Some of you might not know much about Brother Andrew. That might be because of his age; he’s old—seventy-seven years old to be exact. But since the Dutch missionary doesn’t get interviewed on Fox News, and his books, although popular, don’t receive the same attention like books by Rick Warren or Max Lucado, for many American Christians, Brother Andrew’s spiritual legacy is still not widely unknown. However, despite his lack of PR, Brother Andrew has influenced thousands, some even say millions, with his simplest of missions: Make Jesus known in the world. And for the last fifty years, he’s been doing just that.
If you have heard his name, it’s probably because of the book God’s Smuggler, which retells Brother Andrew’s life story and also the stories of other Christians living and evangelizing behind the Iron Curtain. That narrative, released nearly forty years ago, was America’s introduction to Brother Andrew and his provocative missionary’s heart. I read God’s Smuggler in high school, despite it being dubbed controversial by my early church. After reading about Brother Andrew’s firsthand experiences with Jesus-followers who were living in countries where people weren’t allowed to utter God’s name out loud, I remember my young mind being awestruck by this his passion for Jesus as well as the vigor he possessed to help the hurting church.
Since then, the impact of Brother Andrew’s Christian work has been felt around the world. In conjunction with his ministry Open Doors, millions of Bibles have been placed in countries where the distribution of scripture is illegal. According to his bio, his work has also been pivotal to the training of Christian pastors and church leaders through seminaries and persecution seminars. Open Doors has also assisted in economic relief, literacy training, and vocational training in some of the most dangerous countries in the world.
In continuing his desire to take Jesus into the most volatile of regions, Brother Andrew’s most recent missional journey has taken him into the Middle East where he has witnessed to terrorists, had conversations about Jesus with leaders of Hamas and encouraged many these countries’ Christians. In the books Light Force and Operation Desert Light, Brother Andrew shares his journey, thoughts and lessons about entering a war-stricken environment armed only with the message of the Gospel.
During my interview with him, he spoke at length about his work in the Middle East, but he also shared his feelings about fear, the goodness of prayer and his best advice on life and faith.
Matthew Paul Turner: Why did you believe it was necessary to come out with a version of Light Force for the young adult agency?
Brother Andrew: We wanted to make a special effort to reach young adults so they would have the best and most up-to-date information about how they can help Jesus be made known in the Middle East. If we can’t turn young adults on to the importance of this, we’ve missed the mark. This message is for every generation, but I know that young adults can have impact in areas that I cannot. We’re praying that, in the same way God’s Smuggler reached generations before, Operation Desert Light would impact the generation of today. But God’s Smuggler was more entertaining. This book demands a choice. It’s a hot issue that affects all of us. That is why it is so important that I go out of my way to explain these things to young adults.
MPT: People have called this book controversial; is it controversial to you?
BA: No, I don’t think it’s controversial.
MPT: Why do you believe some read this book and think it’s controversial?
BA: Maybe it’s because I’m controversial! Matthew, it’s been said that my ministry is combative, confrontational and controversial. I would add to that, compassionate! These are the four elements necessary in conflict situations. Especially the last one! To be motivated by the love of God working through us to reach people. As for the controversial part: We are too often taught to hate the other side. So, since when is it controversial to love other people?
MPT: Is it possible to be a “light” to the Middle East without being there?
BA: Absolutely! Prayer spans the borders and reaches the world. Prayer requires knowledge, and knowledge feeds your intellect and your spiritual life. It causes you to pray with results. And prayer draws you into the conflict so you become a player and not just a prayer. So it has a direct effect—most definitely. And when you’re informed, you aren’t surprised by world events. You can diffuse confusion that arises in your church or among your friends.
MPT: With all that happens in the Middle East, and around the world, what would you say to the person who is fearful about the future of the world?
BA: I think ignorance makes us fearful. And I believe knowledge removes fear. We understand how out of darkness Islamic fundamentalism can arise. But we understand the kingdom—why Jesus died. That strengthens us; keeps us from despair. When you know what we know, then you are no longer fearful and you can get on with the business of organizing your lives.
MPT: I can’t have a conversation with you without asking something about God’s Smuggler; are you surprised that this book continues to be on people’s reading lists today?
BA: Frankly, I am surprised. Honestly, I think it’s the same message that shines through both books. God’s Smuggler showed that you don’t have to be afraid of communism. It was the West that came up with term Iron Curtain. We put everything into defense. God’s Smuggler showed that there is no reason to be afraid of Communism. By going there and delivering the Word of God to the church, you were part of solution. Light Force is like that, too. But now threat is closer to home. So we’re much more aware of the threat. So I really do believe there is a connection between the two books.
MPT: What has God taught you recently about your personal story?
BA: You know, Matthew; I began to realize that there is a calling on my life that I must try to fulfill in such a way that others can follow. And that’s why I write about it, in hopes that more can follow. I don’t think my life is extraordinary. I think I’m very ordinary. Going there [to the Middle East], I find out how God can use ordinary chaps. In every situation, just be there in the name of Jesus, and where you are that’s where Jesus is. That’s when people will open up. Just by your presence, the more common you are, the more easily you disarm the man with the gun. Being common opens up more opportunities to share the love of God.
MPT: What’s in the immediate future for your ministry Open Doors?
BA: The next is a continuation of what we do now, but with more knowledge and resources and people—that way we can do a better job. There are still pockets of persecuted Christians where we haven’t been. There are 200 million persecuted Christians worldwide. And it’s growing so that arena [of ministry] will expand. So Open Doors will have an increasingly important mission to prepare the church for persecution. We should strengthen the church aggressively. Our ministry will move forward, not affected only by events.
MPT: Speaking of events Brother Andrew, can you put your finger on one event in the last five years, whether personal or in ministry, that has grown your faith?
BA: No. Because I believe faith is a process. You grow in it. You gain more knowledge when you dive into Scriptures. The more you pray, the more answers to your prayers you see. In the normal Christian life your faith grows as you go deeper in your walk with Jesus. I’ve had no “earthquake” experiences where suddenly my faith grew leaps and bounds. I don’t think that’s normal. I’m always suspicious of people who have those big experiences.
MPT: In just a few words, what’s your best advice for a young adult regarding life, faith and ministry?
BA: In your life, learn to walk with Jesus. In your faith, be real and never fake. And in your ministry, surround yourself with people who are better than you.