After his recent passing, there has been a well-deserved outpouring of love and praise for Anne van der Bijl.

While that name may not be familiar to you, he is better known by many of us as “Brother Andrew” – or “God’s Smuggler” – for his early days of smuggling Bibles into communist eastern Europe and China.

I wanted to share some of my personal reflections on my time with him since from 2003 through 2012 I was privileged to be the CEO of the USA branch of Open Doors, the organization that Brother Andrew founded.

This was an incredible honor.

A deep profound sense of responsibility to the persecuted Church and the suffering of Christians worldwide provided a backdrop for my relationship with Brother Andrew.

Following Andrew’s example, Open Doors simply asked persecuted believers worldwide, “What do you need?”

And then we got that for them, whether it was Bibles, food, clothing, whatever.

But mostly they asked for prayer, and so we remembered them in prayer – and sought to move others to pray faithfully for them, as well. 

From the beginning, Andrew was an inspiration to me and millions of others.

As a kid, I remember being at church camp in the 1970s where the camp bookstore had a copy of the comic book version of “God’s Smuggler.”

I read about this “James Bond spy for Jesus” and I was hooked.

I truly thought he was the coolest Christian ever.

Fast forward to 2003 when my wife, Kim, and I had the chance to travel to the Netherlands to meet Brother Andrew just two weeks after taking the role of CEO at Open Doors.

We were met at the door by Andrew and he invited us into his office in his garage. We sat down on his couch and he went out to get us all some good Dutch coffee. Kim and I just literally pinched each other and said, “Can you believe we are sitting here on Brother Andrew’s couch?”

He was so gracious and kind while we were somewhat star struck. 

Over the next nine years, I was privileged to occasionally travel with him to parts of the world where fellow believers were suffering persecution.

Places like Gaza, Israel, the West Bank and Pakistan, where he had deep relationships and affection for the brothers and sisters.

His simple principle of love and service made doors open everywhere we went.

On one trip with him to Gaza, just after a conflict there, his phone rang constantly as those he served got word that he was in the area.

Soon we had audiences with the political and religious leadership of Gaza, in a home garden, with Islamic militant guards all around.

They quoted the poetry of the Koran.

Brother Andrew responded with the Gospel. 

Andrew always prayed with them and for them.

He would say, “If they can be reached, they can be won.” 

 

Brother Andrew and PLO Leader Yasser Arafat (Photo: Open Doors International)

 

We actually sat with some of those that the rest of the world saw as unreachable terrorists, and shared the love of Jesus with them. 

Andrew challenged me one time and asked, “Do you pray for Osama Bin Laden?”

At the time, bin Laden was the leader of al Qaeda and enemy No. 1 for the United States.

I had to admit that I didn’t, but I began to after that.

Andrew taught me to believe that no one is beyond the reach of God’s love, and to pray towards that end. 

On a trip to Pakistan, we met with former Muslims who were now followers of Jesus and were risking everything to bring good news to Taliban students.

Our hearts melted as we heard their stories.

We cried together with them as they described the loss of family and the constant threats they faced.

And yet they had an indescribable joy to serve the Lord.

Andrew later would travel into the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan to baptize new underground followers of Jesus.

These “Secret Believers” would be his passion for many years, and he would go on to write a book about such courageous believers.

Traveling throughout the U.S. with Andrew was also a special privilege.

He often would challenge church audiences with the simple call to go and serve.

“Just Go!” he would respond to people’s questions of what they should do to serve the persecuted.

And over the decades, many did go into full-time Christian ministry, trusting in the Lord to meet their every need.

Thousands actually followed Andrew’s example.

He would also say, “Jesus said ‘Go,’ but he never promised you would come back! Are you willing?”

He was especially challenging when it came to our Western church comforts.

He would say, “You in America are so comfortable in your Christianity – no one is shooting at you – why doesn’t the Devil think you are worth a bullet?“ 

On a couple of occasions I had the opportunity to take Andrew with me to the Christian Motorcyclist Association (CMA) meeting in Arkansas. They were and are long-time friends of Open Doors ministry.

Andrew loved being with the bikers who were willing to go literally anywhere to share the good news.

Since many of the CMA members had formerly been outlaw bikers, Andrew recognized their passion to do whatever it takes to reach the lost. He was one of their favorites!

One year we also met Vonette Bright – the widow of the late Bill Bright, and a co-founder with her husband of Campus Crusade for Christ – before she passed away.

It was amazing to see these two giants of evangelism share their passion and joy in sharing Jesus. 

On one of our trips together, I asked Andrew what he would like written on his tombstone.

To be clear, I have no idea what will actually be on it, but I was deeply moved by his response, and have tried to apply it to my own life. He said, “I would like it to say, ‘HE DID WHAT HE COULD NOT’ – that is, I did what only God could have done.” 

May Andrew’s life be a true reminder to all of us, of what God is capable of doing in and through each of us if we are simply willing to “Just Go.”

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