The message God gave Brother Andrew after 9/11

July 29, 2019 by Al Janssen in Stories of Persecution

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.

“In March I’ll travel around the world.”

Sitting on my desk is a hand-written note that Brother Andrew wrote to me on Sunday, February 11, 2001. We had already spent a week together in the summer of 1999 when I interviewed him for more than 17 hours about his experiences in the Muslim world. Ministry leaders called it “downloading Andrew.”

Before I turned on the tape recorder in that initial meeting, Andrew emphatically said: “I’m not writing another book!”

I understood. After the publication of God’s Smuggler, Brother Andrew was unable to return to the Eastern European countries and the Soviet Union for many years. He did not want to surrender another fruitful area of ministry. I explained that the purpose of our interviews was for Open Doors to capture what he had learned about ministry in Islamic context. Neither of us anticipated the life-altering events that would shortly unfold.

Andrew’s note said, “Lately, I’ve been thinking of you a lot—maybe you were praying for me. My own thoughts were often about writing, but no plans yet, just day dreaming. Maybe God has changes (of work) planned for me. I’ll keep you informed.”

Andrew ended his note by saying he was about to travel around the world. Later, he told me that the trip’s purpose was to visit old teachers and friends and thank them for the impact they had on his life.

Brother Andrew presents a Bible to Sheikh Yassin, founder of Hamas

Brother Andrew presents a Bible to Sheikh Yassin, founder of Hamas

Meeting Hamas

Four months later, I made my first trip with Andrew, to Israel, West Bank, and Gaza. It was an unusual trip. For example, he insisted that I drive him from Jerusalem to Gaza, then gave me one hour’s warning I would preach that night in Gaza Baptist Church. Later, I was told that this was his way of testing me. You had to be flexible with Andrew, ready for anything.

Shortly after entering Gaza, we met Dr. Mahmoud Zahar at the Islamic university in Gaza City. At the time, Mahmoud was the No. 3 man in Hamas. How Brother Andrew and Mahmoud became friends is a story for another time. (You can read about it in our book, Light Force.) After an hour of discussion, Andrew turned to me and suggested that I ask Mahmoud a question.

Just a week before, Hamas had sent a suicide bomber to a night club in Tel Aviv, killing more than 20 young people, mostly teenagers. It was a horrific attack that shocked the world. So trembling more than a little, I asked, “Mahmoud, doesn’t the Quran prohibit the killing of innocent civilians?”

Yes, he agreed, it does.

“Then, how can you justify such an attack on those innocent teenage girls and boys?”

“Why do you say innocent?” he asked, then continued. “That was a military target.”

I didn’t understand. He explained: “Every Israeli young person is required to serve in the army for two years, and then remains in the reserves until age 50. Those were enemy soldiers.”

Wow, that was a different and shocking perspective to my ears.

Light Force is one of six books Al Janssen and Brother Andrew wrote together—focusing specifically on the church in the Middle East

Light Force is one of six books Al Janssen and Brother Andrew wrote together—focusing specifically on the church in the Middle East

Preparing for the next mission

Three months later, terrorists flew passenger airplanes into the Pentagon and the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Following the events of September 11, Brother Andrew started calling me almost weekly. We talked about what the West understood about Islam and the motivations of extremists who would carry out such horrific attacks. In one call, he said, “Maybe God has given me something to say.”

Then his note seven months earlier in February made sense. God had been preparing him to teach the Western world what he’d learned through ministry in the Middle East.

Meanwhile God was preparing me to work with Brother Andrew. For years I’d been involved in Christian publishing, but I had started thinking about the needs of Christians in places where there was little or no access to these books. So when the then-president of Open Doors, Johan Companjen, and the chairman of the board at the time, Sealy Yates, called to invite me to join Open Doors and work with Brother Andrew, I was ready to commit.

Since 2001, Brother Andrew and I have written six books together, which have been translated into more than a dozen languages. Not long ago, I learned that 10,000 copies of one of our devotionals was translated and smuggled into one of the perennially worst countries on our World Watch List to encourage believers undergoing the most severe suffering.

I am committed to writing at least two more books, and maybe more, that capture Brother Andrew’s wonderful Bible teaching. Would you please pray that I will have the wisdom I need to complete this mission for my friend?

Top photo: The February 11, 2001, handwritten note that Brother Andrew wrote to Al Janssen.

Read all of Al Janssen’s posts in this weekly series here.

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