Open Doors founder Brother Andrew dies aged 94

Brother Andrew 1928 - 2022(Photo: Open Doors)

Brother Andrew, founder of Open Doors, a global charity supporting the persecuted Church, has died at the age of 94.

Real name Anne van der Bijl, he was affectionately nicknamed 'God's smuggler' for his work carrying Bibles across the Iron Curtain in a blue Volkswagen Beetle. 

He passed away on Tuesday surrounded by his family. 

Bible smuggling behind the Iron Curtain was to be a hallmark of Brother Andrew's work on behalf of the persecuted Church - and clearly rattled the Soviet Union, whose KGB reports on him ran to 150 pages.

The captivating story of his bravery is told in his autobiography, God's Smuggler, which has sold 10 million copies and been translated into 35 languages. 

One of the biggest Bible smuggling operations was to be 'Project Pearl' in June 1981, when a 20-person Open Doors crew smuggled Bibles into China on a custom-built barge under the cover of darkness.

A million Bibles were floated to Chinese Christians waiting on a beach, who spirited them away, copies reaching to all corners of China.

After the fall of the Iron Curtain, Brother Andrew turned his attention to the Islamic world, convinced that the rapid spread of Islam posed the greatest challenge to global Christianity. 

His efforts were recognised in 1993 when he was knighted in his native Netherlands by Queen Beatrix, and again in 1997 when he received the World Evangelical Alliance's Religious Liberty Award. 

In 2018, he was praised by the then British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt who wrote to Brother Andrew to thank him for his work.

"I would like to express my personal thanks for the extraordinary and courageous support you have provided to the persecuted Church throughout the years," Hunt wrote.

"Having read 'God's Smuggler' as a child, I know that your story has inspired millions of people around the world to speak out on behalf of the voiceless and suffering."

Commenting on his death, Henrietta Blyth, CEO of Open Doors UK and Ireland, said: "When Brother Andrew started his ministry, little did he imagine that within 60 years it would embrace millions of Christians worldwide. He leaves behind a remarkable legacy."

Brother Andrew was married to his wife Corry for 59 years until her death in January 2018. He is survived by five children and eleven grandchildren.

Details of a private memorial service will be released later.