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‘God’s Smuggler,’ Anne van der Bijl, Known as ‘Brother Andrew,’ Dies at 94

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Aug. 18, 2007, picture of Anne van der Bijl during a lecture at the Flevo Festival. Jako Jellema, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Anne van der Bijl, commonly known as “Brother Andrew,” passed away Tuesday, Sept. 27 at his home in the Netherlands at the age of 94. He is the founder of the international nonprofit Open Doors and is known for his legacy of smuggling Bibles behind the Iron Curtain, for which he earned the nickname, “God’s Smuggler.”  

“Brother Andrew was an ordinary man who chose to go to hard places and do amazing things for one reason: He was following Jesus,” said David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors USA, in a press release. “One of the most interesting and well-known Christian leaders of our time, his passing indeed leaves a great void. But we believe, as he did, that God will raise people up to continue His good work in the persecuted church, to be the Brother Andrews of our generation.”

Brother Andrew’s Life and Legacy

Anne van der Bijl was born in Sint Pancras, the Netherlands, in 1928. He was 12 years old when Germany invaded the Netherlands in 1940, and during World War II, he hid in ditches to avoid being forced to fight for the Nazis, according to Christianity Today.

In 1950, Brother Andrew entrusted his life to God, a decision influenced by his experiences with the Dutch army in Indonesia, where he participated in killing an entire village of people. “There wasn’t much faith in my prayer,” he said. “I just said, ‘Lord if you will show me the way, I will follow you. Amen.’” 

As he grew as a Christian, Brother Andrew determined to rely on the leading of the Holy Spirit, a decision that proved to be crucial in the dangerous work of smuggling Bibles into Soviet-occupied countries. Seeing a need for Bibles in Communist countries and believing God had called him to support the churches in those areas, Brother Andrew smuggled his first Bibles into Yugoslavia in 1957. 

He said, “I promised God that as often as I could lay my hands on a Bible, I would bring it to these children of his behind the wall that men built to every…country where God opened the door long enough for me to slip through.”

In the book, “God’s Smuggler,” Brother Andrew tells a striking story of faith as he recounts his work smuggling Bibles into Communist countries for years. One famous story is of the time when he was attempting to cross the border of Romania in a car filled with Bibles when he saw that the guards were meticulously and thoroughly checking the vehicles ahead of him, even going so far as to disassemble one of the cars. “What am I going to do?” he prayed. He decided to take a radical step of faith by bringing some of the Bibles into the open when it was his turn to be checked. But when his turn arrived, the guard would not even allow him to get out of the car and waved him on in a matter of seconds.