Pros: Truly devoted account of Christian service in a Communist nations.
Cons: The narrator cannot comprehend the meaning of the words "leisurely pace".
The Bottom Line: If this book is not on your shelf alongside ten Boom and Tozer, your library is only ten percent complete.
Assignment: Biblicality 101 For next class, please complete the following:
Go to a mega church and observe. Watch the pastor take his well-worn Bible and place it on the pulpit for all to see. Listen as he directs his congregation, "Please turn to Revelation Chapter XXII." Absorb all of the glory of that triumphant, victorious, brilliant chapter while you gaze about the room. The members of the congregation have diverse Bible-reading habits, do they not? King James Versions, NKJV translations, and NIVs decorate the pews of the more conservative, while some of the teenagers cradle New Living translations and copies of the New Century Version. Some have electronic Bibles; some hold leather-bound, highlighted treasures; others are carrying Scriptures enclosed in the most unique Bible cases--those with lace and those without, vinyl and coarse cloth... Is that a magazine you see a girl reading in the back? No, it's a New Testament designed to appeal to teens and disguised behind glossy, catalogue-like covers.
Now, travel to a country that is gradually being consumed by Communist acid. The year is 1960. Drive out of your way--perhaps a hundred miles--to reach a tiny church. It's the only one still open, and it may close if the pastor preaches about healing, the Sabbath, tithing, baptism, or the Body of Christ. Take a seat near the front of the church, but be careful. That man to your left--the one who doesn't make eye contact with you--he may be a member of the secret police. Listen to the glorious hymn-singing and note the evident joy in the voices of this persecuted congregation. Now, it's time for the sermon. The pastor leaves the pulpit, looks to see if there is anyone suspicious in the room, and starts down the aisle. Accepting a Bible from one of the parishioners, he returns to the platform and begins reading. This is the only Bible in the entire congregation.
And this tiny, persecuted church in Iron-Curtained Europe may be far richer in joy and peace, love and truth, than the well-fed members of "Large and Free Christian Center". Brother Andrew certainly thought so. This unassuming Dutchman, raised on Scripture and filled with faith, paints a stunning portrait of the persecuted church and vividly describes European Christians' efforts to bring Bibles into societies that forbade the mere mention of Jesus Christ. In a literary world in which corporate statistics often murder personal experience, Brother Andrew creates a lovely balance--worldwide evangelism flowing from a personally consecrated heart. Yes, God's Smuggler must grace your bookshelf.
"We Christians Have a Language of Our Own"... It's called--
But what does that matter at present? First, you must learn of Andrew and his broken wooden shoes. Born in a tiny, impoverished Dutch village, Andrew dreamed constantly of adventure--of escaping his mother's radio and the Christian music that daily flowed from it, of playing pranks on his devout neighbors, and of waging secret war against his older brother. Because little real adventure was available to our dear explorer of excitement, he frequently used his wooden shoes in all manner of mischief. Young Andrew fought with his footwear, once breaking a shoe over his friend's head; skated on the pond when he was supposed to be in church; and generally abused his sturdy clogs. When the German invasion of Holland brought police into the village of Vitta, eleven-year-old Andrew delighted in putting sugar in the soldiers' gas tanks, setting off fireworks and fleeing from the enemy, and generally engaging in childlike warfare. His ultimate decision to enlist in the army as a young man was made with little thought save the desire for exhilaration.
A year later, Andrew returned with a broken ankle and a shattered spirit. His "adventure" had ended in defeat and oppression, culminating in rebellion and heavy drinking. When an attractive young lady invited him to a church service, he went only to placate her and mock the pastor. But how can you revile when "a hymn wrap[s] itself around [your] heart"? Oh, how wonderfully poetic! "Let my people go," the congregation sang. "Let them go," Andrew repeated in his spirit. "Let them go. Let me go."
Thus began a journey out of the Dutch army and into the service of the Lord. In a series of inspired chapters, Andrew traversed the Valley of Surrender and gave his heart to God; received a call to missionary service; went to an unaffiliated, "radical" training school; majored in faith with an emphasis on believing God for daily needs; and picked up a magazine.
