by Brother Andrew and Al Janssen, Fleming H. Revell, 2004, 330 pages.
This is a surprising, delightful, sobering and challenging book all at the same time. I first heard of Brother Andrew in the late 1960s by reading his famous book, God’s Smuggler, in which he documents his many successful attempts at smuggling Bibles and other Christian literature into communist countries. He had already founded Open Doors in 1955, a mission designed to strengthen churches in persecuted countries. I remember some of the controversy around Brother Andrew’s clandestine operations. Many suggested that the persecuted church would be better served by working through legal channels. But Brother Andrew didn’t have the patience for that approach. From his perspective there was no time to waste since he personally knew many of those suffering behind the “iron curtain”.
For nearly four decades I had not heard of Brother Andrew. Nevertheless, during these years Brother Andrew established Open Doors offices in some seventeen countries and brought many people on board – all to strengthen churches where they were persecuted. However, shortly after the publication of his highly popular book, Brother Andrew was barred from entering most communist countries. So, although he was involved in running the mission, Brother Andrew began directing most of his personal attention and effort toward connecting with and strengthening the Christian Church in the Middle East, especially Lebanon, Israel and Palestine.
From his base in Holland, Brother Andrew began making regular and sometimes extended trips into the Middle East. In the same fearless manner in which he had operated in communist countries, he began searching for existing churches – offering them the gift of his presence in times of struggle. He also did a lot of listening, not only to Christian leaders, but political leaders on both sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict. He kept being amazed at how receptive many people were to his presentation of the gospel. Ever so gradually Brother Andrew began to see how the western church had forsaken Christian Arabs, largely by adopting a position that since Israel is the chosen people of God they can do no wrong.
As he learned to know both Palestinian Christians and Muslims his once secure dispensational vision of biblical eschatology began to evaporate. This created some tensions within the organization he had founded. He became convinced that that teaching was largely responsible for making the Christian Palestinian church almost invisible in the West. Christians were unwittingly labeled as terrorists along with their Muslim counterparts. But encounter after encounter convinced him that terrorist tactics arising within Palestine were rooted in great economic, political and social injustices, not because people were simply evil.
Somewhere along the way Brother Andrew had a vision of Palestinian Christian and Messianic Jewish believers getting together to begin breaking down some of the walls of hostility. He encountered tremendous odds, but gradually Christians from both sides of the political conflict began trusting one another and forming little pockets of hope in an otherwise very bleak environment.
In reality, this book is a series of short stories. Sometimes they are the personal experiences of Brother Andrew. But often the stories are about other people in real-life situations, mostly struggling to survive in the context of unspeakable oppression and deprivation. The stories take one right up to October, 2003. As the book closes, Bethlehem is still under Israeli occupation and the now 75-year-old Brother Andrew has smuggled his way into that ancient city to be with his brothers and sisters in their sorrow and suffering. Incredible!
This is a must read for anyone, especially Christians in the West who want to gain a realistic perspective of what God is up to in the Middle East. In the midst of so much injustice, despair, hate and anger, Brother Andrew demonstrates that the power of the gospel can be a “Light Force” in a dark corner of the world.