Open Doors is a non-denominational mission supporting persecuted Christians in more than 60 countries.
The mission was founded in 1955 by Andrew van der Bijl – better known as Brother Andrew. He is now 87 and still committed to the work he began 60 years ago when, in a little VW Beetle, he risked life and limb delivering Bibles to countries behind the Iron Curtain.
I met with the man on a number of occasions and worked with his organisation some years ago. His enthusiasm and passion were infectious.
Brother Andrew introduced me to one of his key undercover workers, a man called ‘George’ from the town of my birth (Portadown), who told me of one occasion when he was driving through rural Iran in the dead of night with a boot load of Bibles. At the stroke of midnight his car spluttered to a standstill. A few minutes later there was a tapping on the driver’s window. He thought this was to be the moment he would meet his maker, and when he wound the window down, there were three burly men, their faces half covered.
‘Have you brought the book?’ one of them said in broken English. Any lingering doubts that his end was at hand quickly vanished, but he stalled by asking: ‘What book?’
The men explained that they were part of an underground church and that more than anything else they wanted Bibles. He claimed that during a prayer session the previous evening God showed them that at midnight, at that bend in the road, a man would come with Bibles.
So the men got their Bibles and when George got back into his car and turned the key, the engine sparked into life without hesitation.
I asked Brother Andrew about the view that Islam is committed to world domination, and did he think it would be achieved? ‘I believe they will,’ he said, ‘not because they are strong, but because Christians are complacent.’
Some 3,200 years ago the then leader of the Hebrew people; Joshua, found that his people were suffering from what Matthew Parris once described as the Spirit of Whatever. Joshua called for a meeting of the all the tribes of Israel. He reminded them of their heritage, and of God’s faithfulness to them. And then he gave them a remarkable challenge: ‘If you refuse to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live?’
What he was saying was that it might be better for them to make a decision to serve the wrong god rather than faffing around serving no god, characterised by that awful spirit of whatever.
We live in a dangerous world. Few care about the millions who are being persecuted for their Christian faith (read about it on Brother Andrew’s website: www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution), but there is little doubt that persecution could be closer to home in less than a decade.
The cry of Joshua still resonates today. How many of us will respond as he did? ‘As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.’