This post is extracted from our eBook, Warriors of the Way: Christian Training, Combat and Victory. You can download a free copy from the E-Books page on this site.
Victories of biblical proportions did not end with the completion of the Bible.
In one night in June, 1981, a clandestine Christian operation successfully smuggled a staggering one million Bibles into China, where they were distributed and gratefully accepted as great treasures by those who longed for Bibles, but had no way to obtain them.
The mission, code named “Project Pearl,” was primarily organized by a former Marine and carried out by Christians during a time when the Communist Party was actively trying to destroy Christianity in China; the level of success achieved by Project Pearl was nothing short of astounding. Reporting the incident later, Time magazine called it “the largest operation of its kind in the history of China.”
The story is a fascinating one. On the night of June 18, an innocuous-seeming tugboat churned its way across the sea near Shantou, China. The twenty crew members on board were all taking a great risk. They were not Chinese. They were from Australia, Canada, Holland, New Zealand, the Philippines, the United Kingdom and the United States. And this was no ordinary tug. It pulled a specially built barge loaded with 232 one-ton waterproof packages of Bibles.
Interception of the cargo would have led not only to the destruction of the Bibles by the Communist authorities, but also to serious repercussions for the crew members. But the tug continued, undetected, past the ships of a Chinese naval base to a position just off a secluded beach where a group of Chinese Christians were waiting. The specially built barge was then partially submerged so that the packages of Bibles floated off its deck and were carried by the waves to the beach.
There, the assembled Christian team hurriedly opened the packages and carried the Bibles off to distribution points in cars, on motorcycles and bicycles, and by foot in backpacks and other containers. From each distribution center the Bibles were carefully released to avoid the suspicion of the authorities. To help in this process, the Bibles had been bound with red covers and made to the same size as Chairman Mao's famous “Red Book,” so that they were easily mistaken for that.
Some containers of the Bibles not moved from the beach in time were found by Chinese guards who threw the Bibles into the sea, but even these copies were retrieved by fishermen who dried them on the roofs of their houses, and they were then passed on to others. Several hundred copies that were found by the authorities were thrown into a cesspool only to be later carefully retrieved by Christians who thoroughly washed them and sprayed them with perfume. Even these so-called “wet” and “perfumed” Bibles were accepted just as gratefully by Christians who had no other access to the word of God.
Although conditions have changed in the years since this daring mission was accomplished, and printed Bibles are no longer the most effective manner of getting the Scriptures into China, Project Pearl remains a wonderful story of what was accomplished by the dedication of Christian warriors who, with the help of God, were able to accomplish a truly astounding victory. We cannot even begin to calculate the total effect of this project, which placed Bibles in the hands of one million people who did not have access to them. But one thing is sure, Project Pearl played no small part in the revival and spread of Christianity in China – where there are now more Christians than in any other country in the world.