As a young man, Alexander Neufeld (Association of Mennonite Brethren in Germany — Arbeitsgemeinschaft Mennonitischer Brüdergemeinden) lived in Estonia, where he studied computer engineering at university. There he was involved with the Christian youth movement in the country and part of a coordinated effort to smuggle German and Russian-language Bibles into the Soviet Union.
Because of his participation in these activities, Alexander was followed and threatened by the KGB. Read that portion of Alexander’s story in Part II.
In those years I lived in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. Estonia was kind of a Western Baltic state of the Soviet Union, and we had tourists arriving from the Western world. Since Tallinn was also a port city, it was an ideal place for Bibles to begin their journey into the Soviet Union.
The people who worked for the Marines in Tallinn discovered that it was very profitable to bring Bibles into the Soviet Union. They could sell one Russian Bible for the equivalent of a nurse’s average monthly income! So they were bringing in these Bibles for secular reasons, like smuggling drugs.
Once a week I went to see an old man who was working in a Methodist church in the city. I would ask him whether he had anything for me, and then he would go somewhere in the back and bring out a few Bibles. I never asked him where he got the Bibles, but I knew they were from the Marines.
There were not many–sometimes five, sometimes ten Bibles. They were mostly German Bibles, but occasionally they were Russian. Russian Bibles were very rare, but the German Bibles were needed much as well, particularly in Siberia.
So I would give him the money and take the Bibles. Then I would deliver the Bibles to another man. I never asked where they went, although I basically knew they went to central Asia. But I was glad not to know the specifics of where the Bibles went and to whom. We were just to trust. That was one channel.
The other channel I used was a store that sold rare and antique books. The Bibles were needed so badly that we used everything that we could! In this store you could buy old German Bibles, because Estonia in the past had been very German. These Bibles were never displayed or standing openly in the shelves, of course, but somehow I got to know an older woman who was working there. I would just ask her, and she would go to the back and bring me out a few Bibles–one, two, three, four.
Then there was the problem that the older the Bible was, the more expensive it was. And sometimes they were, in fact, too expensive. Yet we wanted them not because they were old or rare, but because we needed the content–the Bible!
And then there were times that we were blessed. Sometimes tourists attended an Estonian or a Russian worship service, and after they left a Russian Bible would be lying on the place where they had been sitting. We were happy.