“Jesus said, 'Go,' but He never promised you would come back! Are you willing?" What a question! It stands as a testimony to the man who said it--Andy van der Bijl, better known as Brother Andrew. This giant of the faith was received into heaven on September 27, 2022, at the age of 94. My husband agrees that his life story is worth telling. He had the privilege of meeting Brother Andrew in the 1970s at Princeton University and has commented on his humility and kindness. Jac was so impressed to receive a personal letter from him after they had a one-on-one discussion at this meeting.
Brother Andrew is known for his willingness to place his own life at risk for the sake of the Gospel. He was fearless as he relentlessly brought Bibles into countries that persecuted Christians. What would compel a person to do such a thing? Let's look at his life story. He was born in the Netherlands in 1928 into a family that was quite poor. His parents' love of God seemed to have little influence on him as a child. When the Nazis came to his country, they attempted to capture boys his age to make them serve as Nazi soldiers. Andrew's intolerance for the war, starvation of his family and others, and oppression and lack of freedom made him join the Dutch Resistance Army at the age of 18. He took his mother's Bible with him and learned that she died while he was away. At age 20, he was shot in the ankle and almost had his leg amputated.
The nurses that cared for Andrew while he was in the hospital were Franciscan nuns. He was curious about the joy they carried with them. When questioned by Andrew about why they were so joyful, one of the nurses replied, "It's the love of Christ. Why it's right here in the book beside you." She was pointing to his mother's Bible. When he was released from the hospital, he started going to church and Bible studies which led him to give the rest of his life to Christ. He decided to attend the World Evangelist Crusade (WEC) in September,1953. His ankle was completely healed while he attended WEC Glasgow Bible College in Scotland.
Missionary training was quite challenging. Each student was sent out into Scotland with one pound. They were to rely on God for every need. The mission was a success as Andrew returned with more money than was given to him. After completing college, he decided to attend a youth rally in Warsaw, Poland. The devastating impact communism had on the Poles was on display for him and drew him even deeper into missions. As he helped the poor, Andrew received his calling from the Lord: To bring Bibles to the communists and Christ to where Christians were persecuted.
Going from country to country behind the Iron Curtain in his Volkswagen Beetle filled with Bibles, he put his life on the line. When he stopped at the border of a country he was about to enter, he would pray: "Lord, in my luggage I have Scriptures I want to take to Your children. 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." This prayer was answered innumerable times. Andrew took on a partner named Hans. As the two men continued to take Bibles into non-Christian countries, others joined the mission until they named their group Open Doors. In 1967, Andrew's first book was published. It is reported that more than ten million copies of the book were sold. But Brother Andrew always kept his focus on the mission God gave to him. Through the 1990s and into the 2000s, Bibles were delivered into Albania, North Korea, China, and several Middle East countries.
Open Doors became an international mission organization located in more than 27 countries with an outreach to more than 60 persecuted nations. For Brother Andrew, no nation was considered impossible to visit. He had personal meetings with the head of Hezbollah in Lebanon and with Yasar Arafat and leaders of Hamas. He believed and taught others that no one is beyond the reach of God's love and that it is our responsibility to pray for them. God's hand of blessing seemed to be on everything that Brother Andrew did. One of the Psalms of David seems perfect to describe his life: "Surely, Lord, You bless the righteous; You surround them with favor as with a shield." (Psalm 5:12) Brother Andrew's life should be an inspiration to all of us!
Joan E. Mathias