“God’s Smuggler to China” Passes Away

Doug Sutphen (Brother David)

Doug Sutphen, better known as “Brother David,” passed away in a hospital near his home in North Bend, Washington yesterday. He was 70 years old. Doug was also known as “God’s Smuggler to China” because of his involvement with smuggling Bibles into China with “Project Pearl” back in the 1980’s. Paul Hattaway from Asia Harvest shares the following about Doug’s life and “Project Pearl.”

Doug Sutphen is best remembered for leading the audacious “Project Pearl” in 1981 – when one million Chinese Bibles, weighing 232 tons, were delivered by barge to thousands of waiting Christians on a beach in southern China. Time magazine described it as “A remarkable mission…the largest operation of its kind in the history of China.” Many Chinese church leaders today say that Project Pearl was a pivotal moment in their history. The Church had only started to re-emerge after decades of brutal oppression, and the desperate need of believers everywhere was for Bibles. A quarter of a century later reports are still being received of the tremendous impact those Bibles had on whole communities. Chinese Christians consider Project Pearl a key event which contributed greatly to the mighty revival presently sweeping the world’s most populous nation …

Operating under a cloak of secrecy because of the highly-sensitive nature of the work, Sutphen and his team worked closely with house church leaders inside China and settled on the bold and risky plan to take one million Bibles into China by boat, all at once. Starting with no money or resources, God supernaturally provided everything needed and the delivery was successfully completed in the evening of 18 June, 1981. More than 10,000 Chinese believers gathered along a beach near the city of Shantou in southern China, and took the one million Bibles away in trucks, cars, donkey carts, on bicycles, and strung across bamboo poles. The army arrived at the beach several hours after the delivery, but the vast majority of Bibles (at least 90%) had been successfully moved by the Chinese Christians. Later, the Three-Self church and others tried to denounce Project Pearl by claiming all the Bibles had been confiscated or swept out to sea, but this was not true. Within weeks, Project Pearl Bibles had made their way to hungry believers in 18 different provinces, and letters of overwhelming gratitude poured in from Christians who had received their first copy of God’s Word.

The whole of Project Pearl, and indeed Doug Sutphen’s life from the time of his conversion, was focused on seeking first the kingdom of God. For decades he received no salary, and mentioned his personal needs only to God, and never to people. God responded to his faith in a marvelous way, and the Sutphens never lacked what they needed. In 1981 the inspirational story of “Brother David” up to that point was told in the best-selling book, “God’s Smuggler to China.”

I thank God for faithful servants like Doug who give their all for the kingdom of God. May we be encouraged to do the same in the places where God has called us to serve.

HT: Phil Gons at PastorBlog


  1. Rachael says:

    I haven’t read the book about him but from what I’ve heard (and what you posted)it seems like he was an amazing Christian guy!
    I’m sure God is saying to him: “Well done, you good and faithful servent!”


  2. Sharon Gamble says:

    Funny how the Lord brings a common theme to one sometimes. I just finished reading Safely Home, by Randy Alcorn. It is a fiction story of the persecuted believers in China and immensely powerful. It is a must read, even for those who don’t normally like fiction. Then, I read in WORLD magazine about the pastor’s wife who had her baby forcibly aborted from her womb at 7 months, along with many other women in her area. They were all having a second child and that is not allowed in China. Now, I read of this saint’s death. Be praying for our fellow believers in China. They need our prayers!

  3. Rachael says:

    I just started Safely Home after reading this post!

  4. Sharon Gamble says:

    Rachael – Tell me what you think of it when you finish! I hope you like it and it ministers to you like it did to me. 🙂

  5. Rachael says:

    Haven’t finished it yet, (almost!) but yes it’s deffinitly ministered to me!

    God bless~

  6. Rod Mcpherson says:

    This book will change your life

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