Two wrongs don’t make a right – taking Bibles to Communist countries
The boy in this story has a difficult decision to make. Listen and think what you would do.
They watched the football sailing through the air, directly on line for the Deputy Head’s window. They knew what was going to happen. And there was nothing they could do to stop it.
They stood, all six of them, dead still. For they knew what was going to happen now too. And there was nothing they could do to stop that either.
Here he came now. Talk about angry. No-one got angry like Mr Short, the Deputy Head.
“Right!” he bellowed. “Who kicked it? I want to know now. Now!”
His words seemed to echo round the playground. But none of the six lads said anything. Mr Short glared at them one by one. He stopped Jonathan Hill.
“You, boy! You’re going red in the face. I bet it’s you.”
Steve, another one of the six, felt for Jonathan. He was a good mate. But Mr Short was right. It had been Jonathan who’d kicked that ball. Of course, it was an accident, pure fluke.
But Jonathan didn’t say a word. He just went redder and redder.
“If it’s you,” snarled Mr Short, “I’m banning you from the school football team for the rest of the term.”
What? Steve silently groaned in dismay. But Jonathan was the best striker!
Suddenly Mr Short turned on Steve. “You – Steven Thorpe – you’re an honest lad, I know that. Tell me the truth. Did Jonathan Hill kick that ball through my window?”
Steve felt his mouth go dry. What could he say? If he said yes, that would let down his mate, and the team – they’d probably never win a match without Jonathan – so it would let down the school too. Yet saying no would be a lie.
“Well? Yes or no?”
What would you answer? Can you see that saying no could lead to complications like the others being accused? Anyway Steve doesn’t want to lie. But is “yes” the best answer?
(You could discuss this or pass on to the main story.)
It’s hard to be completely honest when it might get us in trouble, perhaps even harder when it could hurt other people too. Here’s the true story of a man who made a tough decision – and stuck to it. He’s from Holland, his name is Andrew and he’s known as Brother Andrew. His surname’s a secret. I’ll tell you why later.
Andrew loved to travel, especially to the mysterious countries behind the Iron Curtain. This was the name given to the border that separated Western Europe from the Eastern European Communist Countries like Poland and Czechoslovakia.
In the fifties you couldn’t easily get permission to visit these countries unless you were in a group with a guide, but Andrew was able to get away from the group to meet local Christians. He was sad to see what a hard life they had. You see, the Communist governments taught, “There is no God” and they didn’t like people who disagreed.
So it could be hard for Christians to get good jobs, their churches were being closed down, and Bibles were very scarce.
As a Christian himself, Andrew wanted to help. “What do you need?” he asked.
“Above all,” they answered, “we need Bibles.”
Andrew could understand this as he loved the Bible himself. It gave him comfort and help, so he could imagine what God’s words of love could mean to people who were suffering for their faith. But how could he get the Bibles over the border?
He managed to get a permit – called a visa – to travel by himself to Yugoslavia, another Iron Curtain country. And some old friends gave him a car, a bright blue Volkswagen, which he filled with Bibles and Bible booklets.
Andrew knew that he would be stopped at the border, knew the car could be searched. If the Bibles or booklets were found, that would be that – they would be taken away. But what if he were simply asked, “Are you carrying Bibles?” He decided then he would not lie. Jesus had called himself the Truth. So how could Andrew lie if he was following Jesus?
It was a long drive from Holland to the Yugoslav border. On the way he remembered how Jesus had made blind people see. Now Andrew wanted him to do the opposite. He prayed hard that the guards would not be able to see what he was taking to the Christians.
There was the border now. Two guards. They seemed friendly – at the moment. They looked at his passport and then inside the car.
“Let me see inside this suitcase,” one said.
Andrew knew the suitcase was full of the forbidden booklets. But he had no choice. He opened it. The guard rummaged through. There they were, in the guard’s own language, in full view.
