“Would you consider printing Bibles in Iran?” Ahmed considered the question carefully.
It had only been two years since he had turned his back on the emptiness of Islam and placed his faith in Jesus Christ. The Islamic government in Iran had made many promises but delivered only hopelessness and hate.
Within a year of coming to know Christ, Ahmed had begun sharing the Gospel and planting churches, activities that he knew could land him in prison.
Although printing Bibles carried an even greater risk, Ahmed agreed to do it.
After receiving the funds necessary to purchase the printing equipment, he began his first assignment of printing 100 New Testaments each week. Ahmed distributed the Bibles wherever they were requested throughout his country, knowing that God’s Word was the light Iranians so desperately needed.
Ahmed was arrested two years into his printing efforts, leaving the 14 churches he had planted without a shepherd.
He had only been a Christian a few days before beginning the Bible distributions that led to his arrest. Now, shackled and chained, Palani sat in a prison cell where the heat sometimes exceeded 35 degrees. However, for Palani, going to prison was worth it.
Being introduced to Jesus had transformed his life. Palani had once wandered the streets of his village, caring for little more than his next drink, but when his brother, a pastor in Laos, invited him for a visit and shared the Gospel with him, his life changed for ever. After placing his faith in Christ, Palani stopped drinking and began telling others what Jesus had done for him. He also started praying for the sick in Jesus’ name. “I was astonished to see many people healed after I prayed for them,” he said.
When Palani returned to his village, he met with a local pastor and asked him how he could serve in the church. “Can you get Bibles from your brother?” the pastor asked. Palani did obtain the Bibles and immediately began giving them to fellow villagers. “This [Bible distribution and praying for the sick] was all new to me,” he said, “so I was excited.”
A village leader, unhappy about Palani’s new Christian faith and work, confronted him and told him he could no longer talk about God or distribute Bibles. “You’re a fraud and a drunkard,” he scolded, adding that Palani shouldn’t be persuading people to follow “a foreign religion”.
Palani would not stop talking about the Good News, however, and three days later the police arrested him at his home. In prison, police beat him and demanded to know where he got the Bibles. During the third interrogation, they offered to release him if he would deny his faith and tell them where all the Bibles were.
He refused and was beaten more severely. Palani saw three people die from starvation and poor medical care in the overcrowded prison. “Our legs would cross each other while sleeping at night,” he said. After two months in prison, he was released. Now Palani’s prayer is to get more Bible training and to be used by God to advance His kingdom – even though he knows it could lead to another arrest.
The evangelist stood on a crowded city street in India with his load of New Testaments. The smell of exhaust fumes, raw sewage and spices filled the air. One by one, Swami handed out the small New Testaments, praying that those who received them would come to know the Saviour revealed on their pages.
Swami’s efforts came to an abrupt halt, however, when members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) approached and began to question him. The RSS is a volunteer Hindu nationalist organisation associated with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the political party of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Soon the questioning turned into a physical attack, as the RSS members hit Swami repeatedly on the head and back. They then dragged him to the police station, where they filed a report against him. He was held for questioning until that evening when police allowed him to return home. After arriving at his home, Swami fell unconscious and was rushed to hospital, where he went into a coma. A few days later, he suffered a stroke that affected one side of his body.
WHATEVER IT TAKES
For Ahmed, Palani and Swami, the Bible is worth prison and beatings. While many countries still ban the Bible, requiring us to smuggle God’s Word in a variety of ways and a variety of formats, other countries, such as India, Nigeria and China, allow in-country printing. Still, in-country printing does not come close to meeting the growing need.
Voice of the Martyrs is committed to supplying Bibles to believers in desperate need. Bibles are necessary for personal devotion, to strengthen believers and help them withstand persecution, for evangelism and church growth and to guard against heresy.