Book 16: God’s Smuggler


Another inspiring and heartening story about a man who gives, and risks, his life for the Lord! This is my 16th book in the #EmptyShelf Challenge and I think you’ll be as glad to have read it as I am. (Well, I actually listened to this one with my family. What a great family activity.)

Title: God’s Smuggler
Author: Brother Andrew, John & Elizabeth Sherrill
Publisher: Chosen Books (2001)

What the book is about

This is an autobiographical account of the life and ministry of Andrew van der Bijl, a Dutchman, born in 1928 to a poor blacksmith and invalid mother. His early life adventures include fighting for the colonial army of the Dutch East Indies (what eventually became Indonesia). He was a daring, no-holds-barred soldier who seemed to have no fears, but he was hiding a great deal of emotional turmoil inside.

During his service, he was wounded and while recovering in the hospital be began to read the Bible that his mother had given him years before, but never opened. He became obsessed with the message, eventually gave his life to Christ, and was later healed of his wounds.

The next years of his life were devoted to learning business and management, but through a series of circumstances that only God could orchestrate, became a missionary behind the Iron Curtain during the Cold War.

The book recounts, in vivid detail, many thousands of miles of travel over a few decades, almost entirely by car, throughout Eastern Europe, into Russia, and then to China, the Middle East, and other parts of the world. The book is far more than a travelogue, though. It describes his dangerous and daring work with pastors and believers throughout communist Europe. It recounts his building of partnerships and teams of missionaries. It is a testimony of what God can do through the life of a humble man who is willing to put everything in God’s hands, including his very life.

Brother Andrew earned the nickname “God’s Smuggler” because most of his missionary work involved smuggling thousands of Bibles into closed, communist nations, to distribute in churches and among Christian believers. On more than one occasion, Brother Andrew found himself and his vehicle, loaded with hundreds or even thousands of Bibles, being searched by authorities. Possession of these “illegal, propagandist” materials would certainly land him in jail for a very long time. Every time, though, he prayed for protection and that the “seeing would be blind” and every time, his materials were undiscovered.

Why I read this book

I love biographies. If I had to choose one type of book to read, and never read another (other than scripture), I would choose biography.

There is so much to learn from the honest reflections of others. I’ve learned, too, that the person whose story is being told does not need to be famous. There are so many interesting “secondary characters” in our world. Brother Andrew is one of these, but by reading his story and by learning from his example of faith and trust in the Lord, he becomes a primary character in my mind.

Favorite idea

God calls us to trust Him completely. One of the prominent messages from Brother Andrew is that complete trust in the Lord will be rewarded, often in ways we don’t expect, but the Lord does respond to that faith.

This is a challenge, especially for Westerners, because we are so self-sufficient. We often do not have a practical need for faith. Your fridge is stocked. You have clothes to wear. The heat works in winter. You have clean water and sanitary living conditions. Nothing to worry about. The problem is that we don’t risk anything because we don’t need to risk anything. If only we would risk our security, we would then need to trust in something or someone else.

Faith and trust in God is the only viable answer.

Do I recommend this book?

I sure do! It’s an easy, fun read. You’ll get to the end thinking, “Please go on Andrew! Tell me more stories.” The good news is he is still alive and has published a total of eight books. Brother Andrew founded the Open Doors organization and you can learn more about him and the organization at their Web site.

(Click here to learn more about the #EmptyShelf Challenge.)

Dr. Scott Yorkovich is a leadership coach and consultant. He works with individuals, small and medium organizations, and ministries. Contact him at ScottYorkovich[at] with your questions.

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