What would it be like to live in a village that was nearly impossible to drive to? When visitors manage to travel to this type of village, people come pouring out of their homes to see what all the commotion is about.
Not long ago, I visited a place like this in Nepal. As we drove out of the city one morning, and made our way through some small towns, we finally met a brother on the corner of a small road. Of course, I was still in a bit of a jet lag fog since Nepal’s time-zone is 11 hours and forty-five minutes ahead of where I live. I didn’t quite understand why we were getting out of our vehicle already. Then, it became clear. We were leaving our car and crawling into his four wheel drive vehicle so that we could drive up that road? Really? I guess you could call that a road…it looked more like a path to me. But he skillfully drove to the top of a steep incline, sliding through the mud along the way.
After we exited his vehicle and walked down a muddy path, we took our shoes off and ducked into a room that was filled with excitement. It was a church, and there were at least 80 people squeezed in. They knew we were coming, and many of them left early that morning to walk to this meeting. They were there to receive Bibles — and they were ready!
After listening to them sing, and sharing a brief word of encouragement with them, we began opening boxes. People sat patiently as we hand-delivered stacks of Bibles to various parts of the room, where they were evenly distributed. Smiles were all around as these dear sisters and brothers clung to their new Bibles. Many of them had experienced persecution and marginalization for years without being able to find encouragement from their own copy of the Bible.
These types of distributions happen in many of the 64 countries that VOM worked in last year. Our goal is a “Bible for Every Believer.” What is remarkable about this goal is that many of the believers we serve are in the most hostile and restricted places on earth. Places where is it possible to be killed just for possessing contraband — like a Bible.
In spite of these restrictions and risks, these bold believers continue to stand for Christ and to attempt to live at peace with their neighbors. It reminded me of Paul’s admonition to the Church at Rome, a Church that understood what it meant to be marginalized: “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:18-21).
That morning, we also distributed Children’s Bible story books. I was so pleased to see the young girl in this picture sharing her story book with a neighbor. As soon as our meeting was over, she ran out the door where her Hindu neighbor boy was waiting. We smiled at him and then she asked him if he wanted to see her new book. Of course he did! He couldn’t wait to check it out! He began to excitedly flip through the pages, and I have a feeling that he’ll get a chance to read the entire book before long.
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone…
Dr. Jason Peters serves in VOM’s International Ministries department, traveling frequently to meet with our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world. He has ministered in 35 countries, as diverse as Cuba, India, Nepal, Saudi Arabia, Burma, Sri Lanka, Colombia, Kyrgyzstan, Bangladesh, Thailand, Indonesia and Nigeria. Before joining VOM’s team, Jason was a faculty member of the US Air Force Chaplain Corps College, where he directed Crisis and Trauma training. Jason, his wife, Kimberly, and their five children are actively engaged in standing with their persecuted sisters and brothers.