Brother Andrew

Picture of Brother Andrew, courtesy of Open Doors USA.
Picture of Brother Andrew, courtesy of Open Doors Canada.

Introduction

Brother Andrew’s real name is Andy van der Bijl. Brother Andrew lived for adventure. When he was younger, he never knew of the adventures he would be having as an adult. Never in a million years, would Brother Andrew think he was going to smuggle Bibles into a restricted country behind the Iron Curtain. Yet, here he is, praying for the guard’s eyes to be blinded to the Bibles in the back of his car in clear sight. Amazingly, the guard didn’t even notice and waved him past the check point.

Early Life

Andy was born in 1922 in Witte, Netherlands.[1] He was the 3 child out of 6. One of his older brother’s names was Bas. He was disabled and couldn’t talk, but Bas was an excellent organ player. Bas died at the age of 17 of Tuberculosis. Andy Van der Bijl wanted to die with his brother, but no matter how hard he tried, Andy could not get Tuberculosis. During his childhood, Andy would go to church with his parents. When the church service started, he would slip out the doors. During the winter, Andy would go ice skating during church. Once he got back to church at the end of the service, he would listen to the chatter listening for clues of what the pastor said during the sermon. Then, he would put his input into what he “thought” about the sermon.

Germany Take Over

During World War II, the Germans took over Holland. Andy got to the 6th grade and had to stop attending school, because the Nazis took over the schools and converted them into bunkers for the soldiers. The Nazis set up a curfew of 10:00 pm for the villagers, to make it look like the Nazis cared for them and wanted to keep them out of harm’s way. One day, Andy decided to do something mischievous. He decided to get some fireworks in order to scare the German soldiers. He did not have any money, so he paid for the fireworks with tomatoes. He set the fireworks off at curfew at different parts of the village in order to divert the attention of the Nazis, so he could plan his escape.[2] His plan was successful. Andy got back to his home safely. After this, Andy joined a group of teens who sought to help with the fight against the Nazis by stealing guns, radio, etc. from them. At about this time, the Nazis started looking for able-bodied men including Andy’s brothers, father and Andy himself to fight for them. Each day, they had to flee into a nearby forest in order to hide from the German soldiers. Finally, the war ended with the Nazis being defeated by the Allies in 1945.

Resistance Army

After World War II was over, Andy was 17 years old. It was time for him to pick a profession. He did not want to be an Ironsmith like his father. One day while he was running, Andy decided to become a soldier. When he was 18 years old, he joined the Dutch Resistance Army. After training, Andy went to war in Indonesia in order to fight against the communist who were fighting to take over the Dutch-controlled areas of Indonesia. Andy was horrified by all the bloodshed. One day, he killed a baby and mother. During his training, Andy met families at the church he attended. One girl he met was Thile. Andy started to correspond with her during the war. Andy also started wearing a straw hat, hoping one of the guerillas would shoot him in the head. One day, he was shot in the ankle, making him cripple. Andy was impressed by the Franciscan nuns who were joyful no matter how low of a job they had to do in the hospital. He asked them why they were so joyful and they told him, “It’s the love of Christ. Why it’s right here in the book beside you.”[3] Andy started reading through the Bible after the Sister said that. Although he did not come to Jesus immediately, he started having questions about life.

Questions

Andy was depressed after being wounded. He did not know where to turn. Andy continued his drinking habit which had started during the war. Once he found out the war in Indonesia had been lost by the Dutch, Andy went deeper into depression. He felt like his life was purposeless with the way the war went. During this time, Andy’s mother died. After being released, Andy started going to church every day. He was genuinely searching for answers to questions he had. He continued to correspond with Thile as well, asking her questions. Finally, after much searching, he finally committed his life to Christ one night.

Missionary?

One night, Andy attended an evangelistic rally. The pastor was certain that God would raise up a missionary from the service. Andrew and his friend, Kees originally thought about leaving the rally, yet they felt God’s nudge to stay. Eventually they stepped up to the front to commit their lives to missions. The pastor told Andrew and Kees to meet him at the mayor’s office in Sint Pancras in order to give their testimonies. Andrew started to give his testimony, but not many were paying attention, so he decided to give the testimony from his heart and tell them about the terrible things he had done in Indonesia. After this, Andrew had no idea of where to go next, so he started working at a chocolate factory. There he witnessed to his co-workers and started prayer meetings. Although his ministry was successful at the chocolate factory, Andy knew God did not want him to be there for life. He decided to join the World Evangelistic Crusade training school in Scotland. There Andy learned to live by faith.

Once during his first term, Andy and the other students were given a 1 Pound note each in order to minister to people. He went with a team of students to share the Good News with the people of Scotland for a month. They could not tell anyone about their need. At each place they went, they were welcomed and provided for their needs both monetarily and physically. Each of the students tithed what they earned. At the end of the month, they had more than what they had started with. In the last months of the second year, Andy was not sure what to do until he saw a magazine.

Warsaw

Andy saw an article in a magazine on a communist youth gathering in Warsaw, Poland. Andy decided to go to the youth rally. He wrote a letter stating his intention to debate communists on the matter of Christianity. The government invited Andy into the country for the three week gathering. He brought Christian literature with him. The communist guide showed those attending the youth rally, the glories of communism. Andy was impressed by what they showed them, but after two days, he decided to see what the real Warsaw was like. What he saw shocked him. Andy saw abject poverty like he had never seen before. He started passing out Gospel literature to people, including soldiers on the street. On Sunday, he decided to visit a church. Everyone was encouraged by his presence. At an evening Baptist church, he got up and had the opportunity to speak to the church a word of encouragement well briefly. After nearly three weeks of being in Warsaw, Andy felt God was calling him to minister to the church behind the Iron Curtain.

Assisting Churches

Brother Andrew, as he is now known as, went to various countries in the Iron Curtain. His mission was to encourage the church that was persecuted. Brother Andrew delivered Bibles to various countries in the Iron Curtain. He prayed the guards at the border crossing would not see the Bibles. Brother Andrew was deported from various communist countries and asked never to come back.

Conclusion

Brother Andrew founded Open Doors. They continue the work of providing for Christians who are persecuted both physically and spiritually. Open Doors also create awareness of persecuted Christians in other countries among Western Christians.

[1] “Brother Andrew-God’s Smuggler.” https://hopefaithprayer.com/salvationnew/andrew-gods-smuggler/

[2]Benge, Janet &Geoff. Christian Heroes: Then & Now: Brother Andrew: God’s Secret Agent.

[3] Benge, Janet &Geoff. Christian Heroes: Then & Now: Brother Andrew: God’s Secret Agent.