IT would begin with a contact from a trusted supply. A discreet introduction. Then a seemingly random encounter, maybe on the street. Solely as soon as safely indoors, and out of sight, would Brother Andrew hand over the field he’d introduced with him. His contacts choked again tears after they noticed what was inside. “, years in the past I knew that folks within the West have been praying for us,” a Romanian Christian as soon as informed him. “However now for a few years now we have not heard from them. We’ve by no means been in a position to write letters, and it’s 13 years since we obtained one. It has come to us that we’re forgotten, that no one is pondering of us, no one is aware of our want, no one prays.” As quickly as he bought house, he promised, he would inform so many individuals in regards to the little Christian group in Romania (or Bulgaria, or Poland, or Russia—wherever he occurred to be) that by no means once more would they really feel alone.
Early on, he discovered about placing a hand as much as volunteer for a job or stretching one out to a fellow human being. His father was up at 5 watering the backyard to assist feed his six youngsters. Then he cycled 4 miles to his smithing job. His invalid mom sat in her chair at house, listening to the gospel station from Amsterdam. Typically it was hymns, typically preaching. The household was poor, even by the requirements of the poor in pre-war Holland. Their home was the smallest within the village. However he by no means forgot the endless stream of beggars, itinerant preachers and gypsies who got here to their door. In his autobiography, he recalled how “the cheese can be sliced thinner, the soup stretched with water”. Typically they needed to dig up tulip bulbs from the backyard and eat them like potatoes. However no visitor was turned away.
He’d by no means meant to be a smuggler—for God, or for anybody else. However insurrection was one other seed that was sown younger. He was simply 12 when warfare got here to Holland in 1940. A German lieutenant took over the burgomaster’s home and started giving orders to the villagers. In the course of the evening the boy would creep down from the loft, steal his mom’s treasured rationed sugar and pour it into the German soldier’s petrol tank. She by no means mentioned a phrase.
The primary communist nation he visited was Poland. They known as it socialism there, not communism. On listening to there was to be a giant competition in Warsaw, he wrote to the organisers suggesting they may train him about socialism if he may inform them about God. You are able to do what you wish to, they mentioned. So in July 1955 he set off throughout Europe by prepare. In his bag have been a whole bunch of tracts entitled “The Means of Salvation”, which he meant to offer away.
Faith, he discovered, wasn’t banned beneath communism; it had been co-opted by the state. In Czechoslovakia ministers needed to renew their licences each two months, and submit their sermons upfront for official approval. The place they might not beat God, the authorities tried to outshine His attraction. In East Germany they provided free “Welcoming Companies” as an alternative of baptism. Or wedding ceremony providers that have been authorized and freed from cost. Those that noticed God as the upper authority have been informed they have been misguided. Many misplaced their jobs and have been imprisoned. Kids wore a pink scarf as an indication that they have been sceptical of their dad and mom’ so-called spiritual superstitions. Seeing the mass of pink scarves on the finish of the competition in Warsaw, he considered a verse from the E book of Revelation. “Be watchful, and strengthen the issues which stay,” it mentioned. Persecuted Christians in communist nations would in any other case die. He took it as an indication from God.
And so started his new life. The day his visa to Yugoslavia got here by way of, a neighbour gave him his Volkswagen Beetle. “My spouse and I’ve talked it over,” the neighbour mentioned. “And there’s no untalking us.” Mates he stayed with in Berlin have been enthralled on the concept of taking Bibles to the Soviet Union, he recalled. Their church had some Russian Bibles. Couldn’t he take them alongside? He wasn’t so certain. Their automotive was already weighed down. Then another mates got here with a complete carton of Ukrainian Bibles. “After all we’ll take them,” his fellow smuggler mentioned, stowing them brazenly on his lap. “If we’re going to be arrested for carrying in Bibles, we’d as nicely be arrested for carrying in lots of them.”
He discovered to get round those that tried to put down the regulation. Filling in visa varieties, he put his occupation down as trainer slightly than missionary. He pressured that he was not preaching, however bringing greetings from Holland. And at each border, he whispered the smuggler’s prayer. “If you have been on Earth, you made blind males see. Now, I pray, make seeing eyes blind.”
He by no means ceased to be amazed by these he met. The individuals in Macedonia who have been too scared to return to church except it was darkish, however come they did. The individuals in Bulgaria who would arrive at intervals in order that at no time did it seem as if a bunch was gathering. It took an hour for 12 of them to assemble. A person named Petroff who spent all his pension shopping for up low cost Bibles every time he discovered them. Pages have been typically lacking; they’d been lower out for cigarette paper. However Petroff made them entire, matching a E book of Genesis to a Bible that didn’t have one. All to offer the completed work to a church that had no Bible.
The braveness and customary humanity of these he met would have touched anybody, not simply the devoted. He knew he may cease at any second, and return to a quiet life in Holland. However he saved on carrying Bibles throughout borders—to Cuba, the place Dutch guests didn’t want a visa. To Uganda, after which throughout the Center East. Quickly the duty was too massive for one man and he based Open Doorways, a charity, to coach a brand new technology of smugglers. In 1981 he organised Mission Pearl, unloading 1,000,000 smuggled Bibles onto a seaside simply south of Shantou Metropolis to be despatched throughout China.
A residing church
A missionary church was a residing church, he believed. A sticker on his battered suitcase learn: “Our God shouldn’t be useless. Sorry about yours”. He wished there have been ten of him. He longed to separate himself right into a dozen elements and reply each name that got here. Some day, he’d discover a solution to do it. And he did. ■
This text appeared within the Obituary part of the print version beneath the headline “God’s smuggler”