In 1991, the political and societal bonds of communism had only recently been broken. Many of the students didn't own a Bible. Some owned only partial fragments of a Bible. Oftentimes, youth groups would gather together and share the different Bible pieces -- perhaps trying to complete one of the Apostle Paul's New Testament letters. On our first trip to the camp, we were blessed to bring 100 Romanian Bibles and 100 English Bibles, the latter a gift from a very generous Baptist ministry in Birmingham, Alabama.
On the first night of the camp, we opened the boxes and passed out the Bibles. Each student received one Bible. I was not prepared for what I witnessed over the next twenty minutes. Some of the students wanted to give their Bibles back, saying that they were unworthy to carry them. Others started reading their favorite verses aloud. Some wept. But all were so grateful and in awe. It was a moment that I will never forget. It was a moment when God's presence was felt in more than just cliches. It was a moment of sincere reverence. The students knew that God had graced them with His Word. They were genuinely touched by His grace. And His grace showed up in five cardboard boxes full of paperback Bibles.
Interestingly, I had kept the same boxes in my office for about ten weeks prior to the missions trip. I had moved them multiple times, sometimes expressing negative sentiments each time they were in my way. I remained frustrated by those boxes. I dreaded having to travel 6,000 miles with them. Taking them from the airport in Budapest, Hungary to the hostel, storing them for two days, putting them on a bus, then a train, and finally hauling them up the mountain in several small Romanian cars was an annoyingly painful experience for me. When we unpacked them from our tents and brought them to the meeting circle, I was beaming with joy, not only from the blessing of giving them away, but because I would no longer be burdened with their care! The weight was no longer ours to carry. What a relief! Then God, in His loving and wonderful way, remained me, once again, of how much of an idiot I had been!
I had been given the privilege of carrying 200 Bibles over 6,000 miles to people who were starving for the truth of the Word of God. I had seen it as a burden. But, watching all of those beautiful students rejoice and weep made me so much more aware of the magnitude of the treasure we carried. I felt ashamed of how I had dishonored and disrespected God's Holy Word. I felt ashamed of how little I had valued what it means to those who do not have it. I felt ashamed of how little I had valued their Bibles and my Bible. Had I ever wept for the joy of reading the Bible? Had I ever laughed from pleasure at the joy of being able to read the Bible? Did I really understand how powerful, meaningful and personal God's Word can be for me?
As a pastor, I had taught many times that the Bible was God's personal letter to us all. But, seeing the faces of those students taught me that I didn't accept God's Word in a personal way. It is only by His "marvelous, infinite, matchless grace" that He chose to reveal Himself to us through His precious Word.
Working with East European Harvest is a great pleasure for me because I can picture the faces of the Romanian, Russian or Chinese men and women reading their Bible for the very first time. Each box shipped out of this mission is a treasure box of truth, filled with the message of grace, hope and help. Psalm 119 teaches us that we should love the Word of God more than food, sleep or money. I wonder how much you treasure and value your copy of the Holy Bible? I hope you will consider helping EEH expand our outreach and share the Word more effectively and more frequently. Let's work together to send this treasure of grace around the globe.