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Voice of the Martyrs Bible Distribution in Closed Countries

Ministry claims to distribute over 1 million Bibles annually in closed or hostile countries

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Since its founding by Richard Wurmbrand, Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) has used “creative means to get Bibles into restricted nations.”

In a recent fundraising email, VOM asked potential donors to join a “unique opportunity to distribute 400,000 print Bibles as well as digital Bibles on SD cards into hostile areas and highly restricted nations.”

VOM spokesperson Todd Nettleton told MinistryWatch this wasn’t a particular project, but part of the ministry’s ongoing efforts to distribute more than one million bibles per year in hostile and restricted areas.

“We give a special focus to this effort in our free monthly magazine in April of each year, but the effort to deliver Bibles—and the chance for VOM readers to sponsor Bibles—extends throughout the year,” Nettleton explained in an email.

He said international ministry leaders at VOM expect Bibles sponsored by a donor today to be in the hands of Christians in a hostile or restricted nation within 12 months.

Local believers and outsiders participate in carrying Bibles into a country, but “when it gets to the point of actually handing a Bible to a Christian who needs one, that is always done in partnership with Christians and/or churches in the country where the distribution is happening,” Nettleton told MinistryWatch.

VOM makes efforts to protect those involved in bible distribution, but VOM staff and partners in hostile areas are “willing to take every necessary risk to receive and deliver Bibles,” he said.

VOM has used secret and illegal printing presses in China, Iran, and Cuba. It has floated Bibles into North Korea attached to helium-filled balloons. In other places, VOM has hired smugglers to carry in Bibles.

“Several months ago one of the smugglers began to ask spiritual questions. He decided that if he was going to risk his life to smuggle this book into a closed Muslim nation, he should at least read it first to see what he was risking his life for. We pray that the seeds that Bible planted in his heart will blossom into faith,” Nettleton said.

While not all hostile countries receiving Bibles can be listed for security purposes, Nettleton said the list includes North Korea, Iran, China, India, Afghanistan, Colombia, Vietnam, Cuba, Laos, Myanmar, Pakistan, Sudan, Turkey, and Uzbekistan.

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So, how can a donor be sure the Bible gets into the hands of a Christian believer in a closed country?

Nettleton said VOM has reporting requirements, including receipts for Bibles purchased and any distribution expenses, along with specific reports of where and when and how many Bibles were distributed in a given location or meeting.

One young man and his mother traveled 10 hours to get to a distribution point to receive a box of Bibles to share with their church and new believers.

Bible distribution tends to account for between 12-14% of VOM’s expenses. For example, in 2023 VOM spent $10,998,768 delivering Bibles in hostile countries and restricted nations. That calculates to just over 12% of revenue and just under 13% of expenses. The previous few years reflected a similar percentage.

If a donor would like to ensure their gift goes to Bible distribution in closed countries, Nettleton said to designate the gift for “Bibles” in the check memo line or give online.

In the MinistryWatch database, VOM earns a 4-star financial efficiency rating, a C transparency grade, and a donor confidence score of 75, which is a “Give With Confidence” designation.

VOM is a member of the Evangelical Council of Financial Accountability, but it does not file a Form 990 with the Internal Revenue Service. According to Nettleton, VOM makes a pro-forma 990 available upon request.

Main photo: Photo courtesy of Voice of the Martyrs

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Kim Roberts

Kim Roberts is a freelance writer who holds a Juris Doctorate from Baylor University. She has home schooled her three children and is happily married to her husband of 25 years.