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.
‘Dear Al—Welcome Home!’
Nearly every time I traveled, I would find a fax from Brother Andrew waiting for me as I landed back in Colorado Springs. It usually started with a “Welcome home” message. I often sent him my itinerary—when we weren’t traveling together—and he would pray for me.
On March 14, 2013, he faxed me this message: “I try to follow you every hour. Now you fly over the ocean, direction Texas. Still some ways to go!” Then he had a short note about the book we were writing, a devotional on Moses. In this message, he also added a note for my wife: “Lots of love to Jo.” He signed his short letter “ALL in the Name above all Names: Jesus. As ever, Andrew.”
I’ve saved many of my friend’s notes, especially cartoons. He loved to share a chuckle with me. Some of the jokes were a political commentary on some current event, usually in the Middle East. Others had a nice religious twist. One fax was the picture of a man sitting, staring straight ahead. Behind him is a box with the instruction: “In case of emergency, break glass.” Behind the glass is a copy of the Holy Bible!
Another time Andrew faxed me a Wizard of Id comic strip. The guard in the tower begins announcing, “Ten o’clock, and…it’s an earthquake.” In the next space, someone dashes out of a pub yelling, “Run for your lives!” A panicky servant shouts, “Evacuate the castle.” More panels show frightened people ordering, “Release the horses” and “Save the women and children!” Finally, the king shouts the punchline: “Raise the prices on Bibles.”
There was a mischievous side to my friend. When we worked together in Holland, Andrew would often stock his small refrigerator with sandwich meats so we could continue working through the lunch hour. Sometimes, he brought in smoked trout or eel. And he had to demonstrate the proper way to eat an eel, which, though very oily, tasted quite good.
One thing he wanted me to do was experience a salt herring. I demurred for several years, but one day at our noon break, he locked up the office and took me into the center of town to a little shop and ordered the “special” dish. He relished the moment as I bit into the raw fish smothered in salt and shuddered. He had his own serving, which he gleefully devoured. I took considerably bit longer but managed to swallow the whole thing. He laughed when I told him, “Now I’ve experienced salt herring. I don’t have to do THAT again!”
The walls of Brother Andrew’s office included numerous inspirational messages. Sometimes he would pull one off the wall and give it to me. One of my favorites is a wordless cartoon with four panels. Rather than describe it, I’ll give you a look at it here.
There’s a postcard of his that I keep above my computer. Against a bright orange background, milk is poured into a bowl of breakfast cereal. Next to it is this message: “Good morning God. What are You up to today? I want to be part of it. May I? Thank You. Amen.” I think that morning prayer perfectly expresses the joy of my friend’s daily journey with Jesus.
Which reminds me of another of Andrew’s favorite sayings: “If you don’t actively seek the Lord in the morning, it is extremely unlikely you will bump into Him the rest of the day!”
Note: The devotional on Moses was eventually published as The Exodus Mandate: Moses Reveals How You Can Accomplish the Impossible by Brother Andrew and Al Janssen (download it here), © 2014 by Open Doors International. An edited version of this material will appear in a new devotional by Brother Andrew featuring four Old Testament warriors.
Photo: Brother Andrew and Sealy Yates, the founding chairman of Open Doors International, demonstrate the proper way to devour an eel.