The lessons from my life will be useless unless a new generation arises to carry the torch, to look for new and creative ways to take the Bible into places that are torn by war, hatred, nationalism and generations of conflict – Bro Andrew
Last week, when I was looking through my study’s book shelves, my eyes went straight to the book ‘God’s Smuggler, One man’s mission to change the world’ by Brother Andrew, John and Elizabeth Sherrill. It was a joyful celebration to later read about the news of Bro Andrew’s transition few days later. I have been greatly impacted by the exploit of Andrew van der Bijl who passed away on Tuesday 27th September, 2022. Born on 11 May 1928 in Sint Pancras in the Netherlands during the Cold War, ‘he joined the colonial army of the Dutch East Indies, and converted to Christianity during a period of convalescence, where he spent much of his time reading the Bible.’
Bro Andrew ‘operated like a Christian international spy, smuggling Bibles and Christian literature into communist Eastern Europe in the 1960s, coordinating the delivery of a million Bibles into China via a tugboat manned by 20 missionaries in the 1980s.’ Bro Andrew’s mission driven and passion led to the establishment of Open Doors in 1955. According to Bro Andrew, “Our very mission is called ‘Open Doors’ because we believe that all doors are open, anytime and anywhere.” Brother Andrew’s faith did not only uprooted biblical illiteracy in different part of the world, he was able to plant scriptural knowledge travelling across the sea, distributing Bible. Bro Andrew’s simple and powerful faith points to a life well lived and aligned to God thereby becoming a conduits of the Gospel.
Living up to his missional nicknamed ‘God’s smuggler,’ Bro Andrew with a faith the size of a mustard seed started his ministry ‘by smuggling Bibles across the Iron Curtain in a blue Volkswagen Beetle. It was the beginning of Open Doors which, more than 65 years later, is continuing as a global ministry supporting persecuted Christians around the world. Henrietta Blyth, CEO of Open Doors UK and Ireland, said: “When Brother Andrew started his ministry, little did he imagine that within 60 years it would embrace millions of Christians worldwide. He leaves behind a remarkable legacy.” Bro Andrew received missionary training in Scotland and later ‘travelled to Poland in 1955 to participate in a Communist youth rally. He travelled there with a suitcase full of Christian tracts. Arriving there, he discovered that churches behind the Iron Curtain were isolated and in need of encouragement.’
Bro Andrew’s bright blue Volkswagen Beetle stuffed with Bibles in 1956 in his border crossing the first of many trips to Soviet Union which was to travel over 200, 000 miles ‘has inspired and encouraged millions of readers since.’ Bro Andrew while countering ‘the rising Islamophobia in the west still expressed his love to all Muslims. He did not fail to warn the west about ‘the Islamic world, saying that the rapid spread of Islam posed the greatest challenge yet to the Christian church worldwide.’
In 1976, the first Open Doors radio was transmitted to encourage persecuted Christians. In 1978, Open Doors sponsors ‘Love Africa.’ In 1982, Open Doors launches a seven-year campaign of prayer for the Communist Bloc. Seven years later, ‘in 1989, the Berlin Wall falls. The Soviet Union is opened to the gospel and Christian prisoners are released.’ A ten-year prayer campaign begins for the 10-40 window- the area of North Africa, the Middle East and Asia which includes the majority of the world’s Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists. In 1993, Bro Andrew presents the first copy of the full Bible in Albanian to the President of Albania – a country which had once declared itself the world’s first atheist state.
It is on
note that, ‘Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands knighted Brother Andrew in 1993.
In 1997, he received the World Evangelical Alliance’s Religious Liberty Award,
recognising his lifetime of service to suffering Christians and his passion for
evangelical ministry.’ Married to Corry for 59 years, until her death in
January 2018, they are survived by five children and eleven grandchildren. To
God be the glory
 Brother Andrew, Sherrill, John and Elizabeth (eds), God’s Smuggler: One Man’s Mission to Change the World (London: Hodder and Stoughton Ltd, 2015), pp. 35-105
 Brother Andrew, Sherrill, John and Elizabeth (eds), God’s Smuggler, pp. 305-307.