In addition to the challenges that come with COVID-19, our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world continue to suffer persecution, sometimes very severe, for following Jesus. Each year Open Doors USA releases their World Watch List Report, which lists the 50 places around the world where it costs the most to be a Christian. They say,
Around the world, more than 340 million Christians live in places where they experience high levels of persecution, just for following Jesus. That’s 1 in 8 believers, worldwide.
In this excerpt from my novel Safely Home, business executive Ben Fielding, who is staying with his friend and former college roommate Li Quan in China, makes a surprising discovery. May this story remind us how precious God’s Word is to believers in places where it is costly and difficult to have a Bible:
“Who is there?” came the voice from the inside.
“No—I’m with the Chinese joint chiefs of staff.”
Quan opened the door.
“What’s going on?” Ben asked.
“We have visitors.”
Ben walked in and saw what looked like two families of three. A man, woman, and teenage boy were on Quan’s bed. Another man, woman, and teenage girl were on Ben’s bed. Ming sat at the desk and Shen on the floor at her feet. All had two open books in front of them, and ballpoint pens in their hands.
“What are you doing?”
“Making copies of Shengjing. Those printed Bibles will soon be picked up by the donkey and passed on to others. But while they are here we can use them, can’t we? Shen and I are copying from my mother’s Bible.”
With a proud smile Shen held up his grandmother’s Bible to Ben. Then he picked up his own handwritten copy, handing it to Ben for inspection.
“Shen is a good scribe,” Ben said.
“Father checks my work,” he said, beaming.
“As we copy,” Quan said, “the words of Yesu are written on our hearts.”
Is this legal? Ben wondered. He remembered all the reassurances of religious freedom he’d been given over the years. But seeing these people huddled like this, it was obvious they were convinced it was illegal. But he didn’t want to hear the words. If something hit the fan, he wanted to maintain deniability with Martin and the Getz board.
Ben was about to go for a walk, anything to get him away from this, when he looked closely at Quan’s mother’s Bible. “It’s beautiful. The characters are so small but clear.”
“Mother copied it carefully. She would borrow a Bible whenever she could. She’d work for hours by candlelight, praying the words aloud as she copied. I wish I would have listened more closely. Often she would rest her head on Shengjing. Sometimes she would giggle with delight. It was a labor of love. Months, even a year, went by when she had no Bible to copy. It took her eight years to finish her whole Bible. Six months before she died, Mother finished copying Shengjing’s final book. A leather worker in church bound it for her.”
“And you kept it all these years?”
“No. She had loaned it to another woman who was copying it at the time. After I returned from Harvard, they heard I had become a Christian. The church gave it to me.”
Ben flipped through the pages. “It’s been out in the rain.”
“No. Always it was carefully covered. Mother bundled it up before going outside. We do the same.”
“But the words are smeared in many places,” Ben said.
“It was not rain that smeared the words.”