After a long flight, four VOM workers stepped off their plane and approached Chinese customs with a total of 300 Bibles in their luggage. Several years had passed since Mao’s brutal Cultural Revolution had ended in 1976, and the communist country had cautiously opened its borders to international tourism. Although Bibles were still illegal, the Christian workers knew the need far outweighed the risk of smuggling them into China.
Three of the workers passed through customs without incident, but authorities stopped one of them and, after searching his bags, confiscated 100 Bibles. They scolded him for attempting to bring contraband into China but allowed him to continue his trip.
After arriving at their hotel, the group faced another unexpected challenge: the Chinese believer who was to receive the Bibles didn’t show up. The Bible smugglers knew it would look suspicious if they remained at the hotel waiting for their contact, but they also knew someone needed to stay in their room to prevent hotel staff from discovering the Bibles.
Finally, the four decided to split up, with two staying at the hotel while the other two visited tourist sites. On the last day of their stay in the city, one of the workers remembered that his daughter had asked him to buy Chinese postage stamps for her collection. While searching for a post office, he and another worker stepped into a small shop to ask directions. To their surprise, the man not only gave them directions but also closed his shop and accompanied them.
Afterward, the shopkeeper walked the two men back to their hotel, continuing their conversation. As the shopkeeper prepared to leave, one of the workers felt the need to say something meaningful to their new friend. “Have you ever heard of the name Jesus?” he asked him. The man paused and turned around. “Jesus? Yes!” the man replied eagerly. “Are you Christians?”
The shopkeeper’s eyes welled with tears as the Christian workers confirmed his hopes.
“I am a Christian,” he continued. “Until now, I never knew there were any Christians outside of China.”
After the shopkeeper shared his testimony, the workers asked if he knew of a secret house church in the city.
“The church meets in a room at the rear of my little shop,” he replied. “Tonight, when it is dark, I will take you there.”
That evening, the workers gave their remaining 200 Bibles to the house church members, who wept with joy as they accepted what they considered to be miraculous gifts.
The next day, as the workers prepared to fly to another city from the same airport where 100 of their Bibles had been confiscated, a security official pulled one of them aside.
“This belongs to you,” he said, pointing to a bag of Bibles. “Take it with you.”
Surprised, the worker quickly retrieved the bag of Bibles. While the security official probably didn’t know it, the four smugglers weren’t yet leaving the country. Hours later, the group met with their contact, a Christian woman who had spent several years in prison for her Christian witness. After her release from prison, she had immediately begun organising Bible studies for women. Her biggest challenge, she said, was getting Bibles for these new believers.
After hearing the woman speak of the need for Bibles, the VOM workers joyfully presented her with the 100 Bibles the customs official had ‘held’ for them. “When we look back, we can see how God’s hand was in this,” one of the VOM workers later said. “If the Bibles had not been confiscated at the time the group arrived in China, they would surely have taken them with them to the inland and would have given them away. God knew the needs and arranged for the communist authorities to store the Bibles until this meeting could be arranged and the Bibles passed on to this lady who was in such need of them.”
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