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Heaven's Family Magazine
May 2012 Issue

The Happy Smuggler

The Bibles for Believers Fund at Work in Myanmar

Patti Samuels, Strategic Bibles Ministry

bibles-warehouse

“Maung” in front of stacks of Chinese Bibles, ready to be smuggled into China

Awakened by panicked shouts outside his prison cell, Maung peered through the bars of his cell window to see torches of fire reaching high into the nighttime sky. The entire prison compound was ablaze. Thinking of his family members far away, Maung began to pray for deliverance. “Lord, I’m here for obeying you and bringing Bibles into China! Save me!”

That was more than 20 years ago. Today, I was following the same man down a walkway to a padlocked door. He opened it, and we walked inside a windowless warehouse. As my eyes adjusted, I realized I was surrounded by stacks of thousands of Bibles in many languages, all destined for hungry hearts in China and Burma. I felt as if I was on holy ground. I sat down to ask Maung his story.

“In 1988,” Maung said, “the Lord told me to take the Word of God to China. I thought it would be impossible.” Soon, however, the Lord began bringing key contacts across his path, beginning with some Bible printers in New Delhi, India. They offered to provide Maung with Chinese Bibles, and he readily accepted their offer. Getting those Bibles from New Delhi to the Burmese border, however, was the easy part. Transporting them across the river that divides the two nations was where the challenges—and the smuggling operations—began. Maung continued:

My friend and I would wrap the boxes of Bibles in plastic, and when night fell we would make about twenty trips wading across the river holding the boxes on our heads above the water. Whenever the river was high, we would put the boxes on small rafts and swim across the river, pulling the raft with the rope between our teeth.

Once inside Burma, 60 Christians from the Mizo tribe would meet us, and we all would walk for four days across mountains and valleys with the Bibles on our backs. From there, we would load the Bibles onto an old bus, and two of us would ride for three days to the China border. Once there we would wait until our Chinese contacts were able to meet us to smuggle the Bibles across the border where they would be distributed to the underground church.

bibles-montage

The Bible smuggling journey: crossing the border river, on foot along the mountain trails, and at Maung’s warehouse

I asked Maung if he was ever caught, and he quietly continued his story:

In the 1990s I was arrested, charged with “transportation of Bibles” and sentenced to two years in prison. I only served 12 months though because of a miracle. There was a fire in the prison. All the prison houses burned to the ground, except for mine, plus the house where they had stored my Bibles. The prison official saw my standing house and told me, “Your God has released you!” And then he let me go…with my Bibles!

I was wiping tears by the time we got to this part of the interview, and I wanted to know what he did after his miraculous release. With a big smile on his face, Maung simply said, “I just started transporting Bibles like I had before…”

THE BIGGER PICTURE:

The Chinese government does allow some Bibles to be printed in China, but demand far outstrips supply, and purchasers must sometimes register their purchase with the government. For this reason, many believers are hesitant to purchase such Bibles. Maung still regularly smuggles Bibles into China, but today he uses workers who are not known to watching authorities. Because of gifts to the Bibles for Believers Fund, Heaven’s Family supports five such workers. We’ve also provided Bibles for believers in the nations of Vietnam, Burma, Malawi, Iran, Kenya, Cuba, and Moldova.

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