Open Doors began 60 years ago when a young Dutch chap called Brother Andrew, began smuggling Christian literature into the communist Soviet Union. Today, we’re doing the same, smuggling Bibles and other Christian books into places where Christians face the most severe persecution.
One volunteer from the UK, Holly*, recently returned after smuggling Christian books into North Africa with a friend. “I love the idea of all the trips they did behind the Iron Curtain and it just made me want to see what that looked like today,” she says. “We had about 30-40 books that we smuggled in our suitcases.”
In the country that Holly was visiting, it is illegal to print Christian literature, but as the church there grows there is an increasing need for Bibles and other books. “There are church leaders who only have a few pages of scripture that they own,” says Holly. “The church is growing so rapidly and people are just coming to know Jesus so quickly, they need to get Bibles in as quickly as they can and as many as they can. And not just Bibles, but also training materials for pastors and church leaders.”
Holly felt nervous as her suitcases went through security at the airport after her arrival in North Africa. “When we saw some of the suitcases going through, all the suitcases were being checked, all of them, except ours! Maybe God did what he did with Brother Andrew and ‘blinded their eyes’ to it. It was amazing that we were the only ones who didn’t get searched.”
Holly got her suitcases full of books back safely – but then she realised she had another problem. “We’d given our picture to the team who were organising the trip, but we had no idea who we were meeting! Then these two men came forward and just said ‘Come this way please’. This could have ended disastrously – they could have been anyone. But when we got in the car they said, ‘We are your brothers in Christ’.”
Holly gave the books to the Open Doors partners who met her at the airport. If Holly had been found with the books, they would have simply been confiscated, but the punishments for local people are more serious. “They could be put in prison for at least 2-3 years,” says Holly.
‘We can keep the Bibles on the back seat of the car, they’ll just never see them’
However, the partners Holly met with have experienced God’s protection. “They were telling us that when they take the materials backs to their churches, they have to go through 20 checkpoints, and at every single checkpoint they could be searched. The whole car can be searched; they might look inside the boot, under the bonnet, even cut open the spare tire if there’s one in the back and look inside it to see if there’s anything illegal in there.
“But it was amazing because [the Open Doors partners] said, ‘We can keep the Bibles on the back seat of the car, they’ll just never see them’.”
Holly asked how this was possible. “They said it was because, in 2003, they started a 24/7 prayer meeting. It was meant to only last for a week, but then they decided to just not stop! And so since 2003 there’s never been a single moment when there hasn’t been someone praying in that church, every second is covered in prayer. That’s when they started seeing lots of people coming to know Jesus, and they were able to bring in so many more Bibles and training materials.”
Until relatively recently, there were very few indigenous Christians in this country. Almost all indigenous Christians there are secret believers from Muslim backgrounds. “One of the Christians that we met was one of the oldest believers there, he’s been a Christian for about 28 years,” Holly says. “It was just amazing to hear the stories of how the church had grown and what God had been doing, it was such an honour to hear from these men.
“I was told about one man who became a Christian and was kicked out of his family home; he was the first Christian in the family, and so he was completely exiled from the town. Then he was invited back, and it seemed like it was for reconciliation. He sat down and he had tea with his father, and then he was sent away again.
“But then he was invited back a couple of weeks later, and his father sat him down and said, ‘That day when you came to see us I’d put poison in your tea. You were meant to just die instantly, but I can see now that your God protected you from that, and so this whole family will follow your God.’ It’s an amazing story, it’s amazing what God’s doing, and it’s not even a unique story; as these guys were telling us this story they were saying, ‘We’re not even surprised any more, this is what happens, it’s what God does’.”
They’re not afraid to pray the big prayers and they’re not surprised when imams and terrorists come to know Jesus…
When asked what had struck her most about the trip, Holly said it was attitude of the believers to prayer and faith. “When they pray they expect God to move and that’s really challenged me; they pray in faith and they know the powerful God that they’re praying to. They’re not afraid to pray the big prayers and they’re not surprised when imams and terrorists come to know Jesus because they see that in the Bible. They just think, ‘Why wouldn’t that happen? That’s who our God is, that’s what he does’. I think that’s challenged me, their genuine conviction and confidence in the power of the gospel.”
Holly also brought back some prayer requests from this part of North Africa. “We were asked to tell our church back home to pray for the children and young people. There’s a lot of pressure from schools to follow Islam, and those who are trying to teach their children about Jesus find that it’s totally undermined. They’re really praying for their children and their young people.
“They’re also praying that God would continue to open the way for literature to come in.
“The revival that they’ve seen has mostly been among the Berber people, and some of the tribal people, but they want to see more of the ethnically Arabic people come to know Jesus.”
*Name changed for security reasons
We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.