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How Brother Andrew kept the Christian flame burning


WITHOUT a Dutch man who died last Tuesday at the age of 94, Communism might have succeeded in stamping out Christianity in most of Eastern Europe.

Known to millions as Brother Andrew through his bestselling 1967 autobiography God’s Smuggler, Christian missionary Anne van de Bijl, a former soldier in the Dutch East Indies, started smuggling Bibles into Communist Yugoslavia in his blue Volkswagen Beetle in 1957. His Beetle carried many thousands of Bibles into East Germany, Hungary, Romania, Poland and the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, he obtained copies of the KGB reports on him. There were more than 150 pages about his missionary activities behind the Iron Curtain. The charity he founded in 1955 to support persecuted Christians, Open Doors, now operates in more than 60 counties.

In 2018, the then Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt wrote to Brother Andrew: ‘Having read God’s Smuggler as a child, I know that your story has inspired millions of people around the world to speak out on behalf of the voiceless and suffering.’

The Communist authorities in Eastern Europe were quite happy to tolerate the compromised Christian denominations they licensed in their countries. Like the 21st century Church of England in the face of neo-Marxist Western wokery, those licensed denominations side-lined the Scriptures and promoted an insipid version of the Christian faith (with the exception of the Roman Catholic Church in Poland).

The Bibles Brother Andrew smuggled in got to the underground churches where the flame of vibrant Christianity kept burning. Strengthened by the Scriptures, these Christians were willing to suffer for their faith. Romanian Lutheran pastor Richard Wurmbrand (1909-2001) chronicled the sufferings of the underground church in his 1967 book Tortured for Christ

In an interview with the US evangelist Pat Robertson in 1975, Brother Andrew described his ‘smuggler’s prayer’ at Communist border-crossings when guards searched his Beetle: ‘Lord Jesus, when you were on earth you made so many blind eyes to see. Now it’s the same job for you to make seeing eyes blind, but you’ve got to do it now.’

He said: ‘I cannot outsmart the customs guards. Just think, when I pull my car in there and I get out and show my papers, I’ve had situations where they took four hours to search: two fellows in the front of my vehicle, two in the rear, two underneath and two standing there to watch the expression on my face to see if I was getting nervous.’

He reported that he never lost a Bible in all his journeys.

Open Doors has produced a video tribute to Brother Andrew in which he is recorded as saying: ‘I think we in the West – and this is a personal confession – I think we are cowards. We ought to become people of guts and courage and strong convictions and don’t count our lives dear unto ourselves.’

It is both heartening and humbling to reflect on how the Lord mightily used this rather quirky adventurer to subvert the Evil Empire with the Word of God.

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Julian Mann
Julian Mann
Julian Mann is a former Church of England vicar, now an evangelical journalist based in Heysham, Lancashire.

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