One Bible can change it all

 I had the privilege of meeting a man yesterday who works for EEM, an organization called Eastern European Mission. Eastern European Mission began bravely smuggling bibles behind the Iron Curtain in 1961, and their work has continued into 2018. On EEM’s website, you will find a description of their history that details their fascinating work of distributing Bibles free of charge to parts of Eastern Europe. In 2016, EEM began distributing bibles into the public-school systems of Ukraine, and they also printed 100,000 bibles in Arabic and Farsi for refugees who were fleeing to Athens, Greece. In 2017, EEM distributed a staggering one million bibles and bible materials in over 30 different countries in 20 different languages. This pace will surely continue through 2018 due to the unprecedented opportunity to provide bibles to people in countries that were previously inaccessible for Christian mission. People from Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Turkey, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan and the list continues—these people are fleeing into areas where EEM can distribute bibles to anyone that wants one, completely free of charge.

 As an EEM employee told of the stories of public school teachers in Ukraine who believe that their “nation can only be a success when they take up the Scriptures in their public schools,” and a Muslim refugee proclaims “God allowed these terrible events to happen in my life so that I might receive a bible and learn the truth about Him,” I was profoundly inspired by EEM’s mission for  


 EEM believes in getting bibles into the hands of every single person on the planet, and they want everyone to truly get it- to have an opportunity to respond to the beautiful invitation that God sets forth for us in his Bible. God wants all people everywhere to realize their personal sin and trespass against him, and how God through Jesus Christ and his story, made it possible that we might live with Him again in perfect harmony and perfect reconciliation with our Creator and Father, God for all of eternity.

My friend who works for EEM is certainly right. While the current events around the world have many American Christians paralyzed by fear and terror, we believe that God is working to provide strategic access to his Word for people who have never had a chance to know him. There is severe persecution for Christians in fascist, communist, and Muslim nations, and often Christian entry into these countries is completely prohibited. While our church communities have been praying to send missionaries into these countries, God has allowed the people of these countries to COME TO US. EEM is an organization who recognizes this opportunity and is doing the work to provide these people with a chance to know Jesus.

EEM has a brochure which contains a story of a Christian man, Ivan Martos,  living under Communist-occupied Hungary in 1961 during a time when being a Christian and owning a bible meant certain torture and probable death. I am including this story today to remind us of the powerful way that God can work through JUST ONE PERSON who has the COURAGE to live for him. Even through our smallest efforts, God does miracles. He is the one who took a small boys lunchbox on a hillside one day and fed 5,000 men with basketfuls of food left over. Whether you feel compelled to pray a small prayer for the mission of EMM, or even give $5 dollars to get a bible into the hands of someone who never had access to it, or if you are just trying to be faithful to Him wherever you happen to be today, I pray that you will remember: 

God is doing incredible work through each of his children, often times in things which seem, irrelevant and small.

You are instrumental to his Kingdom.

You can help advance his work.




It was July of 1961. A co-worker and I excitedly boarded the Danube Express at Vienna’s West Train Station for the half-day trek to Budapest. We had packed for a week away. Necessary documentation for the experience had been checked and double checked- passport, visa, prepaid coupons for hotels and restaurants. We were ready to embark on the realization of the dream that had driven us to move with our young families to Austria. Very soon we would actually be transported through the Iron Curtain into Communist-occupied Hungary.       

               Ah, Budapest! The eastern capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Forever connected to Vienna by the beautiful blue Danube. But now separated from one another in a thousand ways by the victors of World War II. The differences that met us were startling! If Vienna was basking in the new freedom of liberation from Nazi domination, Budapest was suffocating under Russian occupation. Everything we experience in Austria was negated in Hungary. So dark and drab- literally and symbolically. The commercial center of Budapest was unrecognizable as shop windows had been bricked in or boarded up and signage was banned. And quiet! Oh, there were the sounds of many old streetcars and buses, and an occasional truck or taxi. But not one of the thousands on the sidewalks and in the streetcars dared utter a word. Not in public. And no one smiled. Truth be told, there was so very little reason to smile.

               About the third day of our visit, everything began to change as we carefully contacted a few of the names we had accumulated in Vienna. Most led or hosted house churches. Some were leaders of a tolerated 500 member “protestant” church, formed when the new government took over all church buildings and terminated the “clergy.” The new church was for all who persisted in a profession of faith but were neither Roman Catholic nor Jewish. It was here that we met Ivan Martos, one of the friendliest and happiest, most positive and enthusiastic of God’s creatures. Ivan worked as an officer of the National Bank of Hungary. He was about 15 to 20 years older than we, married, without children. Ivan spoke freely of his life of faith, his devotion to God’s Word, and his love for the Lord’s people.

               We soon learned that Ivan customarily traveled to Vienna twice each year to attend banking conferences. Our visits became regular and highly anticipated. It was during one of those summer trips to Vienna when I arranged to meet Ivan at that same West Train Station. He arrived on time, but his entire body language informed that not all was well. A host of “what ifs” raced through my mind. Soon enough I would know the tragedy that bowed him so low in absolute grief.

               Before we could even leave the train platform, Ivan, practically in tears, related his bitter experience. That day, as the train neared the Austrian border, uniformed guards boarded the train at the next-to-last stop on the Hungarians side. They would make their way through the train, checking identification and documentation of all passengers prior to arriving at the border stop. The guards immediately discovered that Mr. Martos was an important officer with Hungary’s National Bank. His papers were all in order, permitting the official travel. Before proceeding to the next passenger, one of the guards asked Ivan to open his briefcase. The first item removed for inspection by the guard was Ivan’s personal Bible. In a loud, angry voice, the guard help up the Bible for all in the car to see and yelled, “What is a man in your position doing with a Bible?” Before Ivan could respond, the guard sailed the Bible through the open window of the moving train. Ivan had indeed lost a best friend.


               Fast forward two years. Again, I was meeting Ivan in Vienna. This time he arrived as upbeat as he had been downcast two years earlier. And, as before, we could not leave the train platform until I knew his story. Just a few days before leaving Budapest, a package had been delivered by the postman. Ivan did not recognize the return name and address. But as his wife prepared dinner, he sat in the kitchen and opened the unexpected prize—it was his Bible! And accompanying his old friend was a letter of apology and explanation. It went like this: “Some of our children were playing one day along the railroad tracks. They found your Bible. Not knowing what it was, one of them took it to his grandmother, who immediately recognized it as a Bible. Word spread quickly through the little village on the border. Some of our older people had possessed Bibles before they were banned and remembered the significance and power of the Word of God. We decided to conceal the discovery while those who so desired would make handwritten copies. That joyful task lasted two years. Please forgive our keeping your Bible so long. But you might like to know that we are now a secret band of about 30 who have baptized each other and seek to follow Jesus in our daily lives.”

               God promised that His Word will not return to him void (Isaiah 55). Paul exclaims that the Gospel (the Good News of the Bible) is God’s power (“dynamite”) unto salvation (Romans 1:16). And James counsels us to “receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21).  The Lord Himself concludes, “Heaven and Earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:25).

               Eastern European Mission was born with the conviction that everyone deserves to hear the Gospel once before anyone is privileged to hear it twice. And so we sow, and God gives the increase. To Him be all the praise and glory!



(this story is the content and owned by EEM, I do not own the rights to this story.)

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