Saturday, September 16, 2017

Pray for Central Asia: From Drug Smuggler to Bible Smuggler

Alim’s* life almost sounds like the plot to a suspense movie. The main character? A man who once trafficked in underground drug networks. The twist? He turns out to have the exact skills necessary to run an undercover Bible distribution centre later in life.

As a young man, Alim would never have predicted he’d one day be in full-time ministry. In those years, he was busy running an ambitious drug-smuggling operation in Central Asia. But when Alim was caught, his life was derailed and he was locked away in a prison cell with nothing to live for. “For a long time, I neglected the spiritual questions. I was empty, and I didn’t want to live,” Alim recalls. But, behind bars, Alim’s cellmate offered him the Gospel according to John to read.

With little else to do, Alim began reading all the disciple John had written. As he turned the pages, he wrestled with the concept of eternal life. It was this experience in prison that finally began to change Alim. “I met Jesus through the book of John,” he explains. Alim’s life was forever changed. While serving the remainder of his sentence, he became free from drugs and alcohol and began to grow spiritually. After his release, he had become so passionate about his faith that he decided to enrol in seminary.

Eventually, Alim began pastoring a local congregation in a hostile area to Christians. As a result, Alim’s church is forced to meet in hiding, rotating between different locations to avoid detection. But all of these life experiences built upon each other to prepare Alim for another ministry as well—one that is conducted entirely in secret. Alim and his team smuggle the illegal Bibles, discipleship resources and evangelism materials to churches throughout five nearby countries. This underground network provides believers with the vital words of Jesus to sustain their Christian walk. They also do what Alim’s cellmate once did for him—help unbelievers meet Jesus for the first time through the words of the Bible.

Of course, it’s dangerous,” Alim concedes. “The authorities will come and search, but the materials are hidden.” A sign hangs over the illegal Bibles that displays the words of Proverbs 8:10: “Choose my instruction rather than silver; knowledge rather than choice gold.” It’s an appropriate reminder for an operation so risky. If the Bible distribution centre is discovered, it will be shut down and Alim will return to prison. In the face of this danger, Alim leans over, smiles, and says, “We are here to start a revolution: to bring people from death to life!”


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