Anne Van der Bijl, the founder of international nonprofit Open Doors, and known around the world as “Brother Andrew,” died this week at the age of 94 at his home in the Netherlands, according to a family spokesperson.
Brother Andrew was the founder of Open Doors, the oldest worldwide ministry to persecuted Christians. Under Brother Andrew’s leadership, Open Doors’ presence expanded through more than 60 countries, where it currently provides Bibles, emergency relief, vocational training, community rebuilding and other essential help to Christians who are persecuted because of their faith. Open Doors is celebrating 67 years of ministry in 2022.
Brother Andrew earned the nickname “God’s Smuggler” for his daring Bible deliveries behind the Iron Curtain at the height of the Cold War and was known by many for his adventurous faith and intensely devoted prayer life.
“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. “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.”
Born in 1928, Brother Andrew grew up in the Netherlands. After enduring the German occupation during World War II, he went to Poland with a suitcase full of Christian material. There Brother Andrew discovered that churches behind the Iron Curtain were isolated, sparking his passion to serve them and ultimately leading him to form the ministry that became Open Doors.
His 1957 border crossing into Yugoslavia and Eastern Europe in a bright, blue Volkswagen Beetle stuffed with illegal Bibles is memorialized in his 1967 autobiography, God’s Smuggler. The first of 16 books written by Brother Andrew, it has sold more than 12 million copies and has been translated into more than 40 languages.
The Bible smuggling reached an apex in June 1981 when an Open Doors crew nosed a custom-built barge onto the China coastline under the cover of darkness. They floated one million Bibles contained in 232 packages, to a small, silent army of waiting Chinese Christians, who spirited them into the country.
“Our very mission is called ‘Open Doors’ because we believe that all doors are open, anytime and anywhere,” Brother Andrew often explained. “I literally believe that every door is open to go in and proclaim Christ, as long as you are willing to go and are not worried about coming back.”
After the fall of the Iron Curtain, Brother Andrew turned his attention to the Islamic World, believing the rapid spread of radical, militant expressions of Islam posed the greatest challenge yet to religious freedom worldwide. Since then, Brother Andrew and the ministry he founded have committed themselves to serving the needs of persecuted Christians throughout the world. His travels logged an estimated one million miles through 125 countries.
Brother Andrew was married for 59 years to his wife, Corry, who passed away on Jan. 23, 2018. They lived all of their lives in Holland and are survived by their five children and 11 grandchildren.