Is it ever okay to break the law in a communist country?

According to Anne van der Bijl, better known as “Brother Andrew,” who died earlier this week at the age of 94, Christians have no choice if the Lord convicts them to do so.

Throughout his storied missionary life, Brother Andrew earned the nickname of “God’s Smuggler” for slyly and covertly sneaking millions of Bibles into Soviet-bloc countries, as well as China.

But Brother Andrew’s ministerial life wasn’t always so radical, so risky, so successful or so laser-focused.

Born in the Netherlands and on the run throughout World War II to escape conscription from the Nazis after his country was invaded by Germany, van der Bijl survived by eating tulips, was shot in the ankle – and wound up committing his life to Christ after reading the Bible as he recovered from his injuries. A new Christian, he felt compelled to serve the Lord in some capacity, but he was at something of a loss as to what he might do.

“I just said, “Lord, if you will show me the way, I will follow you. Amen.”

The prayer wasn’t much – but it was enough.

He then began street evangelism, knocking on doors and handing out Bible tracts. He considered his efforts a miserable failure, but also heard the Lord encourage him to read Revelation 3:2:

“Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die.”

After visiting Warsaw, Poland, Brother Andrew felt compelled to return to the country with Bibles since so few existed. He saw a direct connection and correlation between God’s Word in Revelation and what he was being called to do in Poland.

“I promised God that as often as I could lay my hands on a Bible,” he once shared, “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.”

One trip led to another and then another. Hiding Bibles in his blue Volkswagen Beetle, the rogue missionary enlisted others to help. He once even recruited a young couple to pose as honeymooning newlyweds – a front that proved effective. Open Doors ministry was founded, quickly developing into a global network that expanded beyond Soviet countries to include evangelism in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Today, the ministry distributes over 300,000 bibles and 1.5 million Christian books each year.

Brother Andrew’s approach wasn’t appreciated by everyone across Christendom. Some believed the work was unnecessarily risky or even counterproductive to the more traditional means of evangelism. Undeterred, he plowed forward.

“I am not an evangelical stuntman,” he said. “I am just an ordinary guy. What I did, anyone can do.”

Brother Andrew’s long and consequential life can serve as a good charge to Christian believers everywhere. One person, acting on the Lord’s direction, can accomplish extraordinary things. What may seem like failure at first can often prove effective over time. High risk can also lead to great reward.

“We are called to change the world so that every Christian has enough liberty to worship according to the Bible,” reflected Brother Andrew.

Photo credit: Open Doors