Tributes are pouring in for the founder of Open Doors, Brother Andrew, who died at his Netherlands home on September 27. He was 94.
Brother Andrew’s secret Bible deliveries behind the Cold War Iron Curtain earned him the title “God’s Smuggler” and launched Open Doors, a worldwide mission supporting persecuted Christians. The organisation supports persecuted Christians in more than 70 countries who live under government, militant, and social threats. Often, they work as secretly as Brother Andrew did when he brought Bibles to Christians living under the tight grip of Communist regimes.
Born Anne van der Bijl, Brother Andrew was married for 59 years to his wife, Corry, who passed away on January 23, 2018. They lived all of their lives in Holland and are survived by their five children and 11 grandchildren.
“Brother Andrew, a servant of the Lord, father, grandfather, our brother in Christ and the much-loved founder of Open Doors has left us today for his eternal home in heaven. He is now with Corry, his dear wife,” said Open Doors International’s CEO Dan Ole Shani.
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“He lived for Christ and has died in Christ. We remember his family at this moment and extend our deepest condolences to them all. We pray for God to comfort and strengthen them with his love.”
In 1957 Brother Andrew crossed the border into Yugoslavia and other Iron Curtain countries in a bright blue Volkswagen Beetle stuffed with ‘illicit’ Bibles. Memorialised in his 1967 autobiography, God’s Smuggler, the book has sold more than 10 million copies and has been translated into more than 35 languages.
Bible-smuggling reached new heights in June 1981 when a 20-man Open Doors crew navigated a custom-built barge onto the China coastline under cover of darkness. They floated one million Bibles contained in 232 packages, each weighing a ton, to a small, silent army of waiting Chinese Christians, who spirited them into the country.
“Our very mission is called ‘Open Doors’ because we believe that all doors are open, anytime and anywhere,” Brother Andrew often explained.
“I literally believe that every door is open to go in and proclaim Christ, as long as you are willing to go and are not worried about coming back.”
His travels logged an estimated 1.6 million kilometres through 125 countries.
After the fall of the Iron Curtain, Brother Andrew turned his attention to the Islamic world, saying that the rapid spread of Islam posed the greatest challenge yet to the Christian church worldwide. His travel shifted mostly to the Middle East and South Asia. He took private meetings with leaders of several Islamic groups. He was one of the few Western public figures to regularly go to those groups as an ambassador for Christ.
In the face of growing extremist violence toward Christians across the Middle East, Persian Gulf, northern Africa and Southeast Asia, Brother Andrew preached against retaliation.
“When we have an enemy image of any political or religious group or nation, the love of God cannot reach us to call us to do something about it,” he said. He frequently turned the word Islam into an acronym for I Sincerely Love All Muslims.
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. In 2003, he received the Heritage of Faithfulness Award from the Christian Association of Senior Adults, in California. However, Brother Andrew says he was proudest of being named a “Blood Brother” of the Apache Indian tribe in 1980s. As part of the ceremony, he was given an Apache name that means, “He who breaks through the lines.”
A house church pastor in China, who was deeply involved with Project Pearl, the mission operation to deliver one million bibles into China reflects:
“We believe Brother Andrew did this because he was touched by the love of God. God carried out a miracle through him in smuggling one 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.”
In addition to distributing Bibles worldwide, Open Doors provides spiritual development, economic relief, literacy and vocational training, trauma counselling and other support services in countries where it is most dangerous to live as a Christian.