The same cry, loud and clear, remains consistent: “We need more Bibles!”
In recent years, India has experienced ever-increasing attacks on it’s Christian minority particularly from Hindu extremists.
To make the situation worse, these acts of violence seem to be actively encouraged by India’s local and national governments. Representing only a little over 2% of India’s population, the odds against Christians seem daunting and overwhelming.
And yet, the desire for the Word of God pushes forward. Despite the dangers, God’s people hunger to have a Bible. They seek the peace and reassurance of His Word, a constant reminder that He will never forsake them! Some believers have never owned a Bible and can’t afford to purchase one.
In one remote village, a church of 12 families were sharing the pastor’s Bible, passing it along to a new family every two days.
As part of Voice of the Martyrs critical mission, we actively seek to fulfil this demand for Bibles. In Southern India, there is a strong network of active and passionate evangelists who have a strong network of pastors available to distribute Bibles to people living in districts where Bibles aren’t available.
There is also a great need to replace Bibles for those pastors and Christians whose own Bibles have been taken or destroyed by radical Hindu activists. Such was their joy when they received their new Bible as some had been fasting and praying for a Bible for two or three years.
The dangers and risks for these pastors is very real. They are truly walking the path of faith. Despite this, they rejoice in successfully fulfilling God’s work in bringing His Word into the hearts of persecuted Christians. They also pray for God to use His Word to bring light into the hearts of those who persecute Christians.
“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Romans 15:4
The persecution of Christians in India has risen over the past year, pushing it up in the list of countries where the practice of the Christian faith is a high-risk activity. Hindu fanatics attempt to forcibly convert people to the dominant faith of their nation, often turning to violence when community discrimination and non-violent oppression fail to impose their religious beliefs on the minority Christians.
The fear is real, the dangers and threat to life ever present. These are the realities facing Voice of the Martyrs Australia’s field workers daily.
Vijay is one of the courageous Voice of the Martyrs field workers. Earlier this year, he was tasked with the distribution of Bibles Plus packs in the Kandhamal district of Odisha, India. In recent years, Kandhamal has been a serious hotspot, where violence against Christians is occurring with frightening regularity.
Because of this volatile situation, Vijay made the decision to change the usual distribution plan. This was not only for his own and his team’s safety, but also because the believers coming to receive their Bibles Plus packs would be taking enormous risks of being attacked.
To avoid staying in one location for too long and attracting the Hindu fanatics, Vijay and his team of organisers, church leaders and evangelists decided to split the Bibles Plus pack distribution for the persecuted Christians into six different but smaller locations. This would enable them to move quickly and hopefully minimise the attention around his activity.
“At each distribution point, we had to work quickly as we anticipated Hindu fanatic groups following us to create chaos and unrest. Once we were set up, we offered a quick prayer, thanking God for His blessings and protection, then very quickly distributed the Bibles Plus packs to the eagerly awaiting believers” said Vijay.
After a relatively trouble-free distribution with the first five locations, the sixth location was different. Despite all efforts to move as quickly as possible, our activity attracted the attention of some very aggressive Hindu fanatics. “I could see their anger rising as the noise grew, I knew an attack from them would be imminent” Vijay recalls. “Before it escalated any further, I managed to call the police, and praise God, they came very quickly and protected us.”
Even so, the police advised Vijay to work quickly as the angry crowd grew larger. Despite this knife-edge tension, he managed to distribute the Bibles Plus packs to the grateful believers.
At all the locations, the persecuted believers were very happy and grateful to receive their Bibles Plus packs. Many were ready and willing to share their joy, even wanting Vijay to take photographs of them holding their new Bible with pride. Most wanted to linger in each location for the opportunity to fellowship with other believers. However with an ever present danger and the apprehension of being attacked by the Hindu fanatics, they had to disperse quickly.
Though fully aware of the life-threatening risks, Vijay is ever-ready and willing to do God’s work and is humbled for the opportunity. “Once again, I do want to thank the Voice of the Martyrs Australia for this awesome help. The relief materials were great, but it is the Bibles which most of the believers first grabbed in their hands while picking up their Bibles Plus pack” Vijay said.
“If you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps.” 1 Peter 2:20-21
People need the Gospel, don’t they? More than anything else. We need to share the Good News with the lost and encourage believers with God’s Word.
