Project Pearl was the name given to the daring operation that successfully smuggled one million Bibles into Communist China during a single night in 1981.
During Mao’s “Cultural Revolution” (1966-1976) the tyrannical Chinese Communists tried to crush all opposition to tyranny including Christianity. Despite the official governmental persecution of all religions, the underground Christian church in China grew and even thrived. This is often the case when persecution is encouraged and sanctioned and implemented by the authorities.
Millions of Chinese Christians were begging for Bibles from the free people of the world. Their need did not fall on deaf ears. In 1955, a young Dutchman named Brother Andrew began smuggling Bibles behind the Iron Curtain using a small car. From his efforts Open Doors ministry was born. Open Doors is now a world wide ministry that operates a network of Bible delivery and advocacy organizations for the persecuted church.
Open Doors backed the Pearl Project and its crew of twenty Christians. The leader of the mission was Brother David and American who had been printing Bibles in Asia.
Project Pearl succeeded in smuggling 232 tons of Bibles into mainland China by using a sea-going tug and a submersible barge. Leaving Taiwan and sailing four days (tugboats are not fast) the crew was able to use high tide and a full moon to unload rafts of Bibles at a secret location where many Christian fishermen lived. The barge was partly submerged and 16 crewmembers shoved 232 one ton Bible rafts in to the sea. Thousands of Chinese Christians used small boats, bicycles, horse carts and vehicles get the Bibles distributed to the underground church across China.
Several thousand Bibles were taken by the Chinese Army who attempted to burn them on the beach. If you have ever tried to burn a stack of books you know how difficult it is. After the burning attempt failed the soldiers threw the Bibles into the sea and left, but not before beating and arresting several of the Christians. Being fishermen, the locals used their fishing nets and recovered many of the smuggled Bibles from the water, they were dried out and distributed.
There are many other stories about the “Night of the Million Miracles” including torture and imprisonment which for the sake of brevity I will omit. There are also many stories of how the Pearl Project helped establish thousands of underground home churches by providing copies of God’s word to believers in China. Since the 1980’s, and the loss of face by the Chinese government, due to the success of Project Pearl being reported in Time Magazine. The communists have allowed one corporation to print 500,000 Bibles in China. They also established the government controlled “Three Self Patriotic Movement” churches. Of course they do not authorize any foreign funding, leadership, evangelizing, or missionaries in China. And the government requires all Christians to be registered and restricted with the following and many other regulations.
The Communist Party decides who can preach and what can be preached.
• Preaching should focus on the social rules and the social benefits of Christianity.
• Preaching outside the Three Self church buildings is forbidden.
• Evangelizing or giving out tracts is forbidden.
• Importing Bibles is forbidden, even if they are given away for free.
• Printings Bibles without authorization is forbidden, even if they are given away for free.
• Government officials cannot be Christian.
• School teachers cannot be Christian.
• Soldiers cannot be Christian.
• Police officers cannot be Christian.
• Children and teenagers cannot be Christian.
Open Doors and other organizations continue to smuggle Bibles into China for the persecuted church.
I am sharing this information because I feel it shows how seemingly impossible obstacles of tyranny, persecution and oppression can be overcome by just a handful of dedicated freedom lovers.