‘Brother Andrew was a true hero of the faith who continues to inspire believers across the nations. Best known for his inspirational memoir, “God’s Smuggler,” he spent years secretly delivering Bibles across the Iron Curtain. He died at the age of 94 at home in the Netherlands.
Affectionally known as Brother Andrew, Anne van der Bijl had an infectious passion for supporting persecuted Christians worldwide. This grew into Open Doors, a global charity that now helps millions internationally, providing emergency relief, training and trauma counselling as well as secret Bibles and Christian literature.
“When Brother Andrew started his ministry, little did he imagine that within 60 years it would embrace millions of Christians worldwide,” said Open Doors CEO Dan Ole Shani. “Inspired by his example, the Open Doors network reaches out to an increasing number of Christians in the most difficult spots and provides life-changing support to many of them. That is the biggest testament to Brother Andrew’s remarkable life.”
Born on 11 May, 1928 in Witte, Sint Pancras, Netherlands, Brother Andrew grew up during the rise of Nazi power in neighbouring Germany. After receiving missionary training in Scotland, he travelled to Poland in 1955 to participate in a worldwide communist youth rally. He travelled there with a suitcase full of Christian tracts and discovered that churches behind the Iron Curtain were isolated and much in need of encouragement.
The founder of Open Doors, Anne van der Bijl, aks Brother Andrew and God’s Smuggler and the VW Beetle he used to start taking Bibles beyond the Iron Curtain. Images © Open Doors International
His border crossing to Yugoslavia and other Iron Curtain countries in a bright blue Volkswagen Beetle stuffed with illicit Bibles in 1957 is memorialised in his memoir, “God’s Smuggler,” written 10 years later with the collaboration of authors John and Elizabeth Sherrill. The first of 16 books written by van der Bijl, by then known as Brother Andrew, it has sold more than 10 million copies and has been translated into more than 35 languages.
The Bible smuggling reached a climax in June 1981 when a 20-strong Open Doors crew piloted a custom-built barge onto a Chinese beach under the cover of darkness. They floated 1 million Bibles contained in 232 packages, weighing one ton each, to a small, silent army of waiting Chinese Christians, who spirited them into the country.
Time magazine called Project Pearl “the largest operation of its kind in the history of China”. The article was titled “Risky Rendezvous in Swatow” and a Time Beijing bureau chief later described it as one of the most unusual and successful smuggling operations of the 20th century.
Brother Andrew often said: “Our very mission is called ‘Open Doors’ because we believe that all doors are open, anytime and anywhere. I literally believe that every door is open to go in and proclaim Christ,” he said, “as long as you are willing to go and are not worried about coming back.” His travels logged an estimated 1 million miles through 125 countries.
After the fall of the Iron Curtain, Brother Andrew turned his attention to the Islamic World. He travelled to the Middle East and South Asia and had private meetings with leaders of several Islamic fundamentalist groups. In the face of growing Islamist violence towards Christians, Brother Andrew preached against retaliation. He used the phrase I Sincerely Love All Muslims – an acrostic for Islam – as a counter to the rising Islamophobia in the West.
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.
But perhaps the recognition that pleased him most is the copies from East Germany of the Stasi reports, which he obtained after the fall of the Iron Curtain. There were more than 150 pages about him, detailing his work in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. They knew a lot about “Brother Andrew,” yet were not able to stop his work.
Brother Andrew was married for 59 years to his wife, Corry, who died in January 2018. He is survived by five children and eleven grandchildren. Read more about Brother Andrew’s extraordinary life.
About Open Doors, founded by Brother Andrew
Open Doors International is a global NGO network which has supported and strengthened persecuted Christians for over 60 years and works in over 60 countries. The organisation has raised millions to provide practical support to persecuted Christians such as food, medicines, trauma care, legal assistance, safe houses and schools, as well as spiritual support through Christian literature, training and resources.
The charity has also distributed millions of Bibles and Christian books, and provided countless persecuted Christians with emergency relief, community development, education and medical care. This includes trauma care, leadership and discipleship courses as well as persecution survival training. The charity also supports Christian radio broadcasts into countries where Christianity is forbidden or where being caught with a Bible is dangerous.
Every January Open Doors publishes the World Watch List – a ranking of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. This is produced using detailed information provided by Open Doors co-workers in more than 60 countries, as well as independent experts.
Data is gathered on five spheres of life – private, family, community, national and church life – plus a sixth sphere measuring the degree of violence impacting Christians. Persecution in each country is recorded by Open Doors using a point system. Open Doors’ research methods and results have been independently audited by the International Institute for Religious Freedom.