28 Jan 2008
Two rivers merge high in the mountains of Montenegro. An ancient bridge crosses one of these rivers while a modern structure crosses the other. At the junction of these two rivers is a graveyard. It is very old and visited by few. A herd of goats are the caretakers as they browse on the grass and weeds.
This graveyard is different than others bodies of the past are broken but not decaying. All around are the remnants of a time long past a time even before the Romans conquered this land. Here the original inhabitants were known as Illyrians, a people who settled much of this area 2,700 years ago. Other graveyards sprung up as time moved on. Looking high up on the hills, a fortress can be seen. Fortresses once provided protection from invading armies coming in from land or from sea but today they are useless.
Walls were built to surround homes and cities. The walls are crumbling now and serve only as grave markers for the occasional tourists to briefly explore the past. These markers of the past are also in the midst of many alive and growing cities. Some are even used as an outdoor movie theater.
High on a hill overlooking the Bay of Kotor and, within the city limits of Herceg Novi, is a fortress constructed by the Spanish in 1538 when they briefly occupied the country. The Spanish hoped to secure their hold on this land with the edifice. Its massive gun emplacements, its thick walls and its strategic location were considered impenetrable. But, alas, it lasted only a year and was overtaken by the Turks who lived here for another 150 years. It too is a graveyard a testimony of the dead dreams of just another force attempting to control the land and the people.
In modern times, graveyards of the past continue to be venerated. In the town of Njegusi, birthplace of Peter II, reminders of recent world conflicts are displayed for all to see. In some places where people are buried, it would seem that their dead political ideology is more important than individual names.
Other markers of the past are seen in the mountain cities of Podgorica and Niksic where drab Russian style apartment buildings line the streets. Also in Niksic is a graveyard of past government failures in the form of a huge building that was intended to house government offices but was never completed. Today it is vacant and dead.
In the old capitol of Cetinje, embassies of several countries line both sides of a street but they have been closed for many years; long ago the diplomatic personnel moved to the new capitol city of Podgorica. Some of these buildings are now used for apartments and businesses. Their original glory is dead.
The monuments to the lives of people abound throughout the land. There is a home that once heard the cry of a newborn baby while close by are the last resting places of the childs parents, grandparents and others. In these graveyards, there are many stories of families who were born here, who grew up here, who fought for their country here, and who died here.
Perhaps the saddest graveyard of all in this country is that of the churches. Religion was important to these people. In the name of religion, many fought for this land. Like graveyards, monasteries and churches abound throughout the country. Some are easy to get to. Others, however, are isolated monuments such as the Ostrog Monastery located high on a mountainside. The road is blocked by snow for much of the year that leads to the massive mausoleum on top of Mount Lovćen. This monument was built for church-state leader Peter II. The church bells ring with their clear tone and can be heard for great distances. Yet, few people attend the worship services. For the most part, religion is dead in this land.
Like the crumbling artifacts of the past, religion has little influence on daily lives. It is tradition and history that establishes ones position as a true believer whether Orthodox, Catholic or Muslim. Most consider that good works is a key to heaven. They recognize a real God but they do not recognize a personal God.
Pray that people will see the joy and hope that walking with Jesus brings in the lives of believers. Pray that many would shed their indifference to the Gospel message and desire to become one of Gods children and experience a personal relationship with Jesus. Pray for new life a life that is eternal and will not crumble and fade away.
Cetinje TSET-een-yah (usually pronounced SET-een-yah)
Herceg Novi HAIR-seeg NO-vee
Kotor KO-tor (long O sound)
Lovćen LAHV-chen (e as in egg)
Montenegro MAHN-teh- nay-gro
Njegusi (NYA-goosh-ee)(long A sound)
Ostrog OH-strog (long O sound)
Podgorica POD-gore-eet-sa (long O sound)
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