Bible Smuggling Isn’t New
The idea of secretly transporting Bibles from the free world into the hands of believers living in closed countries is not a new one. For as long as the Bible has been printed or transcribed in any form governments and social groups have sought to block the spread of God’s Word. 477 years ago William Tyndale was strangled and burned at the stake in Belgium for his efforts to distribute the Bible in the English language.
Today the Bible remains very difficult, if not impossible, for millions around the world to obtain. China is no exception. With more than 1.3 billion citizens and an estimated 130 – 140 million Christians the market for Bibles in China is tremendous. Many argue that China prints more than enough Bibles for its own people, but what few understand is that the distribution of those Bibles is highly controlled by the Communist Party. In fact it’s believed that the majority of Bibles printed in China are actually exported around the world for profit rather than sold to the Chinese themselves.
Why we Must Continue Bible Smuggling into China
For the past several decades the fact that Christianity is growing in China at a tremendous pace has been well known. On a recent trip to the country ICC was told by one long-time observer of the house church movement that as many as 20,000 new believers join the church body every day. With this tremendous growth comes tremendous need and our partners constantly report not being able to fill all of the requests for new Bibles. Just recently we heard from one pastor who was able to give all of the children in his congregation their very own Bible. These children had never owned a personal copy of the Word of God and were excited to receive one.
Christian kids in Anhui province receive their very own Bible for the first time thanks to Bible smugglers sponsored by ICC
First-Hand Account of Bible Smuggling
The following is a short first-hand account written by an individual who recently assisted ICC in smuggling a shipment of Bibles into China. Every day smugglers like this individual voluntarily move God’s Word across the border at the risk of having the Bibles confiscated and possibly their visa into China revoked. Confiscated Bibles are usually returned when leaving the country.
This morning five people crossed the border into China. Four of us filled up backpacks with small Chinese Bibles, and one carried a load of flattened cardboard boxes. We spent several minutes praying together, and then took the metro towards the Chinese border.
When I first started this work, I worried a lot about what to do or say while going through customs. But, I’ve rarely said anything at all, so it has rarely been an issue. What matters most is keeping a good attitude, and listening to the Holy Spirit. I’ve had Bibles confiscated nine different times, and eight of those times were actually very positive experiences. The one bad experience I had was when I had a bad attitude, and got irritated at the officer who took the Bibles.
The guy carrying the cardboard boxes had no trouble going through the customs checkpoint. When my large backpack was scanned, I just picked it up and kept walking. But the other three guys were stopped at the scanner.
The morning is not a good time for Bible smuggling into China. Fewer people are crossing the border, security is tighter, and everybody’s luggage gets scanned. Practically speaking, late afternoon is the best time to go. But, nobody is more practical than the Holy Spirit. So, among other things we pray for, we always ask God for guidance about when to go, what bags to use, how many Bibles to pack, etc. And if we love God and listen to Him, then even if all we have is confiscated, it can only be for our good and God’s glory (Romans 8:28).
So, one guy was stopped, and then another shortly behind him. Their passports were taken, and they had to lay out their bags on a giant metal desk. The female officer asked how many Bibles were in their bags—one had about 25, the other 20. She was getting ready to confiscate them, but said something to her colleague. He seemed to think it was no big deal, and told her to let them go. Finally, after some hesitation, she gave them back their passports, and let them go. When the next guy who was Bible smuggling came along several minutes later he was let through as well. Thanks be to God!
When we arrived at our drop-off location, we quickly packed our boxes for a shipment. Then we had to work quickly in order to avoid suspicion, as we filled up a van with 60 boxes (2,520 Bibles) that we had brought across the border during the past few days. The van driver then took the Bibles to a private shipping center, and we headed back across the border.
Bible smuggling is often unpredictable and messy, but filled with grace and miracles. Please pray for us!