Smuggling Bibles by camel in restricted countries


By Paul Haralan Popov, President – Door of Hope International

Bible smuggler

I met Musaf (not his real identity) while ministering to underground believers in the sweltering desert temperatures of Africa through a good friend who knew his struggles and asked me to help. The sun beat down with an intense heat as I waited at the designated meeting place. I was a little apprehensive. Musaf, from what I was told, liked to do things differently, his own way.

I have smuggled Bibles behind the Iron Curtain and other hostile to the Gospel countries for over 40 years using many unique methods. But I had no idea how to penetrate Mauritania, one of the poorest and most restricted Islamic countries. Musaf’s vision to deliver Bibles into Mauritania was definitely unusual.

“Can you help me purchase a camel?” he asked.

Islam has dominated Mauritania — officially the Islamic Republic of Mauritania — for over 1,000 years. Printing and distributing non-Islamic religious materials and evangelizing Muslims are punishable by death. The handful of believers there are in constant danger and persecution has intensified. Getting Bibles in is very dangerous, especially for Musaf. Yet Musaf is undaunted.

“I need 200 Bibles in Arabic, 100 Bibles in French, MP3 players, teaching materials and a camel,” he told me.

I asked, “Why a camel?”

“To carry the Bibles across miles of desert” he stated.

Of course, it made perfect sense!

Two thirds of Mauritania is covered by the Sahara Desert. Most of the population is concentrated in the cities of Nouakchott and Nouadhibou and along the Senegal River. Travelling in the desert would be treacherous by car.

It would be hard to run out of gas on a camel.

Many people think of the Sahara Desert as a sea of flat sand. The Sahara terrain is changing all the time. Strong gusts of wind whip the honey-colored sand into ever changing fluid hills. Blowing continually, the wind creates shifting landscapes of rows of sand dunes aligned from northeast to southwest in ridges from two to twenty kilometers wide.

Out into the thirsty sand, traveling by camel gives you a great deal of flexibility. A car would be quickly buried in a sand pile. The camel can withstand extreme temperatures making them invaluable in the arid, hot conditions that can reach over 49C (120F) by midafternoon.

I remember when I smuggled Bibles into what was then the Soviet Union, how difficult and heavy those Bibles were. A camel can transport 900 pounds – that’s a lot of Bibles. I sure could have used one in those days!

Nomadic communities are difficult to reach. Forever moving like the shifting sand dunes to keep their herds fed and watered, they have no walls. Moving is necessary for them, but this often isolates them from others.

How will they hear the Gospel? It must be brought to them on the hump of a camel.

With the help of our faithful partners, Door of Hope International has equipped Musaf with Bibles, MP3 players and yes, a camel.

Lagjar, the camel, is a unique Bible smuggler. He has carried hundreds of Arabic Bibles and cassettes of recorded Bibles on several journeys to the Nomads. On one such journey, as Lagjar (meaning, “Strong One”) travelled a precariously narrow trail along a mountainside his foot slipped. He had a nasty fall and needed an operation.

Musaf sent an urgent email asking for help with transportation and operation costs. It was quite an ordeal lifting a camel onto a truck and getting him to the veterinarian of the nearest big city for his operation.

Praise God, Lagjar is recovering well and will soon continue his Godly work. Meanwhile, eager to continue the call God has placed on his heart, Musaf rented two camels for his most recent successful trip.

Musaf is hoping we can help him purchase another camel to help share the load with Lagjar.

Through Door of Hope’s Bibles by Camel “BBC” project, hundreds of Nomads have received the Word of God in a most extraordinary way.

God often uses the extraordinary, doesn’t He?

So, how much does a camel cost? In American dollars one camel costs $1,600. That’s a small price to pay for salvation.

If you would like to be part of this unique opportunity to help deliver Bibles by Camel to Mauritania please visit for more information about this and other projects.


Paul Haralan Popov was born in Bulgaria. When he was five years old, Paul’s father, Dr. Haralan I. Popov, a prominent Protestant Minister, was brutally taken away by the KGB from his family in 1947, arrested on false charges. It was 15 years later that Paul saw his father again. Having grown up without a father, in Communist Bulgaria, he suffered many deprivations. His family was labeled as members of an arrested “spy” and therefore not to be helped. His mother, Ruth, (a Swedish missionary to Bulgaria) was not allowed to leave for her homeland or permitted to work, and therefore had tremendous difficulty to feed and provide for her two young children. When Paul was eight, his family was finally able to immigrate to his mother’s homeland, Sweden. It was in Sweden, that Paul committed himself to serve mankind and assist others like his own family who had suffered political and religious discrimination and poverty. He pursued an education in Political Science and Human Geography at the University of Stockholm. When Paul’s father was finally released from Communist slave camps he rejoined his family in Sweden. Although Paul’s work as a journalist at a daily newspaper engaged much of his time, he devoted every extra moment to help his father with the difficult and often dangerous missionary work behind the Iron Curtain. He became indispensable to his father and the ministry. As the work of the mission expanded, it became vital for Paul to join the mission full-time. He emigrated to Canada to start a branch office. In 1974, Paul started Door of Hope Canada. In 1977 he became International Vice President and upon his father’s retirement in 1980, he became the International President and moved to Glendale, CA. Paul and his wife Agneta, have been married for 40 years and have two sons and one daughter.

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