BIBLES FOR A REMOTE PEOPLE GROUP
This was NOT a simple trip of just going across a Border with Bibles! This was a major trip to take Bibles from just across the border of the restricted country to a remote area where people did not have any access to them, even though they were desperately wanting them!
We had made many trips across this border, carrying a few at a time and then temporarily storing them in a safe place. But now the need was to take them deeper into the country where there were many people who were waiting for them.
There were six of us and not even our leader had ever led a group to do this before! How we did this successfully will forever be a mystery to me, except for knowing that God was leading us! We had fourteen suitcases of Bibles, plus our personal bags for our own things - and this was before roller bags existed! At that time, the method was putting the bags on "trolleys"! The women were pulling about 180 pounds each and the men pulled about 250 pounds each! Crazy!
After we retrieved the bags from the safe place where they had been stored, we loaded them into a van, and travelled to another city, where we unloaded them from the van. We then put them back on the trolleys and moved quickly across the parking lot of the train station and into an eating place where we stood and ate a good meal. Why did we need to eat then? Because we were going to be on the train a long time!
Next, we pulled the bags through the "baby room". This was where families with small children could wait and be able to board the train more easily. We did this so that we could hopefully avoid the scanner and the scales. If the bags had been opened to see what was in them, it would have been the end of the journey before it even began! All of the Bibles would have been taken and probably trashed. Our journey would have ended before it really got started!
Five of us boarded the train with just our personal carry-ons and then quickly opened the window of our compartment, while one of the men stayed outside to pass the heavy bags through the window as fast as possible. One of the reasons for doing this was because it was easier than pulling them down the narrow corridor of the train, and secondly so that our big heavy bags would be unobserved by the train personnel at the door of the train car.
This was also a quicker way to get ten bags under the seats and four bags up on the rack in the corridor before all of that space was taken! We were so thankful for assigned bunks/seats on the train. Our personal bags went on our bunks. Whew! What a job! Prayer had paved the way, for sure, to make us able to accomplish this so smoothly and quickly!
It was my first time on a train in Asia, so let me describe it to you. There were six bunks in each compartment, with three high on both sides facing each other. Every bunk had a comforter and a pillow. We had each brought our own pillowcase to put on the pillow, as it might not have been changed since the previous traveler. There was a very small table connected to the wall of every compartment for a place to put any food or drinks on it. Also, there was a thermos of very hot boiled water in each compartment, which was kept refilled by the train hostesses. We carried our own tea bags or hot chocolate, etc.
Oh, and there was no door nor even a curtain to separate the compartments from the hallway. This meant that people could sit in the hallway and watch us, which they often did out of curiosity about foreigners. Actually, I came to enjoy the openness on future trips as a good natural opportunity to relate with the people. A lot of them were just curious and wanting to try talking with Western people to practice their English.
The bathroom, no—the restroom, although it was definitely not restful! Oops, still the wrong word! The W.C. (water closet) was very difficult, at least for first time travelers from the West, like we were! It was a squat toilet, meaning it was basically a hole in the floor where all that passed through it went directly onto the train tracks. That was why the W.C.s were locked every time that we passed through towns. There was a bar on the wall to hang onto to keep your balance while squatting!
We slept very well that night, as the rocking of the train helped to put us to sleep, plus we were tired from pulling our very heavy bags! When we arrived at our delivery city the next day, the whole process was reversed. All of us but one of the men got off of the train with our personal bags, then he passed the big heavy ones to the rest of us out through the window.
We were praying as we left the train station to be able to escape the weighing machine again, and then thanking God all the way for answering ours and our sending teams' prayers that paved the way.
The next challenge was to get taxis to the hotel where we would be staying that night. Two people stayed in the lobby of the hotel with all of our personal bags, while the other four of us had to pull between 210-280 pounds each down a rough street, then an alley, then a darker alley and into a back entrance of an apartment building.
Why did we have to go that back-alley way? Because there was a guard in the frontentrance of the apartment building who would question who we were, who we were going to visit, and what were we bringing in those big heavy bags!
When we reached the apartment door, it was so worth it when we saw the eighty three-year-old "Grandma", and several younger ones there smiling so big and with tears of joy running down their cheeks to be able to receive God's Word! The Bibles were quickly unpacked and stacked in a closet which was then locked. From there, they would be carefully given out one at a time to the Believers who were longing to be able to have their First Bible!
After a quick, but meaningful visit with them, we made it back to where the rest of our team was waiting in the hotel lobby with our personal bags. We got checked in, and then went to get some quick street food to eat. We were so happy to have safely delivered His Word to those who were waiting for it! Then we were able to have a good night’s sleep on real beds in the hotel, before continuing our time in that city.
After a good seven hours of sleep, and then eating brunch in the hotel breakfast room, we ventured out into the city. It was definitely a new and very interesting experience! The streets were packed with pedestrians, bicycles, motorbikes, buses and taxis. The traffic lights were a joke, because as many went through on red lights as on green lights! We noticed a policeman yelling at one guy and he just yelled back and kept going through the red light.
It was a bit unnerving when I got my wallet out to buy some postcards on the street. Immediately a big crowd surrounded me, looking in my wallet. They were just curious, but they kept their hands to themselves. A lot of new experiences on my first trip to the Interior of the country!
Another experience was feeling sick off and on during these trips. I did my best to ignore these attacks, and eventually they stopped. For example, that first day in theinterior, as soon as I got up, I felt nauseated and had diarrhea for about an hour. Then suddenly I felt a lot better – who prayed?! Also, the first few years of these trips, I would get congested. Then that stopped too.
After taking the train back to where we had started, we continued crossing the border daily with Bibles. But then, when we were at church on Sunday, we were invited to go later to a meeting for drug addicts. What could we do when we didn’t speak the language?
The leader, Jackie, said for each of us to just sit with one person and ask if we could pray for them. They usually said yes, so we would pray very quietly for them for about a half hour. The meeting went on from there.
This is a very successful ministry, led by Jackie Pullinger. You can find the book talking about the early years; it is definitely worth reading. Chasing The Dragon, by Jackie Pullinger.
One last thing happened on this trip that led to more future trips. We met and spent some time with a couple around 60 years old. This led to some future trips to the foster home where they lived way in the Interior of the restricted country. But that is another story.
READ more stories by Neal and Yvonne Pirolo!