There are Christians who daily smuggle Bibles and Christian based learning material into restricted countries of the world. These countries spread across the centre of the globe like a silently killing cancer.
Some 45 countries are listed as either 'Restricted Nation' or 'Hostile Area'; the meanings of these terms are as follows.
Restricted Nation: includes countries where government policy or practice prevents Christians from obtaining Bibles or other Christian literature. Also included are government sanctioned circumstances where Christians are harassed, imprisoned, tortured, killed or deprived of possessions or liberties because of their faith in Christ.
Hostile Area: includes large areas in nations where governments consistently attempt to provide protection for the Christian population. However, Christians and their property are still victims of violence, due to their witness.
Restricted Nations; Afghanistan, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bhutan, Brunei, China, Comoros, Cuba, Egypt, Eritrea, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Laos, Libya, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Morocco, Myanmar (Burma), Nepal, Nigeria, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Tibet, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Yemen.
Hostile Countries; Colombia, India, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka.
Bible Runners blend in with tourists, coming from towns large or small. Mostly having only the common language of love for communication, are drawn to help persecuted brothers or sisters.
I spoke to a gentleman from Tauranga, a middle-aged man, who worked for a daily living like most. Describing the various teams, he said “They don't stand out; they could be your neighbour, an old lady, or a child just in their teens, many can't afford the trip, but God can and money comes in somehow. I guess that's faith. They see God working from the start. The risk is whatever may happen to them if caught. In getting this material to the underground churches that plead for it.”
Over a period of 9 months between 2006 and 2007, one organization took in 90 tons of material; another took 70 tons. The friendly rivalry was both enjoyable and encouraging. They just can't take enough material in to satisfy the needs of the people or churches. Often twenty or more people study from a single Bible.
This isn't some unplanned happening. Contact in restricted countries is tenuous most of the time, but word filters out.
From this point the drop is planned. A team is moulded together. Planning by leaders often continues right up until the day they fly out, and even then there is a possibility of changes on route. Prayer and fasting is the natural way of things. He laughs and says “when you realise it's your neck on the line if things go bad.” Having a code and a phone number for their contact secreted away on the leaders; they meet with a few underground Christians but not for long.
“You wonder 'what on earth are you doing' but there is no turning back, the muffled drone of the aircraft underlines this as it takes you towards the unknown. Talk is guarded; it's true as the war saying goes 'loose lips sink ships.' Cover words replace normal Christian words, and we become bumbling tourists.
Most times we land at a neighbouring country where we enjoy some freedom; maybe getting visas or entry permits, and down packing clothes so Christian material can fill our suit cases.”
There may be eight in a team but any number working, the leader taking a few others to pick up the material; often from different locations being taxied back. Days pass as they run the border; most border patrols now having scanners showing ALL that is packed. The threat of terrorists being responsible for this added problem… But God is still in control and work goes on. Each member of the team does two or more crossings a day. Some borders are struck as a once only crossing; the team having all material with them and have no other option but to trust solely in God's protection.
Many times they also take tract-bombing material for use after they've made their deliveries.
This material is distributed in the dead of night; dropped on doorsteps of some residential area a good distance from the hotel. They go out in pairs mostly keeping to the shadows, working silently.
Suitcases are packed in lots for delivery, with tiny marks identifying which bag gets delivered where. The suitcases are given away with the books, reducing the risk to those involved.
Travelling the country may be just over the border, or it could be the length of the land. If a border town and taxis are used, they must be sure not to let the taxi driver lift the heavy bags and so alert him to think about what they are doing. Great care is taken to avoid the possibility of others mentioning it to an official.
On longer trips, most train stations have scanners and so do many bus stations. On buses or trains, suitcases have to be put out of sight or mixed with local traveller's luggage. They must never ever fall open. They will be locked; being always vigilant against theft.
Delivery to the contact is done as soon as possible on arrival. The team will split up into singles or small groups having prearranged plans to follow. However problems can and do arise, the team often adlibbing it as they panic and pray.
They may do one large drop or a few smaller drops in different towns; but after the last drop there is huge relief felt and an even larger celebration meal.
Any snippets of information from contacts are passed around and planning for tract bombing starts; usually in the next town.
In the Hotel they rest till late, then, they split into pairs. Some will stay and pray for those going out. Dark clothing is worn with a local hat. Their pockets are stuffed full of tracts as they head out to find a residential area normally half an hour from the hotel. Having no map covering where they will go, the route must be memorised. When a spot is found, they go from house to house, or doorstep to doorstep, twisting this way and that, as threat dictates. Tracts are placed where they'll be found in the morning. Watching for dogs and people, they duck under light streaming from the odd window. But it's the ever-present police or soldiers who are to be feared; many times warned by the glow of a cigarette in the black of night.
When pockets are empty they head back. No one speaks English so it would be pointless asking for directions. Doing so would make it obvious who left literature; the good news in a foreign land about a foreign God. As they drift back into the hotel, there is a sort of debriefing, a prayer, and then bed. The team will be ready for an early exit before the previous night's activities are reported to local authorities.
Becoming safe tourists again, they relax a little, ready to return home. Their work is done.
It is small risk compared to Christians whose home this is, who if caught, suffer prison, torture, beatings, loss of their homes or families and often loss of their life.
Figures show 150,000 to 200,000 Christians are killed standing for Christ annually in these countries; that's about 400 to 550 people every day.
A lone voice calls out in despair, but do we hear it above our I-Pods, and Boom boxes.