How Do You Smuggle Bibles....and Why?
There is truly no greater gift we can give to people than the gift of God's Word in their own language. As we treasure God's Word in our own lives, we naturally want to share it with the world around us! For many the hope of owning their own Bible seems impossible.
In China, Believers often share one copy of the Bible. Each person receives a page, and when they have memorized it, they get back together to exchange their portion of the Bible. In most Muslim countries Christians risk death for sharing copies of God's Word. It is only the truth of God's Word that penetrates the darkness and hopelessness of fear and oppression that reign in these countries.
We believe it is imperative we share this message of hope and love with the world! In countries where Bibles are illegal, this means "smuggling" them into the Christians! We do so with short-term missions teams who volunteer to go over with a team leader. We then carry the Bibles through customs.
It is amazing to see how God literally opens doors to provide safe passage for His Word. It is seldom the same thing twice, but we continually witness miracle after miracle as teams go through with Bibles. Once, a team arrived and customs agents were really going through everything. It was apparent it would take a miracle to get through with the precious cargo. Shortly after arriving the electricity went out and none of the x-ray machines worked. The agents began inspecting everything by hand. Shortly after that, four large tour buses arrived and people started packing the customs office. Agents began to simply wave people through to deal with the confusion. As the team left the building and got to the street, the power came back on!
In another instance, a Japanese man was in front of the team and he spoke no Chinese. The Customs Agent did not know any Japanese. As a result he was having a difficult time understanding what the agent wanted him to do. Instead of putting his bag through the x-ray machine he thought they wanted him to go through the x-ray machine. It created such a distraction with all of the agents laughing and talking amongst themselves that the team was able to simply walk through.
Another time, a team was detained and questioned extensively for over 3 and a half hours. They were asked very personal questions and questions were repeated over and over. They said they would pray quietly as the agents would confer with each other before returning for more interrogation. When they were finished, the baggage inspection people had left and the team was able to pick up their bags and walk out! The luggage was never even looked at.
What is consistent is God's faithfulness. Teams consistently report how they can literally feel the prayer coverage as they cross borders. They consistently report how they sense God's leading, guidance and protection. It is truly His work, and we are always encouraged to see how He prepares a way when there seems to be no way!
I am surprised at the controversy that sometimes surrounds Bible smuggling. I believe we have a responsibility, yes even a command to take the Gospel to the whole world. How can we do that without the authority of the Scriptures? Surely a disciple must grow in knowledge of Jesus and that is only done through the Word. I can't imagine looking into the eyes of the Pastor's who are desperate for God's Word, many who have spent more than 20 years in prison for their faith, and telling them, I'm sorry I can't bring you Bibles, it is illegal. They are willing to lay down their lives for the Word of God. They do so on a regular basis. My risk is minimal, but theirs is great. Where God's law and man's law conflict, I will follow God's law.
Jesus himself was often commanded to stop preaching. The disciples were often jailed for their preaching, which was illegal at the time. They chose to follow God's laws. Peter left the jail when it was miraculously opened for him. Should he have stayed because that was lawful? Moses' mother defied the law to save her baby, and Mary and Joseph fled with Jesus rather than turn him over which was the "law".
Our own copy of the Bible today we have because of Bible smuggling. William Tyndale smuggled pages out in bales of cotton, translating them into the first English language Bibles translated from the Hebrew and Greek. He received much opposition from the Church who did not think "laity" should own the Bible. One clergyman once taunted him with the statement, "We are better to be without God's laws than the Pope's." He replied, "I defy the Pope and all his laws. If God spare my life ere many years, I will cause the boy that drives the plow to know more of the scriptures than you!"
His work of translating the scriptures so that you and I may now read them freely was all done "illegally". During the period of time it took him to learn Hebrew and translate the entire Bible, he did so in hiding. God kept him concealed, and to this day no one is certain where the translation work actually took place. When he was finished, he was arrested, imprisoned, tried and convicted. He was strangled and then burnt at the stake in the prison yard, Oct. 6, 1536. His last words were, "Lord, open the king of England's eyes." This prayer was answered three years later when King Henry VIII published the English "Great Bible" in 1539.
It often takes our stepping out in obedience and faith to truly achieve the things God has planned for us. It means being willing to submit and surrender completely to Him. To submit to every authority in our lives, as the Word asks, and to submit to God when God's law and man's law contradict, remaining obedient to Him alone.