But what about when physical needs are more urgent; when a person needs help to survive before they’re in a position to hear the Gospel? We can’t ignore physical needs to focus on giving them Bibles.
Helping meet the humanitarian needs of people can create great opportunities to witness about Jesus to people. Of course, we have to be careful we don’t get so busy helping with practical things that we lose sight of our intention to tell people about Jesus.
On top of that, we want to make disciples of Jesus, not just converts. That means taking time to teach and lead believers to maturity in Christ.
How do we balance all these things?
And what projects should I support? Evangelism ones? Discipleship ones? Ones that meet people’s more visible needs?
We want people to know God’s love, but real love is seen in action.
This is why I love Bibles Plus.
Bibles Plus means Bibles. It’s giving families and individuals their own copy of God’s Word so they can not only hear the Gospel but study and grow in the Scriptures, and also be able to share it with others themselves.
And it comes with a Plus. Food to help feed families in poverty. Blankets to keep them warm, or mosquito nets, or mats to sleep on. These are simple things that make a huge difference in people’s lives when their needs are really urgent.
But that’s not all. Bibles Plus isn’t just a gift of food and a Bible handed out at random to people in a foreign country. It’s carefully planned, sourced and distributed by local church leaders in each country to ensure the Bibles Plus packs are given where they’re really needed. The recipients are cared for by VOM workers and church leaders; they’re discipled and cared for by Christians who live right where they are.
Now that’s a holistic project.
If you’d like to support Bibles Plus, click here to find out more, or click here to donate.
How many Bibles do you own? As I write this I’m counting how many Bibles I have sitting in various locations at home.
Without looking hard I know I have multiple copies of the CSV Children’s Bible, the NLT, NIV 1984 and 2011 versions and ESV Bibles. I could safely say I have 10 Bibles sitting at home, most of them doing just that: sitting there.
Owning a Bible a Luxury
It is a blessing to own so many Bibles, but not every Christian enjoys such luxuries.
I remember my first trip to a restricted nation was in 2013 to Nigeria. There I met many persecuted Christians who have lost so much; loved ones, homes, wellbeing etc. To this day I still remember the joy on their faces when we gave them a pack. The pack was given to pastors and contained resources for their ministry. What stood out to me was their smiles when they saw the Bibles in the packs. There were many other items in each pack such as a radio, a torch and even a DVD player. These items were received with thanks, but the Bible was received with joy. In Nigeria it is relatively easy to obtain a Bible, but for many it is a luxury that they can’t afford.
Bibles Difficult to Obtain
In other countries, simply owning a Bible can lead to persecution. In Vietnam, many Christians are in prison purely because of their Christian activities. Despite the risk, there is a cry for Bibles.
Persecution in Vietnam is often targeted towards the Hmong people group who live in the north. For this minority group, it is not possible to go and buy a Bible from a shop. Our workers go to incredible lengths to get Bibles into the hands of these people.
How to help
Help us get more Bibles into the hands of persecuted believers by sponsoring a Bibles Plus pack today!
For $25 you can provide a believer with a Bible plus items such as food, clothing, mosquito nets and blankets.
Help promote Bibles Plus!
We would like to celebrate the joy our brothers and sisters have when they hold their first Bible.
Take a photo of your favourite place to read the Bible. Post it on Social Media using #BiblesPlus and tag vomaustralia in your post.
Feel free to express the joy you have in reading the Scriptures in your Bible.
In 2016 it is our vision to see many young people demonstrate their willingness to raise awareness and support for our persecuted brothers and sisters.
On 3 June 2016 it’s Sacrifice24:
A day to make a statement that you are Bound With Them as you support the persecuted church. It is a day when you sacrifice something for 24 hours. It could be your phone, food, furniture, Facebook, anything!
Get your friends and family to support you. The money you raise will go to showing love, encouragement and support to persecuted Christians.
Here are some of the projects that your fundraising could support:
Sending Bibles into North Korea via hydrogen balloons
1 x Hydrogen tank $20
20 x North Korean New Testaments $35
1 x Hydrogen balloon with 20 New Testaments $110
1 x GPS tracker $340
Sponsor a Bible college student in a restricted nation
1 Term worth of sponsorship for a Bible college student $130
6 Months sponsorship for a Bible college student $260
1 Full year of Bible college student sponsorship $520