Operation Mobilization works closely with the local church, and we decided as a team to organize a retreat for Pastors of the Azerbaijani Evangelical Churches. In our meetings with these pastors, we realized that there were dividing conflict in the church and many pastors and leaders were just worn out and tired due to the sustained pressure on them and evangelical believers from the government and majority Muslim population. The retreat was planned for October 2013 in ski-resort hotel outside Tbilisi in Georgia where we secured a good price.

After living with our two South African teammates for two months, we were able to move into a furnished apartment. We were invited to house-sit for an American lady for two months whilst she visited her family in America. It was a beautiful apartment, and we enjoyed our stay. Towards the summer of 2013 another American family invited us to stay in their house for the summer. This was good arrangements for us, because we paid reduced rent and got to know various parts of the city.

Our neighbours were a Finnish couple working with the Azerbaijani Evangelical Church. They had a beautiful golden retriever. One night we got a call from the lady next door. Her husband was out, and the dog would not stop barking. Upon closer investigation she saw a large snake disappearing into the basement room below the house. She was scared and asked if I, being from Africa, know how to kill a snake. She called all the Azeri neighbours, but they all declined to assist. I was on my own.

I walked around and on arrival she showed me the basement room. It was getting dark fast, and I had a torch with me. The room had two doors, but both were reduced in height to half the normal size. The one door was in the wall in front of me and the other one was in the side wall a few steps away. There was no light in the room. I saw a spade lying on the grass and realized it will be a good weapon to use. The lady of the house and the dog went into the home, and I slowly pushed the door in front of me open. Before I could see anything, the torch light died. I put the torch down and poked with the spade in the dark. I could hear a shuffle and a hissing sound. I was certain that there was indeed a snake and suddenly my forehead broke out in sweat. I had no chance against an angry snake in the dark.

I stood back to think about my options when the Finnish pastor arrived. His wife had already briefed him, and he joined me with another spade in hand.  He moved to the door on the side wall, and we decided that I will try to force the snake to the side wall and when it tries to exit from the door in the side wall, he will trap the snake with his spade.  I continued to poke with my spade in the dark. For a few moments it was silent. My nerves where shot. Then the hissing sound increased again. I could not see anything, but the pastor saw a movement against the back wall close to the door in the side wall. He encouraged me to continue poking in that direction. It was not a warm night, but my clothes were no soaking wet with sweat. The next moment I heard his spade against the brick wall. He shouted “It is here! It is out! I ran around and saw the snake halfway through the gap between the door and the floor. He had the snake trapped under his spade and was holding the squirming snake firmly down. I was able to hit the head of the snake with my snake and suddenly it was all over!

We made sure that the snake was dead and the next morning we learnt that it was a poisonous Anatolian Viper! All the Azeri neighbours came to observe the snake, and the pastor and I became instant neighbourhood heroes.

The rest of the summer went passed without further similar incidents. We were able to invite the Operation Mobilization team in Azerbaijan for several informal meetings at this house. We had South African style barbecues and ice breakers to get to know one another better. We also finalised the plans for the retreat for the Pastors of the Azerbaijani Evangelical Churches, planned for October in the Republic of Georgia. I was also floating the idea of moving the Operation Mobilization Field Leader office to Tbilisi in the Republic of Georgia. The discussions were lively and although there was not great resistance, we were not yet ready to take that decision.