Andrew Van Der Bijl was born in 1928 in the Netherlands. He grew up in a Christian family living in the town of Sint Pancras. Though, Andrew’s family was Christian, Andrew wanted nothing to do with spiritual things. Andrew went to church with his family each week; however, Andrew would try to sneak out of the service each week. Most of the time, Andrew was able to leave the service without his family or others knowing. Then he would come back as the sermon ended. He would listen to what the church members said to the pastor and to each other, so that he could speak to his parents about the sermon – as if he had been there. Obviously, his parents’ love for God did nothing to give Andrew salvation or change his character in his early years.
"The enemy is fierce, and he would like you to think that he has won. Don't believe his lie." --Brother Andrew
Growing up in the Netherlands, Andrew loved to run on the low-lying land which was protected from the sea by the dikes holding back the water. These lands were called the polders. Andrew ran so much and seemed to be the fastest person in his town.
As any boy, he thought he would love to hear explosions and see them happen; however, when the German Army invaded the Netherlands he found out differently. The government of the Netherlands tried to slow the advance of the Germands by blowing up the dikes that allowed the polders to remain dry. This didn’t do as much as they had hoped to deter the Germans, and the people of Holland were worried about their homes being flooded. As people form other towns found their homes flooded, they moved into Andrew’s hometown. Andrew’s mother always fixed extra food and helped to feed the refugees which had come to Sint Pancras.
When he was a young teenager, Andrew joined the Dutch Resistance to the German Army. Because the Germans wanted to take the men of the village to work for them, Andrew and the other men in his town were alert to the German vehicles even as they slept. They slept with their windows open, and when they heard the vehicles driving, they would wake up and run to hide in the swamps until the Germans left. Eventually even being part of the Resistance lost its excitement for Andrew. So much of his beautiful country was destroyed and the Dutch people were hungry and oppressed by Hitler’s soldiers.
On May 1, 1945 the news that Hitler was dead came over the radio. By that time, Andrew’s mother was so weak, that instead of celebrating with the people of his village, Andrew went to find a soldier to try to get food for his mother. He was able to get a little bread crust for her. Andrew watched his mother eat this meager bit of food, and he cried hoping that soon their would be more food for his people.
As a 17 year old, Andrew would not go back to 6th grade after the War. When he turned 18, Andrew joined the Army.
Andrew was an effective soldier, but as time went by there were images in his head that he could not get rid of. He found that his only relief was to drink alcohol. He drank frequently and much, but he always found that he felt the same or worse after the drunkenness wore off.
In the midst of his fighting for his country, Andrew received the news that his mother had died. He continued to drink hoping to dull that pain, but it didn’t work.
While fighting in 1949, Andrew had gotten to the point of not caring about his life as he fought for his country. He actually did things that would make him a target, hoping to just die. Eventually Andrew was wounded by a bullet that went through his ankle. At the age of 20, he almost ended up with his leg amputated, but the doctor worked to save it. In the end he saw that he would probably live the rest of his life in a crippled manner.
Though Andrew’s mother had sent her Bible with him when he joined the Army, Andrew had left it in the bottom of his bag. During the long time that he was recovering from his injury, the Bible was on his bedside table. Eventually from boredom, Andrew began to read it. He studied the Bible for two months.
Andrew finally healed enough to go back to Sint Pancras. In his village he was considered a hero, but Andrew was embarrassed as he remembered some of the things that he had done. He wanted to talk to someone who would listen to him without brushing off the hard things that he was thinking. He did find someone to listen – Mr. Whetstra, a man from Andrew’s church. He listened and heard that joining the Army had not been what Andrew expected. Mr. Whetstra listened, and he told Andrew that he would continue to pray for him.
Andrew was able to leave Sint Pancras to go to a veteran’s hospital in Doorn to become part of a program to help his leg be rehabilitated. During this time, Andrew began to drink regularly again. One night all of the men in his ward at the hospital were invited to a revival service. They all rode together, and Andrew and a friend drank in the back of the bus on the way to the service. Andrew and his friend began to mock the preacher. It was very disturbing, and the preacher began to pray for them from the platform. As the choir began to sing, Andrew stopped laughing. The next day, Andrew wanted to read his mother’s Bible. He carried it around and read it as much as possible.
Andrew was released from the military in 1949. When he returned home, he studied the Bible, he fellowshiped with anyone who wanted to learn about the Bible – and people became concerned about him being some sort of a fanatic. During this time Andrew prayed to God. He told him if he would show him what to do, that he would follow God. Many things happened to prepare Andrew after he surrendered his life and future to God. (You should read one of his biographies!!!)
"Lord, if you will show me the way, I will follow you. Amen."
One day, Andrew read from a magazine about an opportunity to go to Poland to learn about Communism and all of the good that it was doing in their country. Andrew knew this was not true. When he wrote to see about taking the trip to Poland, he let them know that he was a Christian. He fully expected them to turn him away from joining the group, but he was included despite being a Christian. This trip was eye-opening to Andrew, even though he already knew he did not agree with Communism. He saw all of the planned activities set up for this group, but he also went off on his own (without permission) to explore other areas. What he found was that the tour guide had taken him to planned locations….he found the regular people who were NOT leading a good life. They were poor and living in horrible conditions. In addition, they were spiritually starving.
Because of this trip and another one that he took which was very similar, Andrew realized that God was calling him to be an evangelist to people behind the Iron Curtain. Andrew served God through life situations that many people would not be willing to choose, because he knew that everyone needs to have God’s Word in his own langauage. There is much about Andrew’s desire to share the Bible with people in their heart language that reminds me of Martin Luther, John Hus, and John Wycliffe.
I loved reading the biography of Brother Andrew. From the first time that he crossed the border into Yugoslavia and God’s provision of a Volkswagen Bug for his work to seeing God miraculously arrange meetings with Christians who needed encouragement and Bibles, Andrew’s life was full of incredible accounts of God’s power, Brother Andrew like Paul did not count his life dear to himself.
Acts 20:24 "But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God."
God used Andrew and his strengths and weaknesses in an amazing way to provide Bibles for Christians all over Europe and Asia who would never have had one without his selfless work. In the 1970’s as a result of Andrew Van Der Bijl’s obedience to Christ and his sacrificial life, Open Doors, a ministry organization was started. The reason the name “Open Doors” was chosen was the verse Revelation 3:8 “I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.” (https://www.opendoors.org)
You would benefit much by reading God’s Smuggler, the story of Brother Andrew. There is so much more to read about how God used him to provide people with Bibles in countries which were officially closed to the Gospel than I shared in this blog post.
For over 50 years, Brother Andrew has served God by providing God’s Word for those who do not have the opportunity to have it openly and by ministering to the needs of people. Today much of Open Doors’ ministry is focused on reaching Muslims. Each year Open Doors provides 2 million Bibles for Christians in the most difficult places on earth.
"There are no closed doors to the Gospel, provided that, once you go through the door, you don't care whether or not you come back out." --Brother Andrew
Parents, children’s workers, and teachers –
This man and his testimony should be an encouragement to us when we feel like our teaching and witness are not making a difference. Andrew was the child in church who did not want to be there and did not intend to follow God with his life.
My children and I read the biography of Brother Andrew by Janet & Geoff Benge published by YWAM Publishers. It would be a great book for anyone to read, but especially by those who seem drawn to the use of alcohol or for someone who feels like they cannot be used for God because of their past life. The adventuresome child may particularly appreciate the dangerous settings in which Brother Andrew found himself while smuggling Bibles into Communist countries.