Did Brother Andrew see himself as a writer?
Oh, no. He was an evangelist, a preacher, a prophet, a visionary, a pioneer. Definitely not a writer, though he was great at delivering pithy comments. I’ve got nine or 10 pages of what I call “Andrew-isms.” He was great to collaborate with. But to ask Andrew to write a book—it wouldn’t have happened.
Tell us about when you first started collaborating with Brother Andrew. What did your writing process look like?
After God’s Smuggler was published, Andrew wasn’t allowed back into Eastern Europe. That’s when he started traveling to the Middle East meeting with leaders of terrorist groups and ministering to Christians there. But he didn’t want to do a book on Islam because he didn’t want the same thing happening where he couldn’t go back.
For years, several of us pestered him, asking him to at least record his experiences. So finally he agreed in 1999 that I could come to the Netherlands for a week. The very first thing he said to me was, “I’m not writing a book.” I told him I wasn’t there to write a book—that I just wanted to “download Andrew.” I recorded 17 hours of interviews. We became friends that week.
Two years later, he invited me to go with him to Palestine. While we were there, we traveled to Gaza where he made his first contact with Islamic Jihad. We also sat and talked to the leader of Hamas.
Three months after the trip, the world would be rocked by Sept. 11, the event that put into motion what would become Brother Andrew’s public message focusing on the Muslim world. And Al Janssen would be the man he picked to help him tell that story.
After Sept. 11, Andrew started calling me almost every week, saying things like: “Al, maybe God’s given me a message. And maybe the world’s finally ready to hear that message. Maybe the church in America needs to hear what I’ve learned about Islam.”
In January 2002, Janssen sat down with Brother Andrew in his office as his official writer to begin to help him share his message. He remembers his first day on the job vividly.
He doesn’t offer me coffee, doesn’t ask how my jet lag is. First thing he says to me is: “So Al, what did God say to you today in His Word?” That’s the kind of relationship we had. From that day forward, the first thing we discussed is what we heard God saying through Scripture. Sometimes it was a five-minute conversation, other times much longer.
And then at some point, we would transition to prayer. One of us would just start praying. And we’d pray about the work we were going to do today. We’d pray for the persecuted Christians we’d met. We’d pray for the terrorists we were sharing the gospel with.
I have hours of recorded interviews and transcripts. I would work from those, trying to hear his voice as I wrote. Then he would look at it. For the final draft, we would read it out loud together, alternating chapters. Either one of us could stop and say, “That’s not quite right.” Then we’d work on that sentence or section to refine it.
For years and years, that was our relationship. And it was precious.