Just one simple page of an ordinary article--but it altered his purpose. The article described thousands of youth who were taking part in a Communist rally in East Germany. Andrew wrote to the tourist bureau, procured permission to join the marching, clapping youth, and armed himself with "twenty-six lead soldiers", each letter and word proclaiming the truth of God's love.
Revelation--it is beautiful. When that book is used by the Lord to call a man into fulltime ministry in Communist nations, it is beyond words. Of course, you want to read about this. You want to read of the Biblical command that Andrew had to fulfill. You want to take this command and fulfill it yourself. You want to place a Bible in the hands of every citizen of all nations. You want to purchase thousands of copies of this work and share them with joyful, discouraged, struggling, prayerful, anxious, or complacent Christians. You want...
But that is neither here nor there. Andrew received a precious calling into specific ministry and began to take enormous carloads of Bibles and tracts into East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, and ultimately Russia. Despite the banning of Bibles, Andrew miraculously traveled through each checkpoint without being stopped. More problematic was the actual distribution of Scripture. Once Andrew discovered the horrifying lack of Bibles, the oppression of churches, the violent persecution and imprisonment of believers, and the Regime's coercive atheistic strategies, he had to bring Bibles to specific individuals and trust God for the ultimate distribution. Immerse yourself in accounts of one Abraham the Giant-Killer--an innocent, elderly man who defeats hatred with truth and love. And, dear reader, do you truly know what the cup of suffering is? Have you ever experienced "greetings from Holland"--not a sermon, mind you, but the warm reception of an "ambassador"? What of the greater question: How is it possible to transport thousands of Bibles past ranks of unyielding guards? Ask on, dearest reader, ask on. You'll understand eventually--if you absorb each enthralling chapter! But I, kind writer that I am, will give you enough to make you calmly hand over your credit card and tell the clerk behind the counter of the Christian bookstore, "I'll take everything you have by Brother Andrew, and while I'm at it, let me ask for anything you'll have in stock for the next ten years." Ready? Here ‘goes!
One Sunday morning, Andrew was in a Communist country whose churches, though still open, were being severely persecuted. His inability to find a place of worship prompted him to inquire of the skeptical hotel clerk.
"We don't have many churches around here anymore," the clerk remarked. "Besides, you wouldn't speak the language."
"We Christians have a kind of language of our own, Andrew replied, undeterred by such a logical proposition.
The language, you ask? It's called Agapé. Ah, the ancient Greek word for God's unconditional, fathomless love! How do you speak such a language? Oh, dear reader, I am not that lenient. Suffice it to say that it involves Proverbs and Paul's epistles, read in a setting of fellowship.
Dy Faid Had Saved Dee Speaking of linguistics, Andrew's literary prowess is unquestionable. His words are at once reverent and joyful, sincere and lightsome. Example: Andrew's first sojourn in London was complicated by the fact that he spoke no English. Each day for several months, he took his Dutch Bible into the garden and, using an English Bible for comparison, attempted to teach himself faith-based English. The English translation he chose happened to be a King James Version. Do you see a problem? Andrew often imitated the syntax to a tee, once passing on a table request by saying, "Thus saith the neighbour of Andrew, that thou wouldst be pleased to pass the butter?" And, considering that the "th" sound does not exist in Dutch, what do you suppose happens when Andrew attempts to preach that beloved text, "Thy faith hath saved thee."?
Mind you, I am not mocking Andrew or his linguistic ability. I have since discovered several messages by that faithful-hearted gentleman. He, who learned English in six hasty months and by unexpected immersion, now speaks better English than did Corrie ten Boom, who grew up learning the language. Not that it matters in the least, but my point is that I am not laughing at our most excellent Brother Andrew. The truth is, he directs hilarity toward himself. Through the creative assistance of John and Elizabeth Sherrill, Andrew carefully balances humor with genuine devotion.
