By Sean Robinson, Reporter
Over two billion people identify themselves as Christians, comprising 22 percent of the world’s total population. Nearly 63 percent of those practicing this faith are native to Europe and North America, according to a report by the Pew Research Center. Vision Beyond Borders, an organization whose mission is to provide Bibles and service to Christian followers in nations where Christianity must be worshiped in secret, has made it their goal to spread their faith and the word of God to those living in areas such as Southeast Asia.
“We hope to give them more freedom of religion,” said Dyann Romeijn, public relations director for Vision Beyond Borders. “The religion is already there, so people are crying out for Bibles. They deserve them, and they have a right to worship a religion of their choice.”
In order to complete this mission, Borders, located in Montana, has often recruited college students from around the country to jet across the globe to nations like India and China and hand Bibles to secretly practicing Christians. While they aren’t directly working to implement a program at UNO for recruitment, they have had many Omaha natives travel with them to help spread Bibles, and their mission even mirrors some UNO student’s aspirations.
“My faith means the world to me,” said Michaela Crandell, a junior ceramics major. Crandell is a member of The Rock, a religious group on campus. “My church is my family, and God changed my life. Jesus died for me, so it only makes sense to give my life to him in return and work to make the world a better place.”
Since its inception 20 years ago, Borders has delivered more than 900,000 Bibles all over the world. In China alone, nearly 30,000 people come into Christ every day, and those in underground churches often are forced to share only one copy of the Bible, with some members attempting to memorize the pages of the Bible in order to compensate for not being able to buy Christian texts in their country.
Beginning in 1984, Vision Beyond Borders has expanded from spreading Bibles in China to now visiting such countries as Cuba, Turkey, Morocco and Romania, carrying students with them throughout their nearly 20 years of work.
“For the most part, there are no dangers in the places we visit for students,” Romeijn said. “They are basically taking bibles and transporting them. They also might do a bit of service work as well.”
Examples of their service include humanitarian aid work that extends beyond religion, saving women out of sex trafficking, bringing food to those starving in Africa, and working with refugee camps to help provide them aid around the globe.
“The experience students can get you can try to describe, but it’s really captured in the faces of the people you are helping,” Romeijn said. “When you bring a starving kid a piece of bread and their face becomes elated, it’s like you have just given them the greatest thing in the world.”
Vision Beyond Borders isn’t just student-based, though. Since they recruit through churches instead of universities, a lot of adults or those already with degrees are involved in the process as well.
In order to attend one of the trips and help the organization with their mission, an individual must undergo an application process, including getting referenced from your pastor. The trips are funded directly out-of-pocket by participants, with some teams fundraising to lower the price, and can cost from $2,000 to $4,000.
“Without evangelists like this, these people would not have the opportunity from anything but native customs,” Crandell said. “I believe if those students want to do that work, they should be allowed to since they are following their faith and helping people in the process.”
Some of these teams pose as tourist groups to smuggle the Bibles into the country, avoid being fined and protect the right of the natives they are helping.
Future trips for Borders include a trip to Cuba in March and a trip to Romania in April.
“When we have a chance to see how little other people have and how happy they are [in] spite of it,” Romeijn said. “This experience can just really open a person’s eyes.”