But – what was happening? The guard was turning away from the suitcase, was handing Andrew back his passport, was waving him through. He’d made it. It was just as if the guard hadn’t seen the booklets.
But – wasn’t that just what he’d prayed?
And didn’t those Yugoslav Christians welcome Andrew’s gifts!
Visas came for Andrew to visit other Communist countries. As he approached each border he prayed that same prayer and God answered. The guards just couldn’t seem to see the Bibles and Bible booklets.
All was going smoothly – until he went to cross the border into Romania, a strong Communist country. His car was full of you know what. As he came near the border he knew something was wrong. The cars waiting in front of him were, one by one, being minutely examined, the guards virtually taking each car to pieces, then putting it back together, searching every piece of luggage. He’d never seen anything like it.
It wasn’t just a glance in, a quick rummage. This was totally different.
As he waited in line he prayed, how he prayed. And suddenly he felt it right not to hide the Bibles better but to get some out and put them openly on the seat beside him.
After hours of waiting it was Andrew’s turn. He handed the guard his passport through the window, waited to be told to get out of the car. The Bibles were quite visible.
Then – it wasn’t possible – the guard handed the passport back, waved him on. Could it be happening? Was he through – just like that?
Yes, he was. Incredible. Especially when he looked back and saw them getting to work on the car behind. Everyone else – searched. But him – straight through.
Andrew realised that nothing was impossible for God.
Eventually Andrew became so well known to Communist officials that he could no longer go on such journeys. So he formed a team and trained them to go instead. That team has grown into an organisation called Open Doors.
The Iron Curtain is no more, but there are still many countries where Christians find life hard, countries like China and Cuba, so Andrew goes there now. He knows that in some places he would not be welcome – that’s why he keeps his surname a secret.
He always asks Christians what they need. They might ask for food, or clothing – one time a man asked for shoes, so Andrew gave him his own and travelled home in his socks – but usually it’s Bibles that are needed.
And God goes on helping, sometimes in strange ways. Once two young women from Open Doors were asked directly at a border, “Do you have Bibles with you?”
What could they say? The car was jam-packed with them.
Suddenly their mouths were filled with laughter. “Yes!” they roared. “The car’s full of Bibles!”
And the guard, thinking they were laughing at such a silly question, waved them through.
Time of Reflection
A lie, whether it is to help us or other people, can lead to big trouble. A writer called Sir Walter Scott put it this way: “O what a tangled web we weave, when first we practise to deceive.” Are you honest, trustworthy? Or are you spinning tangled webs that will one day trap you?
Just take a moment to think about this.
God is firm about lies. The Bible gives a command:
“Never say anything that isn’t true. Have nothing to do with lies.” (Proverbs 4:24)
And it gives a promise:
“The Lord protects honest people.” (Proverbs 10:29)
Help us, Lord Jesus, to value friendship as well as truth like Steve in the first story, but help us to see, as Andrew saw, that a lie for any reason is wrong. Amen
Variations on a Theme
Much of this assembly can be acted out by pupils. THE PROBLEM sketch needs an invisible football and a crash sound effect. The main story offers three sketch possibilities – the three border crossings. Chairs and a big grey blanket make a good car (though driving away would, I agree, be hard).
More details of these incidents are in Brother Andrew’s books, God’s Smuggler (Hodder and Stoughton) – Yugoslavia, chapter 10; Romania, chapter 15; and The Calling (Summit) – laughing, chapter 2.
“Open Doors” can be reached at PO Box 6, Witney, Oxon. OX8 7BR.
- Why did Andrew want to get away from his tour group in Communist countries?
- Tell me two difficulties Christians had in those countries.
- What did they need most of all.
- How did Andrew get his Volkswagen?
- Why would he not lie at the border?
- What did he pray before every border crossing?
- Why was it so astounding that he crossed so easily into Romania?
- One man asked not for Bibles but for – what?
- What is Brother Andrew’s organisation called?
- Why did the guard let the young women pass after they’d admitted having Bibles with them?