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INTERVIEW
Brother Andrew Reflects On 50 Years Of Ministry
In 1955 a young Dutch missionary named Brother Andrew went on a group tour to Poland. There he discovered a Christian church behind the Iron Curtain desperately in need of the Word of God. Brother Andrew (as he would later be known around the world) distributed a suitcase full of Christian literature…marking the humble beginnings of Open Doors with Brother Andrew. Today – 50 years later -- Open Doors is working in more than 45 countries to strengthen the Persecuted Church, sustaining indigenous Christians in hostile lands so they can continue to spread the Gospel to the unsaved majority around them.

His autobiography, an international bestseller, God’s Smuggler (which has sold over 12 million copies in over 40 languages), details dangerous border crossings in his Volkswagen bug, KGB pursuits, and Brother Andrew’s courageous journey toward living radically for Jesus Christ. In 1997, Brother Andrew was the recipient of the World Evangelical Fellowship’s Religious Liberty Award, recognizing his lifetime of service to the persecuted church and passion for spreading the Gospel.

Brother Andrew’s work through Open Doors has led the organization into places where most Christians do not go. His underground network of indigenous Christians has aided in the secret distribution of millions of Bibles each year worldwide. Open Doors has trained thousands of Christian pastors and church leaders through seminaries and persecution seminars, assisted in economic relief, literacy training, and vocational training in the most dangerous countries in the world.

In the last several years, Brother Andrew has focused his attention on the Islamic World. Still traveling extensively, mostly to the Middle East, he feels passionately that the rapid spread of Islam could be, by far, the greatest challenge that the Christian Church worldwide has yet faced.
His friendships and love of God have taken him into private meetings with Yasser Arafat and with leaders of the Hamas and Hezbollah; he is among the few Western leaders to regularly go to these groups as an ambassador for Christ. His new book Light Force: A Stirring Account of the Church Caught in the Middle East Crossfire, co-authored by Open Doors’ Al Janssen, details his outreach to the Middle East. He has also broken Christian religious barriers by preaching in Catholic and Coptic Orthodox churches.

The oldest international ministry to persecuted Christians, Open Doors is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2005. Currently in his 70s, Brother Andrew and his wife, Corrie, live in Holland and have 5 children and 4 grandchildren.
SANTA ANA, Calif. (July 14, 2005) – As Open Doors celebrates 50 years of service to persecuted Christians on Friday, July 15, Brother Andrew, Open Doors' founder and author of the best-seller God’s Smuggler, reflects on the international Christian ministry – past, present and future.
Q: Can you remember how you felt during your first trip behind the Iron Curtain on July 15, 1955, as you traveled by train into Poland with your suitcase bulging with Christian booklets?

BA: I remember almost every hour of that trip, because I was the only Christian surrounded by communists, about to visit a world that I knew nothing about. It was an eye opener in every aspect. I found churches and a Bible society that we knew nothing about. I also found there was a great lack of Bibles but lots of enthusiasm. It was there that a pastor said, ‘Andrew, you being here means more than 10 of the best sermons.’ I knew I couldn’t preach very well but I can be there!

I heard from the Bible Society Director, Mr. Enholc, who told me stories about professional smugglers who would come to his shop, buy 10 Russian Bibles, smuggle them across the border into Russia and make a fortune. Something began to wake up in me. I thought, if people do that for the love of money, unbelievers taking such a risk, how much more we should go over there and take the Bibles to the Russians. That’s where the first seed was sown.

Q: Open Doors is celebrating 50 years of ministry to the Persecuted Church in 2005. Does it seem possible?

BA: It has grown to where people ask me, ‘If you could do it all over again, would you?’ I say no, it’s too big and too much responsibility. Fortunately, God only shows us one step at a time. One step we can take. If we do that then the Lord sees how we land on one foot, then the other. If you accept responsibility and grow spiritually, then God will show you the next step. But it’s the vision that God gave.

Q: What do you tell young people who ask for advice in how to organize a ministry?

BA: Always have the guts to surround yourself with people who are better than you. For me, that’s the formula for success. That’s how you grow strong as a mission. That’s why I feel Open Doors is strong.

Q: You seem satisfied with the way things are going now.

BA: I feel very good about it. I still think we have a modern function. We can only do it according to the life and measure of faith that we have received. So I feel very happy about what we are doing with our limited resources. We are never possessive of knowledge, resources and people. We always want to share for the good of the Body of Christ.

Q: How do you see the future of Open Doors?

BA: Unfortunately, I think we have a terrific future, because the conflict in the world is increasing.

Q: So Christian persecution will increase?

BA: Absolutely, the whole end-time theology of the Scriptures and specifically the Book of Revelation teaches about that. But we still feel happier in a state of denial rather than facing reality. That’s why we’ve created this “pie in the sky” concept – that we will somehow escape suffering. But God is a God of unity, and there are no different standards for Christians in North Korea, or Siberia, or Mongolia, or China, or Afghanistan, than for us in the West and everywhere else. We must be ready. We must be connected to the Persecuted Church and learn from it.

Q: Do you think the Church in persecuted countries will grow?

BA: It will certainly grow in depth, not necessarily in numbers, but the strength of the Church is not determined by statistics or numbers – it’s in influence. If we have no influence in our society, then why talk about the growing church? Numbers don’t mean anything.

Q: Do you think persecution is going to come to Europe and America?

BA: Yes, and we need it. Sometimes I think ‘God hasten the day.’

Q: And where do you think persecution is going to come from?

BA: From Islam - not that Islam is a threat, it’s a challenge; but we are not accepting the challenge. If we do not accept a challenge, it turns into a threat. Sometimes people come to my office and they are very upset, ‘Oh the Muslims have bought another empty church, and they have converted it into a Mosque, isn’t that terrible!’ No, that’s not terrible, what’s terrible is that the church was empty.

Q: What is your message?

BA: The Church needs to accept the fact that there is a suffering church and repent of our lack of understanding and compassion. We have not taken good care of one another and unless we do that, there will be no change in our culture which is getting worse and worse all the time, declining in moral spirituality and church influence.

Q: What is the most important thing we can do for the Persecuted Church?

BA: Our work thrives on prayer. Pray as we face this terrible dilemma of growing persecution, diminishing church influence worldwide and exodus of Christians from the Middle East where Christians are running away. God is building his Church but you and I have to help. We have to witness, we have to be obedient to the Great Commission, we must supply the needs, we must go and say what can we do for you. And they always say, ‘please pray for us.’ And if we press the point further they probably say, ‘bring me a Bible, but come, come; come and encourage us so we can stay here.’ Until that point is reached they will leave by the tens of thousands. That’s the mission of Open Doors: like a cry of distress, an SOS from God, ‘strengthen what remains and is at the point of death.’

-Open Doors (14-Jul-2005)