Anne van der Bijl has passed away. The missionary known as Brother Andrew, who was called “God’s Smuggler” for his work smuggling Bibles into Communist countries during the Cold War, was 94 years old.
In 1967, Van der Bijl’s story was told in God’s Smuggler, written with John and Elizabeth Sherrill, which sold 10 million copies and became a huge hit thanks to the riveting tales of creatively slipping Bibles to persecuted Christians in countries with little religious freedom. The books brought attention to van der Bijl’s Open Door ministry, which has helped raise awareness about Christian persecution around the world.
But van der Bijl was very uninterested in becoming a celebrity. “I am not an evangelical stuntman,” he said according to Christianity Today. “I am just an ordinary guy. What I did, anyone can do.”
He was born in the Netherlands, the son of a blacksmith. He spent the first part of his teen years hiding from the Nazis after they invaded his homeland, and joined the Dutch military after the war. But he was disillusioned by the violence he was forced to participate in as a soldier and turned to faith after getting sent home following a bullet wound. He went to Scotland to study mission work and soon after, began touring the Soviet-bloc countries, visiting underground churches there. Those trips inspired the mission that made him famous: secretly taking Bibles over the border, utilizing a variety of tricks to sneak past security.
His methods were controversial, even among other Christians. Major Christian organizations like the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board and the American Bible Society criticized van der Bijl’s tactics. Some have questioned the validity of his stories, and CT notes that there is evidence the KGB was aware of van der Bijl’s work and may have even had informants on his team.
After the success of God’s Smuggler, van der Bijl moved into more of a leadership position for Open Doors, raising money and raising awareness for his mission. He did not keep track of how many Bibles he handed out and did not seem overly concerned with the number. Outside estimates put it in the millions.