When I was in Africa, at the naive age of 18, human sacrifice was a practice among the tribes. Once when driving to a neighboring village I noticed a band of women, marked by their profession with clay and paint that lined their faces and bodies. Between the older girls, likely only in their early teens, was a child of likely six or seven. A beautiful girl with skin that shone brightly against her white coverings. A few men trailed behind and chanted, their tattered dungarees faded and pulling against their thin bodies. I pressed my face to the glass window of the old Toyota that was bumping along and asked why the girls were painted so beautifully.
I was told that they were priestesses. That this was likely part of a ceremony that was purifying the child. For what, I asked. For her to give the ultimate price, I was told: her life.
I was dumbstruck and outraged. I wanted to stop the car, get out and storm the crowd, swooping the child into my arms and carrying her to safety. But the car sped on.
Why? I asked. Why were they doing this?
The answer came from the heart of a seasoned missionary who hated what she saw, but knew that there are cultural dictates she can only change little by little. One day at a time. They were appeasing the gods, she told me. Praying for rain and good crops and a healthy village. What they understood were gods who are not merciful. Gods who are not kind and loving and generous. But gods who demand blood.
At this time we became more vigilant of our girls and our women where I lived. Curfews were set and strictly followed. And soon the bodies started appearing. A peace corps woman went missing. A young girl was found. And yet the world kept turning and life kept happening and all went on around the rest of the world who was silent to the deaths of these girls. The ultimate sacrifice.
That child has haunted me for fifteen years. There is a lingering hope in my mind that her fate was not as we had anticipated. But I will never know.
I told my daughter that story yesterday. I told her that in most cultures and societies, the practiced religion requires a sacrificial offering of some kind. In the old testament it was the best of your best: crops and livestock. In other cultures the death price is much higher. But that we are so blessed, so lucky that Christ came and became that sacrifice for us. That his blood ran so that none other needed to be shed. He gave all so that we could have all.
Last night as I climbed into bed, weary from the day I pulled out my bible and my eyes followed these words of Hebrew. Jesus is exalted above the angels. He is the first born of the most high God. He sustains all by his word alone. The ultimate sacrifice has been paid. How blessed we are.