heart.
Siniša tells the rest of the story:
The team soon had departed and I stayed with an awkward feeling in my heart. For the first time since I got involved in working with the Roma and Ashkali, I felt He is asking for something more from me. I resisted the thought, but more and more the time was passing by I realized He wants to start with Bible studies in one of the two refugee camps that were there. I fought the thought, saying I was inadequate, that I don’t know enough about those people, their culture, language, etc….but His answer was still the same.
The thing was that couple of months before that I connected with the only Christian among the Roma and Ashkali in that area. He and I prayed together regularly since we felt a great burden for the people living in the refugee camps. We were asking God to save the people in the camps and to send somebody to start a church there, but now, at the doorstep of seeing what we were praying for, both of us felt hesitant to accept it in faith. My friend was even more hesitant then me. He though that we may encounter great opposition as all the people in the camps were Muslims.
But, the calling was more than obvious and after couple of weeks I stopped resisting. I knew this is something I just HAVE TO DO. On the other hand, my friend was convinced in a more dramatic way.
One night, a fire broke out in the camp, burning the two homes right next to his. At the moment when it seemed fire is going to spread on his home and he was going to lose everything he had, he told God that it is all over for him and that he is going to return to Kosovo. At that very moment the wind started blowing from the completely opposite direction than before and his home was saved from damage. He knew that was not the coincidence, so he called me the next morning and said that it was time for us to DO SOMETHING.
So, we decided to start the very next week. He had children and youth work on his heart, while I wanted to work with the adults. God rewarded our obedience quickly and in the first children’s meeting we had over 30 children. Same was with the youth and adults appearing in numbers much greater than we expected. God wanted to prove to us it was Him who will bear fruit and not us.
That was the beginning of my ministry as a leader/pastor of the Roma/Ashkali church. Since then, we have had 35 people – adults, youth, teenagers – baptized and many more accepting Jesus.
We are now investing in discipleship and education of those that we recognize as potential church leaders. One of the things in that direction is trying to connect the youth from our church with the Brethren Assembly youth. Our youth have been attending youth meetings at the Brethren Assembly faithfully for over a year and our girls took part at the all-girls retreat at the coast (helped by a Stoneworks team). The goal of all this is to expose our youth to other influences than those they are experiencing in the camp and Roma/Ashkali community in general. Our prayer is that as the result of this, our youth – boys and girls – will be striving for more and will have more ambition in their lives.
Another step in this direction is the training provided by Child Evangelism Fellowship’s representative in Montenegro to three of our youth, so that they would take over children’s ministry in the fall.
However, all these para-church activities require time, people and resources. A big step forward in this direction was when Marija Simonovic (Stoneworks person in Montenegro) started working as office and administrative assistant. Nevertheless, we still need more people on board to use the ministry opportunities to their fullest.
Also, regardless of the faithful and generous support of CBC, we are still in a need of the partners that would be willing to share the financial burden of this ministry on a long run. Therefore, we highly appreciate Stoneworks International willingness to help and facilitate in this process.