And how beautiful that faith is! It is "pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father ... [because it cares] for orphans and widows in their distress" (James 1:27). And, I might add, for imprisoned pastors, Scriptureless congregations, and discouraged refugees.
I'm sure you know about those books--Christian writings known collectively as pseudodevotionals which, though they propagate love and faith, actually consist of a series of numbers. "Twenty thousand people became church members, and I personally gave Bibles to 12,495." Not so with this work. Andrew's faith comes first; his service springs from an overflow of his personal, entirely unstatistical experience. We see Andrew as a rebellious child, a broken adolescent, a newly saved seeker, and a humble missionary-evangelist. For two hundred pages, we accompany him up Vitta's main street, down a church aisle, through financial struggles and attempts to trust God even with tiny details, and into a truly global ministry. Only then do we witness the distribution of Bibles, but even Andrew's great ministry is more replete with pathos and ethos than with logos. Each parishioner is vividly characterized as a diamond, complete with individual brilliancy and even unique flaws.
A strong emphasis is placed on faith to trust God, even for the most insignificant items in life. Can God be trusted to provide for small needs, such as the thirty pounds needed to continue missionary training? What about the lonely void that fills Andrew's heart when he finds himself unmarried at thirty years of age? What about physical problems--his ankle, which had never healed, and the slipped disk in his back? Is it appropriate to pray about these things? Certainly.
Now for Scripturalysis. What good is a book about Bible distribution without quotations from the Best of Books? Here are applications from the Gospels, Acts, Paul's magnificent letters, and--yes--Revelation. How are they used? Evangelically, lovingly, faithfully. Certainly, Andrew makes his mistakes; he is no more perfect than any other man inhabiting this earth. Yet, his humble heart and willingness to cling to the things of God render his work wonderfully refreshing.
Perhaps a bit too refreshing, actually. I first read this book eight years ago, when I was only beginning to enter an intense relationship with the Lord. After the Bible, Andrew's experiences formed much of my theology. Andrew had received direct guidance from the Lord; therefore, I could, too. Andrew had received a particularly precious miracle, so this gift could surely be mine as well if I asked. Andrew had faith, and I must follow suit. Andrew, Andrew, Andrew... I do believe I relied too heavily on God's Smuggler.
But, in my own defense, it was hard to help being taught by Brother Andrew. He received his strength, wisdom, and direction solely from the Holy Spirit. Throughout the work are ideas concerning personal words of knowledge in times of prayer and healing for those in need. Surrounded by Scripture, sustained by the Spirit, and supplied by His gifts--this is what a dear sister in Christ commonly refers to as the normal Christian life. Elements of I Corinthians XII are beautifully present, blending inextricably with many other facets of the Word.
On to vocalics--or verification of loveliness, as the case may be. The audio edition listed here is narrated by Simon Vance. Would that all Christian books, whether in print or out, could enjoy the Simon Vance treatment. A talented Englishman with a propensity for perfect pronunciation of Dutch names, Mr. Vance entangles readers in Andrew's testimony through fascinating intonation. There remains only one tiny blot on Mr. Vance' clipped recital: Andrew does not speak this way. His sermons reflect a slower, more careful pattern. Advice for all aspiring narrators: Please, please imitate your author's style and pace of speech! If you don't, ... The slope is too slippery and would inevitably lead to higher tuition rates and horrendous primary educational standards. Yes, poorlypacedaudionarrations are that bad. See what I mean?
Ignore me. Discount that rant and excuse it by reassuring yourself, "Bethesda Lily is just upset because this book does not consist of five thousand pages that each require a magnifying glass to read." ‘Tis true. Purchase this work, or you will be unemployed. Oh, you'll keep your job, but your mind will never be employed in contemplating such profound, personal concepts of faith.
Now, travel to that tiny Communist church. On the way, listen to the trusting prayer that will enable the fellowship and Biblical distribution: "Lord, in my car I have Scripture that I want to take to Your children across this border. ... Do not let them see those things You do not want them to see."