When I traveled to Russia in October of 1991, I gained an entirely new perspective of how valuable and important the word of God is for us. Unfortunately, it is easy to take things for granted that are readily available, but when something has been forcibly taken away from you, your appreciation of it and desire to have it back intensifies. That was their story. Vladimir Lenin had their bibles gathered and burned in the middle of the streets. He had over 50 churches bulldozed down in St. Petersburg and turned the rest into stables for his army's horses. People had been arrested and imprisoned for worshipping God and His word had been outlawed. Lenin even renamed the city after himself.
Here we were more than 70 years later bringing back what had been taken. Bibles had been shipped ahead of us to the church and we had been ask to fill one of our suitcases with them. However, I soon discovered I was the only one that had actually filled a suitcase. Some of the people had 2 or 3 bibles with them that could easily be concealed., but I had a suitcase filled with over 60 bibles, each one weighing 1 1/2lbs. Needless to say my back was beginning to bother me by the time we arrived. As we stood in the customs line entering the country; the individual who had organized the trip looked at me and said, "I hope we can get in with these bibles." I looked at him and said, "What do you mean: You hope we can get in with these bibles? I thought you had this worked out." He smiled and said, "Well you just never know over here, things change so much."
I have to tell you that did not encourage me at all. I had known a missionary to this country when it was still the Soviet Union and if you were caught with a Bible you were sentenced to 10 years in prison for every Bible in your possession. More than 600 years in a Russian jail did not appeal to me at all. The other thing that was bothering me is that the airport was not being operated by the friendly skies of United. Their airport was operated by their military, and everywhere I looked there were soldiers with weapons, none of which were smiling. When I placed my suitcase on the belt to be scanned, I was praying one of the most sincere and heartfelt prayers I had ever prayed in my life. Then the soldier looked at the screen and looked at me and said, "Books?" I responded, "Yes sir, books." He asked, "What kind of books?" I just acted like I didn't hear the question. Then he narrowed his gaze and asked, "Are they Biblias?"
My heart dropped. I begin to pray, God take care of my family, I was going to jail for 600 years. I swallowed hard, looked at him and said, "Yes sir, they're Bibles." He looked at me with those cold hard eyes and said, "Can I have one?"
I never unzipped a suitcase so fast in all my life. That soldier was hungry for the word of God! I saw that hunger and longing for God's word repeatedly on that trip. Emotions were running high in the city and many communists were mad because the name of their city Leningrad, was being changed back to St. Petersburg. There had been threats of bombings, so we had to be careful where when, and who we gave a Bible to. I watched a young girl working in a mall break down and cry as she cradled the bible I handed her and squeeze it like she was holding a new born baby. There were others who wept and praised God openly in public places when they received one. Some even desiring to kiss the hands that had carried His word back to their country. On my trip home I begin to ask God to help me never to take His word for granted, but to cherish and value it for the wonderful gift it is not only to me, but to all of mankind.
"How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!"
"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." Psalm 119:103,105