Back in the 1970s, Dr. Peter Slobodian’s heart yearned to preach among the citizens of his homeland, which was then the Soviet Union. His wish was to live in the country of his boyhood as a missionary, but that door wasn’t open. The USSR limited the number of foreigners on its soil, and missionaries weren’t welcome. After much prayer and consultation with wise men of God, Peter founded BIEM as a shortwave radio ministry. In this way, he realized, expository radio sermons could open God’s Word to thousands or millions behind the Iron Curtain. Did Soviet citizens listen? Absolutely! Many also wrote letters of appreciation. During those early days of our ministry, BIEM also participated in Bible smuggling to get printed copies of God’s Word into communist lands. Not wanting to draw attention to this ministry, BIEM didn’t advertise this aspect of its work.
After Mikhail Gorbachev came to power in the Soviet Union, he lifted the postal ban that prohibited Bibles from entering that country by mail. BIEM immediately launched its second phase of literature distribution—mailing Bibles by the thousands to individuals who requested them after hearing our radio broadcasts. In those days, seven international shortwave radio stations broadcast BIEM’s Gospel program “The Scripture Saith” over all 11 time zones of the Soviet Union. As the Iron Curtain crumbled, thousands of letters from all parts of the USSR flooded our office. Almost every letter ended the same way: “Please send me a Bible and other Christian literature.” One church in the U.S. mailed over 800 Bibles and received over 400 thank-you notes.
As God continued to open unprecedented opportunities, BIEM shifted to a third, larger-scale, period of distribution. It was a historic moment when we shipped our first 40-ft. sea container of Bibles. In 1996, one shipment alone transported 15,256 Bibles, 2,500 Children’s Bibles, 44,512 Gospels of John, and 6,720 evangelistic booklets.
Eventually those formerly restricted lands received such freedom that major Bible publishers set up warehouses inside Ukraine and Russia, where we could purchase large quantities for low prices. Purchasing Bibles and New Testaments inside countries that once confiscated Scriptures enabled us to sponsor wonderful mass distributions, such as Bibles distributed to the 10,000 officers and recruits on a Ukrainian military base. That undertaking led to a new church plant, which in turned has resulted in many new converts, 16 of whom are in various stages of full-time Christian service. BIEM coordinated Bible and literature distribution but also translated Gospel tracts, seminary materials, and Bible curriculum that was placed in 43 public schools. We also translated select Christian books and scripts for Gospel films.