Books and Bibles Burned, but Christianity Prospers

This update is related to the Crossway Global Ministry Fund campaign.

Boxes of Truth

A few years ago, an ordinary school bus made its way along a winding dirt road up into the mountains of Southeast Asia. It kicked up dust as it went along, bouncing when it hit potholes and squeaking in protest when the turns were too sharp or the incline was too steep. To the naked eye, it looked like any other school bus that might have passed by.

But in the back of the bus were boxes heavy with books, shifting and bouncing around with every pothole or turn. These boxes held 500 copies of Crossway’s Taking God at His Word by Kevin DeYoung. Their destination was a remote village in the mountains where a woman was eagerly anticipating their arrival. To her and the others in her village it would be like Christmas Day, and maybe even better. Because to this tribe, and to many like them, any resource from the outside world is almost unheard of.

Daniel, the ministry partner who made this free distribution possible, explains that “the government doesn’t allow them to leave their village. If they go down to the city or [anywhere outside their village], the government will always be watching. So they can only go a short distance.”

Burned, but Not Destroyed

Persecution and oppression are no strangers to Christians living in this Southeast Asian country.1 Many of these believers have been alive long enough to remember the multi-decade war in their country that caused this oppression in the first place. After the war, the government required all missionaries to leave and closed all Bible schools. The government went so far as to burn any Bibles and theological books that were found. They were looking to purge the country of Christianity.

But one glimmer of hope resided in Daniel’s childhood home.

My dad and mom were in one of the international churches in the area. They and some of their friends brought books home. I remember I grew up in my house and I saw books stacked up on the wall. I didn’t really think about what they were, but one day I saw that they disappeared. [I later found out that] they distributed them to believers within the church.

Historically, this country hadn’t been much of a reading culture. As a result of this and the challenge of getting resources into the country, there have never been many theologically sound resources. But Daniel’s dad decided to change this by taking matters into his own hands. “I grew up seeing my dad faithfully, every day, sitting at a table typing and translating books [on a typewriter]. . . . In [our country], we didn’t have computers yet.” Line by line, they translated theological books from English into their local language so they could be made available to believers, both before and after the war.

Refined by Pressure

The small Christian population in this country continued to prosper during these years of persecution, which stretched on for nearly two decades. Despite the best—and vital—efforts of people like Daniel’s parents, the drought of theological resources has remained severe. “The pastors and teachers don’t have any good and solid resources like Bibles or books about doctrine. Mostly we still have books that are more than a hundred years old. They were translated long ago.”

Daniel no longer sits by his dad to look over his shoulder while he translates, but the memories of the typewriter at the kitchen table have left their mark. To some degree, the government has lightened its restrictions on religion, allowing missionaries to return to the country, with books and Bibles making their way into the hands of believers again. But it will take a long time to fully replenish what has been destroyed. Daniel continues to see young pastors specifically suffering under the lack of resources available to them.

That’s why Daniel decided to embark on his own translation work, starting with Don’t Waste Your Life by John Piper. Since then, hundreds of copies have been distributed and Taking God at His Word has been added to the ever-growing list of titles. Daniel has also partnered with Crossway to translate books like The Biggest Story Bible Storybook and hopes to continue to translate others in an effort to provide pastors and lay believers in his country with more theologically sound resources. He emphasized that they are seeing more resources for young people, the next generation.

One young leader I know has been doing a discipleship course to help other young people grow in their walk with the Lord. Around the time of this course, his wife bought Don’t Waste Your Life for her father in law, and he loved it. The book was sitting in the father in law’s house, and one day her husband picked it up and started to read it. It changed the way he thought about God’s calling in his life, the gospel, and how he trains others as well. It even changed the way he taught his discipleship course.

Donors to Crossway have helped support important translation projects like these, reaching into even the most restricted, remote areas of Southeast Asia. Christianity has continued to grow, and by God’s grace will continue to as pastors are trained and believers better understand the Word of God.

We invite you to join us on this mission to resource the global church to the ends of the earth!

Pray for protection for Daniel’s ministry and that the devil would not allow the government to thwart the gospel work Daniel and his team are doing.

Pray that the translation work being done will result in eternal impact for pastors and lay believers throughout this region of the world.


  1. The name of this country remains anonymous due to security risks.
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