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‘God’s Smuggler’ Brother Andrew dies at the age of 94

by Donna Birrell
Brother Andrew.jpg - Banner image
Open Doors

The man known to Christians around the world as ‘Brother Andrew’ has died at the age of 94.

Brother Andrew, whose real name was Anne van der Bijl was born in the Netherlands in 1928.

He founded the ministry of Open Doors in 1955 setting off for his God-inspired mission to smuggle millions of Bibles into countries where Christians were persecuted. Travelling in his Volkswagen Beetle car stuffed with illicit Bibles, he ventured into Soviet Bloc Communist countries including East Germany, Poland, Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia.

After an account of his adventures was published in 1967, he became known as God's Smuggler and inspired Christian missionaries across the world. The book was translated into 35 languages and sold more than 10 million copies.

When East/West relations thawed, Brother Andrew turned his attention to the leaders of the underground church in China. In one expedition in 1981, missionaries from Open Doors floated a barge into China under the cover of darkness. They were able to deliver a million Bibles to a silent group of waiting Chinese Christians, who spirited them into the country.

One of the pastors reflected :

“We believe Brother Andrew did this because he was touched by the love of God. God carried out a miracle through him in smuggling 1 million Bibles into China. But we know there is no one-man show in God’s family. The great task couldn’t be accomplished by Brother Andrew alone. There must be many, many Brother Andrews – big ones, small ones – who unitedly take up the burden. Here we give our thanks to all the “big” Andrews and “small” Andrews. May the Lord remember what you’ve done.”

Brother Andrew also turned his attention to the Middle East and North Africa and was one of the few Western public figures to regularly meet with Islamic leaders as an ambassador for Christ.

After  Osama bin Laden, the leader of al-Qaeda was killed by US forces in 2011, he expressed sadness :

“I believe everyone is reachable. People are never the enemy—only the devil. Bin Laden was on my prayer list. I wanted to meet him. I wanted to tell him who is the real boss in the world.”

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 spreading the Gospel.

Open Doors now helps Christians in more than 60 countries, distributing 300,000 Bibles and 1.5 million Christian books and resources every year.

Brother Andrew died on Tuesday 27th September 2022 surrounded by his family who had provided him with dedicated around-the-clock care in the last few years of his life.

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.”

When asked if he had any regrets about his life - Brother Andrew said he would like to have been "a lot more radical."


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