Brother Andrew: Creating a Legacy for Future Generations
By Jeremy Marshall
Brother Andrew recently died. In Christian circles, he was famous for smuggling Bibles behind the iron curtain.
“I am not an evangelical stuntman,” the late Dutch missionary said. “I am just an ordinary guy. What I did, anyone can do.”
My late father, a pastor in a small church in Hertfordshire, was inspired by Brother Andrew, so took us (my mother and four children, aged 11 [me] to 1), most summers in the 1970s, Bible smuggling to the USSR and almost all the other countries behind the iron curtain. Some of his ministerial friends said he was mad—“Let Open Doors do it”. They particularly urged him not to take his small children with him. Far too risky! Dad ignored this as he thought it would do us good (and he was right), though he wasn’t reckless—when he went to Central Asia Bible smuggling, he didn’t take small children! Probably also having cute (well, my sisters were anyway) blond, small children was good cover for Dad’s nefarious activities.
Bible smuggling appealed to my father’s buccaneering instincts, and with God’s help, nothing bad ever happened. The biggest risk was not the border guards, but the state of the roads! Occasionally Dad got hauled off for questioning by the police, but as for us children, people regarded us strange Westerners with fascination.
As a teenager, I found church exceptionally boring (and said so!). Part of that was sinful rebellion, but part is that church felt very much like school—sitting for hours, listening to people talk. Bible smuggling was utterly different; it was engaging, adventurous, exciting, fun (mainly anyway—I will skip over some less fun aspects, such as Soviet era toilet facilities) and made a huge impression on me. The biggest impact was to pose the question, “Why are these people willing to suffer for their faith?” (best case in terms of suffering was discrimination, while the worst case was Siberian labour camps). It seemed to me the only answer that made any sense was because the Christian faith was true and transformational; for otherwise, it made no sense at all.
Two specific lessons seem to me to arise:
Firstly, involving your children in adventurous mission activities can be a wonderful way of bringing the Christian faith to life. Our older son, for example, had a great time working with a Crosslinks missionary, John Robinson, in the slums of Bangkok. You can read about John and how he ended up there in his autobiographies Somebody’s Child and Nobody’s Child. Such activities can have a lifelong impact. Because of contacts I made through my father, one of my sisters has, working with her church in Preston, managed to host 40 Ukrainian Christian refugees. I am also engaged in trying to help all kinds of Christian work throughout the former Warsaw Pact. All of this and much more was in God’s purposes when my father was inspired by Brother Andrew.
I hope that parents are encouraged by the fact that one very difficult son (I drove my father nuts at times and was frequently evicted from church from the pulpit) is still so warmed by things that my father did over 50 years ago. What I recall now at nearly 60 is not particularly my father’s sermons, good as they were, but his way of life, his enthusiasm for Christ, his warmth, his willingness to take risks, his (or rather my mother’s) hospitality, his openness to being argued with, his sense of fun and adventure. We must be patient with our children. We can only sow the seed, and God alone can make it grow. And taking risks and doing risky stuff for Christ with our children can be a way that, with God’s help, the seed grows.
Secondly, and more generally, Brother Andrew and others inspired Dad, who inspired me. We can inspire each other even from beyond the grave. We can all, with God’s help, make a difference, even if in a small way within our own sphere and in our own generation.
Thomas Boston said, “Each generation has its work assigned to it by the sovereign Lord; and each person in the generation has his also. And now is our time. We could not be useful in the generation that went before us; for then we were not: nor can we be useful personally in that which shall come after us; for then we shall be off the stage. Now is our time; let us not neglect usefulness in our generation.”
Ordinary people being useful and taking risks for a great God is the biblical model.
Biographies can play a crucial role here as they bring to life how to live as a Christian. God’s Smuggler or The Hiding Place are wonderful examples of this—reasonably contemporary accounts of ordinary Christians living through great difficulties with the joy of Christ in their heart. Often stories speak more powerfully to our hearts than abstract ideas.
May God give us the courage to do so, and to be inspired by others to be useful for the Lord. This means taking some risks, for “Faith without risk is no faith at all”. Let us all encourage and inspire one another to take risks and do good and follow Christ in being useful in serving others as best we can.
Jeremy Marshall is the former CEO of the UK’s oldest private bank, C. Hoare & Co. He was diagnosed with incurable cancer in 2016 and has spent the subsequent years as a self–described amateur evangelist. Jeremy’s books, Beyond the Big C and Hope in the Face of Suffering, are both comforting and evangelistic.
Jeremy’s forthcoming book, Meeting Jesus, is due out Autumn 2023.