A race well run, my man. A race well run.
Andrew van der Bijl was of those 20th-century men that we desperately need to rediscover in our generation. He was one of six children born to a Dutch blacksmith and a sick, nearly invalid mother. Born in 1928, he experienced the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. After the war, he enlisted in the Royal Netherlands East Indies Army in 1946, joining the forces that sought to retake Dutch control of Indonesia, which ultimately failed.
The violence he saw and carried out in the colonial army left him haunted – so much so that he began pouring over the Bible to deal with the emotional pain and guilt he felt. He committed himself to following Jesus Christ and started Bible school before feeling a call to witness to the millions trapped behind the Iron Curtain following WWII.
In 1955, he used a communist youth tour in Poland as an excuse to enter the country with a suitcase full of Bible tracts and visit underground churches there. In 1957, he did the same in Moscow, then went on to travel to China, Czechoslovakia, Cuba, and other communist nations – each time smuggling in Bibles and other literature that could have gotten him imprisoned or killed.
He would often leave the Bibles he smuggled in plain view, trusting that God would keep him safe. Here's just one of many situations where he found himself at a border crossing into Romania with a car packed full of Bibles:
As he prayed, a bold idea came to Brother Andrew. "I know that no amount of cleverness on my part can get me through this border search. Dare I ask for a miracle? Let me take some of the Bibles out and leave them in the open where they will be seen."
Putting the Bibles out in the open would truly be depending on God, rather than his own intelligence, he thought. So when the guards ushered Andrew forward, he did just this. "I handed him my papers and started to get out. But his knee was against the door, holding it closed."
And then, the almost unbelievable happened.
The guard looked at Brother Andrew's passport and abruptly waved him on. "Surely thirty seconds had not passed," he remembers.
And you thought being Obi-Wan Kenobi was cool!
Those of us who have worked in the mission field or alongside missionaries have seen and heard countless stories like this – times when security was miraculously bypassed like the jailbreaks described in the Book of Acts.
Andrew van der Bijl also founded Open Doors, a ministry that exists to raise awareness and support for persecuted Christians around the world. The organization's World Watch List is well known for its updates and warnings about religious liberty around the world.
In 1967, Andrew published his account of sneaking into communist nations in "God's Smuggler," which has sold millions upon millions of copies.
As the Iron Curtain fell, Andrew expanded the ministry's work to the Muslim world, where Christians are regularly oppressed in horrific ways for their faith. Open Doors works in more than 60 countries today, serving millions of Christians around the globe.
Not bad for the kid of a poor blacksmith!
Would that we all might do the same.
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