Considering that I am conservative, firmly believe in law and order, and even work for a law enforcement agency, this one story about smugglers is really one to brag about. In the end, you may consider the whole story as ironic, especially considering the countries involved.
Back in 1961 (yet, 50 years ago this year), a church of Christ congregation in Texas undertook a new mission. You see, in August of that year, the East German government began to build the Berlin Wall, as most will know was more to keep East Germans in that keeping West Germans out. Anyway, the Texas church decided to do something about that barrier.
From 1961 to 1989 (nearly 30 years), various people worked at smuggling Bibles into East Germany and Russia. While I don’t know the particulars of how they actually got those early Bibles into the Communist bloc, I would imagine that the participants of those operations weren’t able to sneak in very many at a time.
The Communist bloc merely tolerated the Russian Orthodox religion as the government was atheistic, so the introduction of yet more religion may very well have been met with strong resistance. Yet, those brave souls continued their work of providing the Word to some in the Eastern European area. This was referred to by those associated with it as their “smuggling ministry.”
A few years ago, our church was issued a challenge by a man who has become a very welcome friend in our congregation. He first brought us the story that since 1989, with the fall of the Berlin Wall and more free interchange of people and goods, what is known as the Eastern European Mission was now able to openly ship Bibles into those regions.
At the time that they came to us, Ben Mereness of Amarillo, Texas helped explain that the EEM was conducting a “Million Dollar Sunday” where numerous church congregations could donate towards their mission to print and distribute Bibles to Russia and the Ukraine. I don’t recall exactly, but I think that the year we first participated was their second “Million Dollar Sunday.”
What really inspired us was that the EEM was shipping those Bibles to public schools in those countries. Entire regions, made up of numerous school districts, were clamoring for the Bibles to be used in their education programs. With such demand, EEM was reaching out to additional congregations for help. And HELP they got. That year and again this year, the Million Dollar Sunday netted more than a million; this year over $1.5 Million.
EEM’s efforts continue to pay off. This last year, more school district officials are requesting Bibles and other materials for their educational programs. Plus, there were requests this year from schools in the Crimea, some of those in areas where there is a higher percentage of Muslim presence
Ben was our guest minister today and he brought us some updates, including the reference to the area of the Crimea with the Muslim presence. He told us about a district (or region) that had requested Bibles and other materials but wanted them in a really short period of time, due to the scheduled start of their school year. They were told that the materials were available but transportation needed to be found. The school district (or region) said that they would come get them in their school busses and even provide for the drivers. Ben was able to show us pictures of these busses with boxes of Bibles filling the seats and the center aisles.
416 churches participated this year from 38 states in the U.S. and the Bibles provided will go to areas in the Ukraine, including the Crimea. And more keep being requested, not only by the schools, but also from individuals. See this e-mail message that EEM received and is posted on their website:
“15 Years After – The Lasting Impact of the Children Bible
A couple of months ago, our Dallas office received the following email:
I know English so so!! I have your children Bible, which I get in a hospital 15 years ago in Chernigov (Ukraine), now I am 25 years. This Bible very wonderful for me. Now I serve children in Oster city (Ukraine). I want more children Bibles for serve children. How can I do it? Sorry for my English.
The email was forwarded to our European office to follow up on the request and supply the needed literature. Messages as this one are a strong source of encouragement to our staff as they help us to see the broad impact of our ministry.
We don’t always know how our materials are used but it is always a blessing to know that they have a lasting impact on people!”
If you should be interested, you can check out EEM’s website at:
First of all, it is wonderful to see the spreading of God’s word to areas of the world where it was lacking for such a long period of time. And, it is ironic that they are sent from churches in a country where the Bible can’t be taught in public schools to schools in a former Communist bloc to be used for teaching in public schools. I should also mention that Bibles for the adults of those countries are also provided.
The Bibles are provided free of charge to these schools. All the proceeds of Million Dollar Sunday events and other donations are used to print and ship the Bibles. While I am quick to brag on the Eastern European Mission, I’d also like to point out that our congregation of roughly 300 people (men, women and children) have contributed roughly $15,000 in our first “Million Dollar Sunday” event and this year we contributed over $18,000.
Even if all the above weren’t enough, EEM also helps to establish churches in that part of the world.
We are blessed and are proud to help others be blessed.
An image of one of those children’s Bibles: