Way of Life
Azerbaijan is an oil rich country, producing 790,000 barrels/day, but the common people do not share that wealth. Life can be very difficult in the rural regions where unemployment is rampant. In some areas, people are happy if they earn $2.00/day. They survive off the land. In the capital it is difficult enough with a normal wage of $250/month. Cost of living is $300/month. It is common for both spouses to work, leaving children with grandparents. With a six-day work week, and time consuming commutes, weeks are long. People are tired, especially women who carry all domestic responsibilities. Fathers are often absent, as male friendships tend to take priority. Across the nation discontent is rising.
Population: 26.8 Million across Azerbaijan and NW Iran
Location: Azerbaijan and Iran
Religion: 80% Shiite Islam, 10% Sunni Islam
Professing Christian:<0.2% and <0.15% Evangelical
Beliefs & Culture
Though it is believed the Apostle Bartholomew preached in Azerbaijan and Christianity was adopted as the official religion in the 4th Century, there is little evidence of that lavish history today. Almost 90% of Azerbaijanis claim to be Muslims and proselytization is illegal. Zoroastrianism, which was widespread for less time than Christianity, has a much greater social influence today with the biggest holiday of the year being Novruz—the spring equinox. Fire also has a significant role in their culture evidenced by occasional visits to fire temples, fire jumping, and the prevalence of paisley—the shape of the flame—in all manner of decorating.
Azerbaijanis first appear to be cold, distrusting people—a remnant of their Soviet past—but once an acquaintance is made this harsh exterior yields to a very hospitable heart. Guests are treated with great honour, being greeted with warm handshakes and kisses. The women promptly serve tea with sweets and then join lively conversations until it is time to serve the meal: vegetable and lamb kebabs, walnut paste stuffed chicken, minced lamb stuffed eggplant, tomatoes and peppers, rice pilaf, plenty of fresh herbs, and bread. Lots and lots of fresh bread. Without bread it simply is not a meal. Unused portions of bread are given to the poor, fed to farm animals or carefully laid on a window sill for the birds to find. Bread is viewed as the source of life and is never thrown away.
The Work So Far
The Alliance placed its first team in Baku in 2004. Since then, thanks to God, the Azerbaijan church has doubled in size. But the church is still fledgling (only 0.2% of Azerbaijani are believers) and the team has dwindled (only 2 workers remain). These international workers (IWs) are a bi-vocational couple with work being the primary sphere of influence. It is lonely living in a city of four million, working all week never encountering another believer, yet it is exhilarating when the boss says, “I think Jesus loves me more than Allah because He sent you to me.”
Through the work of our IWs, a young couple came to faith in Jesus more than a decade ago. Since then, God has given boldness to this couple who now have their own “spiritual children.” Currently, this believing local couple is residing overseas leaving a "hole" in Azerbaijan.
God has given boldness to their spiritual children...
How to Pray for the Azeri
Praise the Lord! The church in Azerbaijan is growing. Where God works, Satan opposes; pray for a spirit of unity to defeat a spirit of superiority between different groups of believers. Pray that believers would be completely satisfied in Jesus, and content to remain in their homeland. Pray for boldness to share Jesus as they face persecution.
Pray that many Azerbaijani would be drawn to Jesus and know Him as the true Bread of Life, never being hungry again (John 6:35).
Pray against discouragement among foreign workers and for a spirit of perseverance in the face of many frustrations. Pray for more workers to live long term among the Azerbaijani.