A thanksgiving sacrifice and feast
Caucasus | OM InternationalAfter a year struggling with cancer treatments, Andy* was given the “all clear” to return from his home country with his family to Azerbaijan, where they serve.
“Our local Muslim friends had said prayers and even gone to shrines on our behalf,” said Andy, who knew they thought they might never see him again. “What an amazing opportunity to tell them of God’s love, protection and peace, which reigned in our hearts even at the worst moments.”
Throughout the recovery, God had encouraged Andy and his family through Psalm 116. In accordance with the reference to a thank offering in verse 17, upon returning to Azerbaijan, Andy wanted to organise a sacrifice of thanksgiving and celebration for 30 of their friends and neighbours.
“This is a common practice in Azeri culture,” said Andy. “But we knew parts of the ritual would be unacceptable to us as Christians. Could we redeem them? That was the challenge!”
Andy had lengthy discussions with Azeri believers to make sure they could manage the event in a God-honouring way. The believers were very excited about it, and eight of them gave their support to Andy and his family. The problem, Andy said, was the actual sacrifice itself.
Andy’s Muslim friend Kamal suggested that the sheep be slaughtered in Andy’s yard, and blood smeared on the forehead of each family member for their added protection. Andy gently told him that Jesus had shed His blood long ago, and it was enough to cover every possible sin, illness or problem. “God would not be happy with me if I shed blood in my yard,” Andy told Kamal.
Kamal responded graciously and suggested what many people do anyway: have the sheep slaughtered and cleaned where they purchase it. Andy was delighted with this option, as was his wife and kids.
The day before the celebration feast, Andy and Kamal went out to buy a sheep. “I was worried about the potential strange prayers and incantations that someone would do at the slaughtering site,” said Andy. “I told Kamal that I wanted to pray over the sacrifice and only give glory and thanks to God, nothing more.”
They arrived at a street corner in the city where about 10 sheep were being held. They chose one, and within a flash the man had lifted the sheep out of the pen and had laid it over the cutting hole with a knife to its throat.
“But I need to say a prayer!” Andy said hastily. “Get on with it, then,” the man replied and proceeded to cut the sheep’s throat.
The amount of blood overwhelmed Andy, and he struggled to get out the prayer in the complex Azeri. Kamal was happy, and the two were ushered off to drink tea around the corner while the seller skinned and cleaned the carcass.
“My heart was still thumping,” remembered Andy. “I had been powerfully reminded of the cost of the forgiveness of sins.”
The following evening, Andy’s home was full of friends and neighbours. They gave each person a copy of Psalm 116 with a personal note to thank them for their prayers. They cooked dozens of kebabs over the fire and a huge pot of Azeri Osh, a rice dish with meat. The women sat together inside and the men sat on the lawn outside.
Andy asked a friend to read Psalm 116 to the men and then he shared about his struggle with cancer. Andy’s wife shared with the women, and one of the believing ladies gave a testimony.
Many of the guests agreed that the Bible is a wonderful book and expressed an interest in reading it.
“The follow up opportunities are great,” said Andy.
Please pray that Andy and his family will have open opportunities to share about Christ’s sacrifice. Praise God that Andy is healed from cancer. Pray that he stays healthy and that his family can share God’s love with more in Azerbaijan.