I have been asking people if they remember Anne van der Bijl. He was a Dutch Christian who just passed away. That was a trick question. And so, I also gave the name whereby he was known in the English-speaking world. Brother Andrew. Most people I spoke to had not heard of him (although a significant minority did). But that got me thinking. I also asked if they had heard the name of some others. And this time, I gave the name of well-known so-called Christians who had created scandals. Almost everyone knew the names of the people I mentioned.
Many Christians today are unaware of our great heroes. We seem to not know those that served the gospel faithfully for many years and in our generation. They died, not in disgrace, but having run the race well and leaving behind a legacy to be emulated. In short, we need to celebrate our heroes.
Here is one of them.
Brother Andrew was a Dutch missionary. He was born in 1928, and came to Christ in the early 1950’s. By his own account, while serving in the Dutch military in Indonesia, he had taken part in a massacre of an Indonesian village. The memory haunted him. But it drove him to Christ.
After his conversion, Brother Andrew committed his life to God and to missions. His famous book, “God’s Smuggler”, written with the help of John and Elizabeth Sherrill, recounts how he became involved in smuggling Bibles into the former European east bloc countries, then under the grip of communism. He made his first trip in 1957, entering what was then the nation of Yugoslavia. The Bibles were hidden in his blue Volkswagen Beetle. He recounts how the guards searched the cars ahead of his. He also recounted his prayer. “Lord, in my luggage I have Scripture that I want to take to your children across this border. When you were on Earth, you made blind eyes see. Now, I pray, make seeing eyes blind. Do not let the guards see those things you do not want them to see.”
Brother Andrew would smuggle Bibles into Poland, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Bulgaria and eventually into the Soviet Union. Estimates suggest that he personally may have smuggled as many as one million Bibles. He inspired countless others to do the same. He flooded the communist world with God’s word. Christianity Today reports a Dutch joke popular in the 1960’s. At that time, the U.S. and the Soviet Union were racing to have the first man on the moon. The joke said that if the Russians arrive first, they will find Brother Andrew ahead of them waiting with a load of Bibles to give to each one of the cosmonauts.
Eventually, Andrew’s mission would change. He would bring leadership to “Open Doors”, a ministry devoted to supporting persecuted Christians in various countries, as well as raising the issues of their plight to the international church. Over the years, Open Doors has helped Christians in the West know how to respond to their persecuted brothers and sisters.
In 1993, Andrew was knighted by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands. In 1997, he received the World Evangelical Alliance’s Religious Liberty Award. But Open Doors reports that the recognition that pleased him most was the copies of KGB intelligence reports, which he managed to obtain after the fall of communism. There were more than 150 pages about him, and his work in Eastern Europe.
As we consider his life, we are reminded that Brother Andrew did not think of himself as a remarkable man. He believed he was ordinary, but had been used by God. May his life and example inspire a great company who believe nothing matters more than a radical commitment to the service of their Lord and Saviour. I am thankful for the example of this humble man. We are enriched to remember him.