A Sacred Secret Agent, Brother Andrew Bootlegs Bibles Behind the Iron Curtain
“Lord, in my luggage I have Scripture that I want to take to Your children across this border. When You were on earth, You made blind eyes see. Now, I pray, make seeing eyes blind…”
These words—soon to become legend as “the Prayer of God’s Smuggler”—were first uttered by a young Dutch missionary as he prepared to cross into Yugoslavia in 1957. His contraband: Bibles. Since then Anne van der Bijl, or Brother Andrew, as he is known to fellow Christians, has sneaked hundreds of thousands more on forays behind the Iron Curtain and into forbidden areas of Asia, Africa and Latin America.
Today, at 50, he heads the $2 million “Open Doors” operation in Holland that trains teams of Bible bootleggers. Among Brother Andrew’s guidelines for his operatives: “Be aggressive if they catch you so they’ll believe your Christian dedication and forget about politics.” Then he adds, by way of comfort: “So far, by the grace of God, we’ve never had a single team imprisoned.”
Avoiding arrest has required both guile and some near miracles. On a trip back from East Germany and Poland in 1959, Andrew’s VW Beetle broke down, and he found himself 50 marks short of the cost of repairs. At the last minute two companions showed up with 50 marks just given them in the street by an anonymous old lady. When his van with 650 Bibles was stopped by a police officer in Moscow, his helper bluffed the Russians by answering in Dutch. Later a heavy rainstorm emptied the streets, helping them to make a safe delivery. More recently he smuggled 50,000 New Testaments camouflaged to resemble Mao’s famous “Red Book” to Chinese workers on the railroad in Africa.
Brother Andrew’s 1967 best-selling God’s Smuggler made him internationally known—and thus blew his cover. So now he just runs the network from his house in Harderwijk, Holland. There he lives with his missionary wife, Corrie, five children and unabated zeal. “No government,” he declares, “has the right to restrict Christian believers from making God’s Word known.”