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Demand increasing for Bibles in Arab languages

In 1961, at the height of the Cold War, members of Churches of Christ founded Eastern European Mission to smuggle Bibles and Christian literature under the Iron Curtain.

Bailey McBride | InsightThey chose Vienna, Austria, as the site of their printing facility. It was the easternmost city in western Europe, just across the Danube River from Bratislava, Czechoslovakia. I remember talking to John Sudbury, a former president and passionate supporter of the ministry, as he recruited people to join the effort in Vienna.

Thirty years after EEM’s founding, I made my first extended visit to Vienna as a sponsor of Oklahoma Christian University’s international studies program. By then, the Soviet empire was crumbling. Many refugees lived on the campus of International Christian College, a Vienna institute associated with Churches of Christ. Christians from the U.S. worshiped there as they helped EEM respond to the demand for gospel literature in Eastern Europe. Murray and Dorothea Czeczotka oversaw the operation as the ministry transitioned from printing tiny tracts that could be slipped into spare tires to hardback Bibles in Russian.

In the years that followed, EEM began outsourcing its printing to companies in the same Eastern European countries that once banned its products. Not only does this save money, but it empowers these countries’ emerging economies. EEM’s staff focuses on producing Bible study materials for adults and children — and even supplies Bibles and biblical literature to public school systems in Ukraine, where teachers use the materials to help students learn about faith and ethics.

The ministry produces material in some 45 languages for nations across the region. Nine full-time and eight part-time workers reach thousands of souls by utilizing Christians in the nations they serve — trusted people who help carry the Gospel to their homelands.

Now, a quarter-century after the fall of the Berlin Wall, EEM is responding to a new demand that few of us expected in Europe — a demand for Bibles in the languages of the Middle East. As thousands of refugees flee conflicts in Iraq and Syria, EEM is empowering European Christians to share God’s Word as they help provide food, clothing and counseling for these souls fleeing terrible conflict.

Bart Rybinski has served as EEM’s vice president of European operations since 2007. I got to spend time with him and his wife, Tamika, while I worked for the Danube Church of Christ in Vienna last summer. He recently sent me some updated totals on the nonprofit’s efforts to serve the refugees — more than 35,000 Bibles and 58,000 New Testaments printed in Arabic and Farsi. Amazing!

Rybinski’s story is equally amazing. A native of Warsaw, Poland, he first came to the U.S. as an exchange student and, after his baptism, decided to attend Oklahoma Christian University to study ministry and marketing. He met and married Tamika Chatmon in Oklahoma. I performed their wedding.

My time with the Rybinskis reminded me what a strong, devout Christian couple they are. The long history of EEM will become richer and stronger with such believers at the helm.

Contact: [email protected], and learn more about Eastern European Mission’s fundraising effort at www.milliondollarsunday.org.

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