Celebrating the life of ‘God’s Smuggler’ Andrew van der Bijl

“Lord you made blind eyes see. Now I pray, make seeing eyes blind.”

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This payer was made famous by the legendary Dutch-born Bible smuggler, Andrew van der Bijl, fondly known as Brother Andrew, who used his VW Beetle to deliver Bibles into closed communist countries at the height of the Cold War. It is said his beloved Beetle had clocked some 200,000 miles by the time it went out of commission.

Because Christianity was banned in all the countries behind the Iron Curtain, Christians in those countries found it difficult to access the word of God. That is when Brother Andrew, who died over a week ago aged 94, stepped in.

He began a thriving enterprise, risking life imprisonment or even death, and started smuggling Bibles to believers in those closed countries.

But perhaps what he is more well known in later years, especially after the fall of communism, was his organisation Open Doors which not only supplies Bibles to Christians worldwide, but also documents incidents of Christians being persecuted because of their faith across the globe.

Mark Ellis, writing in ‘God Reports’ says that in 1967, Brother Andrew published God’s Smuggler, which tells the story of his conversion to Christ and adventures as a Bible-smuggler behind the Iron Curtain. When he crossed heavily-guarded checkpoints into closed countries, he was known for saying the ‘seeing being blind’ prayer.

He was born in Sint Pancras, the Netherlands, the fourth of six children of a poor, near-deaf blacksmith and a mother that struggled with ill health.

While serving in the colonial army of the Dutch East Indies during an uprising that resulted in the formation of Indonesia, he underwent a searing emotional experience for him as a young man. And after he was wounded, he read the Bible continuously, which resulted in him becoming born again.

After the Soviet Union fell apart, he shifted his focus to the Middle East and worked to strengthen the church in the Muslim world, and often gained access to Muslim leaders that no one else could reach. He visited Hamas and PLO leaders, including Ahmed Yassin and Yasser Arafat, and gave them Bibles.

Every year, Open Doors releases the World Watch List which names the countries in which it is hardest to be a Christian. The reclusive North Korea republic has been on the number one spot for many years until this year when it was toppled by Afghanistan and North Korea slid to position two.

“Our next door neighbour Somalia is firmly perched at position three in the list of ignominy. The small number of believers in Somalia are largely Christians who have converted from Islam. Christians are viewed as high-value targets by al-Shabaab. Even when Christian converts are not targeted by Islamic extremists, they are intensely pressured by their family. Any conversion from Islam is seen as a betrayal to family and community, so just suspicion of conversion can lead to harassment, intimidation and even murder,” Open Doors says in the 2022 list.

Andrew died at his home in the Netherlands on September 27. When asked if he had any regrets about his life’s work, Andrew once said, “If I could live my life over again, I would be a lot more radical.”

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