Underground churches prefer printed Bibles over Bible apps

(Reuters/Stringer)Nene Charles reads a bible in Creole at a refugee camp for Haitians returning from the Dominican Republic on the outskirts of Anse-a-Pitres, Haiti. September 6, 2015

A nonprofit organization found out that even with so many Bible apps available, members of underground churches in different parts of the world prefer to have printed versions of the Bible.

Wycliffe Associates has been translating Bibles for decades. They are also helping local churches translate Bibles into their own languages.

With the help of technology, the organization has been able to accelerate its Bible translation work. However, when they asked underground churches whether they wanted a digital or print copy of the Bible, they were taken by surprise.

There are specific reasons why Christians in restricted countries prefer a printed Bible over the digital version.

"They can have it in their hands, it doesn't require any power. It doesn't need to be recharged, and they can hide it in various locations," David Reeves, tech specialist for Wycliffe Associates, said.

However, printing Bibles presents a problem, especially in countries that are hostile to Christianity. Reeves said local believers need to translate and print the Bibles on their own and in secret.

"They've got to do it themselves quietly back someplace where no one's aware of it."

Wycliffe Associates created a printing machine that's small enough to transport easily without being seen, yet able to print thousands of Bible copies without a problem.

The system has worked successfully, and believers in places where it would be very difficult to bring in Bibles are able to enjoy their own copies that are printed locally.

However, the project has not been without a risk. In March, four Bible translators were killed in the Middle East after the project was discovered.

Bruce Smith, president and CEO of Wycliffe Associates, said radical militants stormed the place where the translation was being done and killed two men with guns.

"As they ran out of ammunition, they then began beating the others that survived," Smith said.

This caused the death of two others. The lead translator survived, but only because the two men shielded his body with theirs.

Churches are aware of these risks and are willing to take them, Reeves said. He added that the organization will replace the old system in the Middle East because "they wanna keep printing."

Reeves asked believers to pray for the organization's projects, especially for logistics and safety of everyone involved.

"We have staff traveling literally around the globe, 24/7 almost, helping keep all this moving forward and responding to new opportunities," he said.

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