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.
Brother Andrew’s story is closely connected with another spiritual giant, Corrie ten Boom.
On a Saturday in 2004, I landed at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport at 9 a.m. and faced a 10-hour layover until my flight departed for Cairo. As I breezed through border control and entered the cavernous airport lobby, I saw Brother Andrew waiting for me with raised arms and a big smile. Spending a few hours with my friend was a much better prospect than fretting in a lounge on this dark and rainy January day.
“I have a treat for you,” Andrew said as he fiddled with the automated machine to pay for parking so we could exit the airport. We drove for less than an hour to Haarlem—it always surprises me how intimate the Netherlands is, that you can drive across the entire country in just three or four hours.
We parked near St. Bavo Church, a 500-year-old Gothic structure with a bell tower rising up from the center of the building. Next door, a farmers market was bustling with activity.
At a bakery we drank coffee, ate apple cake and talked about adding a new chapter to the German edition of Brother Andrew’s provocative book, And God Changed His Mind. Then I handed over a notebook with my working outline and four chapters for our new book—what became Secret Believers, though it changed a great deal from the outline and chapters I showed Andrew that morning.
At 11, we walked around the corner from the church to a narrow building, the childhood home of Corrie ten Boom, which has been converted into a museum. The store on the main floor no longer sells and repairs clocks (the ten Boom’s family business), but the upper floors, connected by a narrow spiral staircase, have been restored to their appearance in the 1930s and ‘40s when the ten Boom family hid Jews from the Nazi occupiers.
The tour was conducted in Dutch, but I knew the story well, having read Corrie’s book The Hiding Place. Brother Andrew translated occasionally but kept busy delighting the guide and three others in our group with stories about Corrie. [Click here if you want to take a virtual tour of Corrie’s home.]
The highlight of the tour is a brick wall built in Corrie’s room. Behind it, the ten Boom family could hide six Jews.
As we wound our way back to the first floor, Andrew told me how after years of traveling the world and always rooming with friends and generous hosts, Corrie returned to Haarlem and purchased her first house. Brother Andrew went to visit her and congratulate her on her new home that was filled with many clocks. As they walked out into her garden, he admired the flowers and then said, “Corrie, God is good to you!”
Corrie’s face fell and Andrew admitted it was one of the few times Corrie was “a little cross with me.” She looked at him and said, “God was also good when Betsie died.” Betsie was Corrie’s sister. Together they were shipped, with their aging father, to Ravensbrück concentration camp where Betsie died 15 days before Corrie was released due to a clerical error.
Andrew paused, then reminded me, “That was one of the few times Corrie mentioned her sister, but it must have occupied a major place in her memory. Al, God is not only good when He does nice things to you. God is always good. Period!”
That reminded him of another story, when he was chairman of Corrie’s ministry board. After a meeting, they walked together to Andrew’s car and as they shook hands, Corrie said, “Andrew, keep looking down.” Andrew protested: “Corrie, you’re old. We don’t say that. We look up.” With more emphasis, she repeated the three words, “Keep looking down!” She pressed Andrew’s hand harder, saying, “Look at the world from God’s point of view. He doesn’t see iron curtains. He doesn’t see bamboo curtains. He sees one world, and He loves that world. He gave Jesus for this world!”
Andrew concluded: “Then I understood how deeply and prophetic that was. Keep looking down. That was a great lesson to me.”
It’s those small but profound insights that are the lasting legacy of Brother Andrew and his friend Corrie ten Boom.
Top photo: Corrie ten Boom and Brother Andrew sing at a meeting in 1969.