MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (BP)--A 72-year-old Southern Baptist from Myrtle Beach, S.C., has been detained for distributing Bibles in the United Arab Emirates.
Vivian Gilmer, a grandmother and member of First Baptist Church in Myrtle Beach, S.C., was on a mission trip with the Tom Cox Evangelistic Association in the Middle East country when she was charged with illegal activity by government authorities Feb. 21, according to the Myrtle Beach Sun News.
Another American, Marie Bush of Waxahachie, Texas, also is being held in Dubai.
The women are prohibited from leaving the country but are expected to be released sometime this week, Bruce Crawford, pastor of First Baptist, told Baptist Press.
In the United Arab Emirates distributing Bibles is legal as long as tracts or other evangelistic material are not distributed with the Bibles, Crawford said.
"They are doing well," he said. "They are in good spirits. They were on a mission trip to India, and they extended their trip and went on to the United Arab Emirates where they were handing out Bibles and were then detained."
Gilmer and Bush were conducting mission efforts with a group, Crawford said. The rest of the group was expelled from the country, but the two women's passports were confiscated, he said.
They are both prohibited from leaving the country pending a hearing in a higher court.
"We're fully expecting [their] release this week, and we're encouraging people to pray for their release," Crawford said.
While in custody, Gilmer has demonstrated faithfulness to Christ and continued to proclaim the truth of Scripture, the pastor said.
"She is a very strong, godly woman. Through this whole ordeal, she has demonstrated character. She's been a source of strength for the other woman [Bush] ... God has used her ... in a tremendous way," Crawford said.
"This may have caught us by surprise, but not God. God has His reasons for her being detained, and God's using her. I'm hoping and praying that through her witness the believers in that area will be strengthened and encouraged."
First Baptist has held prayer meetings for Gilmer and Bush over the past week.
"We've had concerted prayer meetings for her and Marie," Crawford said. "And we're still praying."
Despite the recent detentions in Dubai, First Baptist plans to continue raising money to send volunteers to foreign countries, according to the Sun News.
"There is always a slight risk whenever you leave the country," Crawford said. "But I think for the most part most people are going to look at the risk and say, 'But God has called me to do it, and I'm going to do it.'"
"Those who are committed to go and to fulfill the Great Commission I don't think will hesitate to continue to do that. I think we need to be careful, listen to our guides, make certain we know what's legal ... and try to stay within the boundaries ..." he said.