China (MNN) — How do you give out Bibles when you have none to give?
Bible distribution has always been a challenge in China. The country used to be closed to any Christian activity.
More recently, ministries have been able to be active in China, within certain restrictions. The problem then was that Bibles were not easily accessible for some areas of China. To get to rural locations, for instance, distributors had to have clearances from local authorities.
Barry Werner of Bibles for China says now the problem is availability.
If you know anything about Amity Press in Nanjing, China, this may shock you. Amity Press is the largest Bible printing press in the world. So why aren’t Bibles available?
Werner says, “From January to May 13th of this year, to the best of my knowledge, they did not print any Bibles in Chinese. They printed for all the other countries around the world, all the other languages.”
Werner explains that this decision most likely rooted from the extreme numbers of Bibles printed in recent years because of the demand for them.
Every five years or so, Werner says, communist officials evaluate all the different areas of society. He guesses that they viewed the numbers of Chinese Bibles printed as an inordinate amount.
Werner said, “I think the Chinese government–it got their attention. And anytime that outside influences are influencing a segment of society in China, they look at that and then they put some more restrictive policies into place that control that.”
As a result, the government is putting restrictions, for the time being, on the amount of Bibles each church can have. Each church is allowed 1000 Bibles per month.
“It used to be that any church that could afford it could get basically an unlimited supply,” Werner says.
Bibles for China usually distributes 15,000-20,000 Bibles per team that goes to China. For the May trip with Bibles for China, their partners had to search hard to find enough Bibles to distribute to the churches.
The ministry is already working hard to prepare for the July trip they are taking. God has been gracious in providing them with the Bibles they need for this trip.
“We’re just asking God for wisdom,” Werner says. “We have to function, trusting God, that He will have every possible scenario covered if He really wants Bibles in rural China.”
Bibles for China is waiting to see if any immediate changes will take place after the government evaluates the effect of their new policies.
“But for the short-term, we’re going to proceed as we always have, with our teams and with the volume of Bibles we put out. But, long-term, again, it’s a matter of prayer. If the door’s open but there’s no supply, one is just as tough as the other,” Werner says.
While the new policy has created a new challenge for Bibles For China, they expect to see a closeness form between members of the church.
“The believers have to work together: it’s the Word of God. These Chinese believers are not frivolous Christians. The Word of God is very precious to them. And when one person has the Word of God, they’re not at all selfish: they share that. It’s a unique bond.”
They have seen families in the past give up one of their two Bibles to another family or individual without one.
“It’s so precious. They’ve waited 20 years to get a Bible,” Werner says. “That’s the uniqueness of Christianity: when the love for one another is so great that you’ll give up the things that are most precious to you that you’ve waited years for. And that is a unique bond. I think American Christians would have a little bit of difficulty understanding what that’s like.”
There is a way that you can help get Bibles into China, and that is through your prayers. As Bibles for China looks ahead, not knowing how these new policies will affect their ministry long-term, they know that God will be in control of it all.
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