They Couldn’t Read a Word of This Book … and It Still Changed Their Lives

Recently I heard a testimony at church, and the way I think about the Word of God will never be the same.

Zane Stoddard shared this story about something that happened when he and his wife, Jan, were missionaries in India several years ago.

One evening they were teaching in a house church in a small village. Around thirty-five people had crowded into a ten by fifteen-foot room and were sitting packed closely together on the floor to hear Zane teach from the Word of God.

As Zane was wrapping up his sermon, a man burst into the room. Not to be deterred, he walked toward Zane, stepping over bodies and around knees and ankles and legs as people tried in vain to scoot out of his way.

After pushing his way to the front of the room, the man squeezed into a spot a few feet in front of Zane.

The man had caused such a commotion that returning to the final words of his sermon seemed pointless to Zane. Instead, he looked at his translator and asked, “What is wrong with this man? Is he drunk?”

The translator spoke for a moment with the strange visitor, then shook his head. “No, but he used to be.”

“What do you mean, he used to be?”

“Well, he says his people are not from here,” the translator explained, “But they have settled here. And what they do is drink, they beat their wives, their children don’t go to school, and they sleep around with each other. They are a mess. But this man says he is not drunk.”

“Well, what does he want?”

The translator spoke to the man, then turned back to Zane. Of course, all of this communication was coming through two languages, but the final request seemed clear:

“He wants you to come to his house.”

Zane looked at the pastor of the house church. “Pastor, do you think it’s safe?”

The pastor said, “I don’t know.”

“Do you think they want to lure us there and beat us?”

The pastor said again, “I don’t know.”

“Do you think we should go?”

Once more the pastor said, with a concerned look on his face, “I don’t know!”

Zane and Jan spoke together for a moment and then made their decision.

“Let’s go!”

Moments later, Zane, Jan, the pastor, the translator, and another man from the house church found themselves following the strange visitor into the darkness. They followed a trail through the trees, and before long could see several small houses ahead in the moonlight. Milling around the houses seemed to be a mob of people.

They continued walking. As they drew closer, they could see women and children in the crowd of people. Closer still and they could see that the people were smiling. Zane, Jan, and the men from the house church breathed sighs of relief.

They were ushered into the middle house. People swarmed in behind them. Zane found himself sitting cross-legged on the floor, facing the visitor. They were sitting so close that their knees were touching as people packed into the room. Other people stood in the yard around the house, leaning into the open windows. Everyone seemed determined to see and hear what was about to happen next.

Zane spoke first. “Why have you brought us here? What do you want?”

The translator presented the question to the man.

He didn’t answer, but a commotion was taking place near the door. Someone had passed a book into the room, and it was being handed from person to person through the crowded room. Eventually it came to rest in the hands of the man.

Finally, he spoke.

“Years ago, somebody gave us this book, but we can’t read. He told us, ‘If you will pray to the God of this book, He will help you.’”

Zane looked at the book and saw that it was a Bible.

The man continued speaking. “Every day we open this book to this little string and we turn one page, and then we put the string back…”

Showing Zane what his people did each day, the man opened the book to the red ribbon placeholder. Moving the ribbon out of the way, he turned one thin page of the Bible, then laid the ribbon back between the pages. Then he laid his hand across the open book.

“And then we pray to the God of this book to help us. And then we close the book and put it back until the next day when we do the same thing again.”

He closed the Bible, but still held it respectfully in his hands.

“And since the day when we began doing this, we’ve all quit drinking. I don’t beat my wife anymore. I don’t sleep with other women anymore. My children are in school. Our whole lives have changed.”

The faces beaming around the room and in the open windows testified to the truth of his words.

“So when we heard today that you were nearby teaching from this book, we had to talk with you. And what we want to know is … who is the God of this book?”

Zane shared the Gospel, and every person in and around the house that night prayed to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior. He and Jan left them in the care of the pastor of the neighboring house church with these words: “This pastor will teach you from God’s Word. This book will give you everything you need.”

It’s an amazing testimony. Even now, thinking about Zane and Jan’s story still stirs my heart. In fact, I have goosebumps as I type these words. And what blows my mind is the transforming power these hurting families experienced through the Word of God—without even being able to read a single word.

Imagine how much more beautiful their lives are today, now that they have access to a pastor who can share with them, in their own language, the precious, divine words of the “God of the Book.”

I have access to the life-changing words of Scripture every day. Do I appreciate what I have? Do I crack open the cover and ask the God of the Bible to help me that day? Do I take advantage of the gift of being able to read God’s very thoughts and words any time I choose?

I know the Bible is more than a book. I know it is divinely inspired. I know there is power in the life-giving words on every page.

But now I have a real-life story that drives these truths home in a brand-new way.

And it has changed the way I will think about my Bible forever.

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