What God Can Do with 12 Books in the Wrong Language

Box of books
What do you do when your Bible study books arrive in the wrong language? You could send them back — or you could see how God planned to use them.

Heidi’s plan was simple: Teach her favorite Kay Arthur Bible study at church. Watch women grow in Christ.

She ordered a dozen copies of the book in English, a common language in the Middle Eastern country where she served. But when the shipment arrived, something was horribly wrong.

“There they were, 12 beautiful books, but … they were all in the Russian language!” Heidi says.

Heidi’s co-worker said to send the books back. But Heidi realized God must have a plan.

“OK, God, … You have brought these books in,” Heidi prayed, “and so we will keep them and give them to whoever You may lead us to.”

It would take 20 years to see God’s full response to that prayer.

Forgotten in a Book Shop

Heidi put the Russian copies of God, Are You There? on a shelf. Then she ordered a new set in English so she could lead the Bible study as planned.

Over the years, God brought a few Russians Heidi’s way.

There were two tourists who passed through. Then Heidi met a Russian group while visiting at a hospital. Another time, an expatriate worker introduced Heidi to her Russian family. Each time, a book or two was given.

Heidi gave away as many Russian books as she could. Then she put the remainder in her church’s book shop, where they were mostly forgotten.

But Heidi works at an international church, where she mostly meets English-speaking Asians, Brits and Americans. When it seemed there were no more Russians to meet, Heidi put the remaining copies in her church’s book shop.

“I … totally forgot about the books,” Heidi says. “But God wasn’t finished with the ‘mistake’ yet.”

A Surprise Russian-Speaker

Heidi and her husband, Zach, were part of a recreational facility, where many expatriates liked to mingle. One of the first questions members usually ask each other is, “Where are you from?”

One day, Heidi and Zach posed that question to the receptionist, Medina. She replied that she came from a country in Central Asia — a rare reply.

“Russian was her primary language, yet she spoke perfect English,” Heidi says.

Heidi and Zach began talking regularly with Medina, building a casual friendship. But one day, she announced she was returning to her homeland.

The couple invited Medina to a farewell dinner, and they began trying to think of a meaningful goodbye gift. That’s when Heidi remembered the Russian books again.

It had been 20 years since the books first arrived.

One Book Saved for Medina

Heidi went to the church’s book shop and asked the clerk if they had any books in Russian.

The clerk replied that she had found an odd book and tucked it in a cupboard. She wasn’t sure what language it was in.

“We started searching, pulling books out of the lower cupboard, and there it was,” Heidi says, “the one and only book in the shop that was in the Russian language: God, Are You There? by Kay Arthur.”

She knew God had saved this book for Medina!

That week, Heidi and Zach took Medina to dinner, and God opened the door for a more personal conversation than expected. The discussion turned to spiritual things, and Heidi and Zach got to clearly share the Gospel with Medina.

“She had gifts for us as a token of the friendship we had developed,” Heidi says, “but we also had something very special for her.”

When the couple presented the book to Medina, she clutched it to her heart with joy. She shared that a Christian friend had given her a Bible several years ago. She promised to study both books together.

Trusting God for Her Salvation

True to her word, Medina read the Russian Bible study alongside her Bible. Heidi continues to stay in touch with and disciple Medina.

Medina left for her home country two days after the dinner, but she’s stayed true to her promise.

“We continue to stay in touch with her, and she has been reading,” Heidi says. “We trust in God’s timing she will commit her life fully to Him.”

After 20 years of watching God’s plan unfold, how could they not trust Him to complete it? What was first a disappointment has opened 12 doors for individuals to encounter the living God.

For Heidi, there can only be one response: “We praise God for the ‘mistake.’”


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About the author

Bethany DuVal

Bethany DuVal serves as TEAM's marketing manager and editor. She is passionate about helping others tell their stories, whether they're missionaries on the field, new believers or part of a missionary support team. When she's not writing, she enjoys reading books and hiking in the Smoky Mountains.

4 Comments

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  • Heidi,

    A great story of the 12 books in Russian and how God provided the
    moments to give them to people who were either Russian or
    could read the language.

    In 1968 when Emilie and I were with Bible Christian Union in France
    I had joined others in being part of a large group of Christians
    volunteering to distribute literature and or/Bibles to people from all over the world coming to the Winter Olympics in Grenoble France in 1968. I had a Russian Bible in my jacket, and walking along side a man who I thought looked Russian, I asked him if he would be interested in having a Bible? He answered: ” Yes, that would be interesting.” Only God knows what he did with it. That’s enough.

  • We are Missionaries now at 87 and 86 and spending 14 years in Newfoundland in the out ports and those we’re very fruitful years and it was a complete change of life. No electricity, running water,just by the buckets, and the old lamps for evening. It was a real change but we would not change those years for anything for the world of it. It was just the way God wanted us to live and I can say, I thank the Lord of the training that God gave us there to be and live like them. We were still there when they put the electricity into the area about two or three years before we left. We saw their living change so. Lamps to lights, and electricity brought movies, public gathering like community dancing and electric music and what goes with that. The little chapel use to be filled with people to hear the gospel (thanking God for the ones that got saved before the gospel modernized living came to out part) after as a man told we after you left (25 years) “Dale after you left our area went to hell without the teaching that you gave to us.”. This young man was not saved and rejected the gospel as a young fellow in our DVBS” that we had in a old school house but his mom got saved and lived for the Lord and I am sure he heard the Gospel many a time from her. Our 14 years there taught a lot what modernization brought with it, so we learn by where God leads us.
    In 1965 God lead us to Prince Edward Island and we spent about 20 some years speaking to Bible camp in the Maritimes and in the New England Stated ( I am from Maine and my wife from Prince Edward Island) and children’s crusades. Now as we are older and had graduated Seniors work and a ministry to the Nepalese immigrants here in Charlottetown, PEI, We can see our ministry coming to the end with our age but a lot memories since had gone with us , How GOD has provided for us and a lot of His faithfulness guiding in meeting every need that we had. We are glad for His leading us in starting 5 churches and4 still going on with giving out the Gospel. All PRAISE GOES TO HIS HIM THAT HE SHOWED TO US AND STILL IS WITH our ministry with the Seniors and immigrants here.
    Keep faithful to Him as HE is very faithful to each of us and His coming will be soon
    Dale and Margaret Gallagher with MissionGo mission formally Global Out Reach Mission.

    • Wow! That is fantastic to hear what God did — and sobering to hear how things went downhill. Thank you for your perseverance in ministry.

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