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The Light Force of God’s Smuggler: Arab Christians Mourn Brother Andrew

Image: Open Doors International

When “God’s smuggler” came to the Middle East, he went through the front door. Once known for hiding Bibles in the back of his Volkswagen when crossing behind the Iron Curtain, Brother Andrew instead simply handed them to terrorists. Coupled with his devotion to the Palestinian church, the founder of Open Doors shook the Western Christian status quo.

Arab evangelicals loved him for it.

“He had a soft heart for those in pain, the persecuted, and those usually considered on the other side, the enemy,” said Jack Sara, general coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa Evangelical Alliance. “He was willing to step into a difficult place and talk with difficult people, but never compromise the message of the gospel.”

The news of Anne van der Bijl’s death Tuesday at age 94 shook participants during the second general assembly of the World Evangelical Alliance’s (WEA) Arab world region. David Rihani, president of the Jordan Evangelical Council, recalled the words of his father who received the Dutch evangelical frequently.

“This man is an example of a real Christian leader,” the first Jordanian evangelical pastor told his son. “He writes books, he shares knowledge, and he cares about everyone without discrimination.”

Rihani praised Brother Andrew’s ecumenical cooperation. Developing relationships with traditional Catholic and Orthodox leaders in the region, for decades Open Doors has chronicled persecution against all Christian denominations. And as the group’s advocacy across 60 countries grew to include the plight of believers in other religious traditions, the Bible smuggler won respect in the wider human rights community as well.

“He advocated tirelessly for religious freedom, a source of hope to persecuted Christian communities around the world,” tweeted US Ambassador-at-Large Rashad Hussain, a Muslim. “I’m grateful his legacy will live on in the work of @OpenDoors.”

But it was his literature that originally established Brother Andrew’s worldwide fame. God’s Smuggler, written in 1967, sold more than 10 million copies and was translated into 35 languages—including Arabic.

Maher Fouad, president of the General Society for Iraqi National Evangelical Churches, was touched most by And God Changed His Mind (1990). Calling Andrew a “blessed saint,” he recalled reading the book in 1991 when he headed the prayer ministry of the National Evangelical Church of Baghdad.

“It redirected me completely,” Maher said. “He knew how to slowly enter the presence of God, and only then find answers to prayer.”

The publication of Light Force in 2004 highlighted to the world Brother Andrew’s increased attention to the Muslim world. Acclaimed to be as captivating as Smuggler, his dependence on prayer was on display in practical concern for the Middle Eastern church.

“My purpose is to encourage and strengthen the local believers to be a Light Force,” he wrote, “an alternative to military might.”

But first he modeled it himself. In 1992, when 415 militants from Hamas were expelled by Israel to the side of a mountain in southern Lebanon’s Marj al-Zohour, Brother Andrew saw an opportunity to…

This article was originally published by Christianity Today on September 29, 2022. Please click here to read the full text.

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