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Bible Smuggling Days Over as Soviet Union Grants Religious Freedom

December 2, 1989 GMT

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (AP) _ A private investigator who secretly distributed Bibles behind the Iron Curtain for nearly 15 years says he’s happy that religious reforms in the Soviet bloc may end his days as a smuggler for God.

″I’ve been able to smuggle in $2.5 million in Scriptures since the middle 1970s,″ Ted Grevers said. ″The days of smuggling are over.″

President Mikhail S. Gorbachev pledged Friday to Pope John Paul II that he would establish diplomatic ties with the Vatican and guarantee religious freedom in the Soviet Union. Gorbachev said people ″have a right to satisfy their spiritual needs.″

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″Many Christians behind the Iron Curtain have been praying for this for years,″ Grevers said. ″I didn’t think this was going to happen. It’s a tremendous milestone.″

Grevers, a former elder of the Cascade Christian Church in Grand Rapids who owns Fatman International Private Detective Service, says he has made about 30 trips behind the Iron Curtain to distribute Bibles and medicine. He says he has smuggled bibles into the Soviet Union, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, Bulgaria, Romania and Albania.

″The Bibles were taken in by car, barge, train, some with tourists. All material was given to me by various missions throughout the U.S. and Germany on an anonymous basis,″ he said.

″For instance, some trucks going from the West to the East would be delivering food and other goods. Some drivers would be Christians and help us,″ Grevers said. ″There are many ingenious ways you can penetrate these countries.″

Grevers, whose church is part of the Disciples of Christ denomination, said he received most of his financial backing from Amish and Mennonite churches in northern Indiana.

In the past year, Grevers said, he and others have been allowed to mail Bibles into the Soviet Union. But Romania and Albania, which have resisted the wave of liberalization sweeping the rest of the East bloc, remain difficult to penetrate, he said.

″Now we’re concentrating on shipping several truckloads of medicine through our church contacts,″ he said. The medicine is distributed to Baptist Union Church in Warsaw, Poland, then sent to various Christian denominations, a Jewish group, a Roman Catholic convent and various nursing homes, he said.