My Journey with Brother Andrew

For nearly 20 years Al Janssen worked closely with Brother Andrew, the Founder of Open Doors. Together they traveled to Muslim countries, wrote six books, met with political leaders and spoke to ministry donors. This blog tells the story of their friendship and some of the many lessons Al learned from this beloved mission leader.

“Al, what did God say to you this morning in His Word?”

Those were the words Brother Andrew asked me on my first day of work for Open Doors in January 2002. As I reported to Brother Andrew’s office in the Netherlands to start my new journey, he didn’t ask me if I had a good trip or if I wanted some coffee. His first words were about God’s Word and its impact on my life.

Fortunately I had read the Bible that morning, a passage in Acts 21 about the uproar in Jerusalem that led to the Apostle Paul’s arrest.

“Paul tried to defend himself to the crowd by telling his testimony of meeting Christ on the road to Damascus,” I said. Brother Andrew nodded his head and encouraged me to continue. “Paul admits he persecuted Christians. In my journal, I wrote that you might say he was a terrorist.”

That brought a smile to Andrew. “So God can transform a terrorist and make him an evangelist!” In coming months, I would learn more about how Brother Andrew believed in the power of the Gospel to transform even the most hardened Islamic extremists.

My Day One experience demonstrates how the Scriptures are Brother Andrew’s passion and why he risked his life to smuggle Bibles to Christians who were deprived of access to Bibles by authoritarian governments. Over the years as we traveled the world together and worked on six book projects, we began each day by discussing what we heard God saying to us through the Bible. Sometimes our conversation lasted five minutes, sometimes more than an hour. When the moment was right, one of us started praying—we never stopped to ask what to pray about—we just prayed. We prayed out of what we heard God saying to us in Scripture. We prayed for the work He had assigned to us that day. Most of all, we prayed for His beloved Bride, the Church of Jesus Christ, particularly the part of the Body suffering persecution.

It is that experience with my Dutch friend and mentor that inspires this blog. Drawing from our many conversations, notebooks in which he jotted thoughts and sermon outlines, and hundreds of recorded sermons, I want to capture the prophetic messages of Brother Andrew. I use the word “prophetic” carefully. I do not mean that Brother Andrew foretold the future—though he did have some amazing insights into the direction our world was headed, particularly concerning Communism and Islam. But Brother Andrew was prophetic in the mold of Old Testament prophets.

Eugene Peterson, who created The Message, a paraphrase of the Bible that Brother Andrew loves, explains this well: “A prophet is obsessed with God, and a prophet is immersed in the now … The work of the prophet is to call people to live well, to live rightly—to be human. But it is more than a call to say something, it is a call to live out the message. The prophet must be what he or she says.”[1]

Over the years, I observed Brother Andrew live a prophet’s life. When we met with leaders of Hezbollah or Hamas, he would remind me that we might be the only Bible they ever read. Together, we prayed that they would see Jesus in us.

There is sadness as I write these words. My friend is now 90-plus years old. We no longer spend hours reading, debating, and writing about the Scriptures. As I work on some new books for him, I must rely on my journals, his 40 notebooks, 800 digitized sermons, and recordings and transcripts of our conversations. However, the spirit of his message has penetrated my soul. That’s why I undertake this blog and plan to collect his messages into two or more books.

Through these words, I hope you and many readers will catch some of Brother Andrew’s spirit and love for God’s Word.

[1] Peterson, Eugene H., Run with the Horses: The Quest for Life at its Best, © 1983 and 2009, IVP Books.