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Tributes from Open Doors

Johan Companjen
Founding President, Open Doors International

The greatest impact that Brother Andrew had on my life was his tremendous love and commitment to the Word of God. During my many years of travelling together with him, I was always challenged by how Andrew was ‘a man of one Book’, the Bible. He did not just read a few verses; he read many chapters every day. Often we would discuss what we read in our devotions during our (very) early morning walks together. He showed me the importance of spending time reading God’s precious Word every day. When I think of Brother Andrew, two other things come to mind. One, he was a pioneer, always looking for new and unique things. Second, he was a prophet. Many times he shared thoughts and ideas that we could not ‘place’, but years later we discovered that he was ‘way ahead’ of us. Brother Andrew always liked to do unique, often impossible things. If a project was possible he was not interested. Everybody can do that he would often say. However, when he heard the word IMPOSSIBLE he was very excited.

Sealy Yates
Founding Chairman, Open Doors International

It was the sovereignty of God that brought me into a relationship with Brother Andrew and the Persecuted Church. In 1974 I was asked to do the legal work to organize “Open Doors with Brother Andrew” in the United States. To better understand Brother Andrew’s ministry I decided to read his book, God’s Smuggler.

As a literary agent I’ve read many books over the last 45 years. But Andrew’s story taught me more about how to live by faith than any other book I have ever read. My own experience was that you must make your own way. What struck me was that because Andrew had nothing, God used that in his life to consistently increase his faith as he learned to lean completely on God. He attended Bible school in Scotland, praying for God to meet his needs each day. Then he’d go to the mail box and find exactly what he needed. Andrew’s testimony in God’s Smuggler was a powerful lesson for me about letting God lead my life.

I was gripped by Andrew’s story of his finding in 1955 a magazine in the basement of his Bible School in which a Communist Youth League festival in Warsaw, Poland was promoted. Touched by God, he wondered what had happened to the church behind the Iron Curtain. Nobody knew at that time. In fact nobody seemed to care. Andrew cared! So, Andrew hopped on a train to Warsaw under cover of the Youth League event and went looking for the Church. Thus was born the ministry to the Persecuted Church through this amazing man of God that was to become Open Doors.

About six months after I completed the legal work for Open Doors USA I was invited to join the board. In the summer of 1975 my wife, Susan, and I along with another couple, planned a trip through Europe. We started in the Netherlands, visiting Brother Andrew and the Open Doors offices for the first time. Open Doors in Ermelo provided us with an automobile and we visited eight countries in three weeks.

Included was a visit to Budapest, Hungary, where we had our first personal experience with the Persecuted Church. When we could not find lodging, a pastor’s family gave up their beds for us and, though food was scarce, they fed us for two days. We attended worship services with our hosts and we learned first-hand about their suffering. Every aspect of their faith practice was controlled, including when they could meet. All their literature had to be approved by the government. Our being there put them at great risk and difficulty—no doubt they were interrogated after we left—yet they were so glad we came. On that trip, I caught the spirit of Brother Andrew who taught me that our presence with the persecuted was the most important way to encourage Christians behind the Iron Curtain.

Over our many years of ministry together, another thing that united me with Brother Andrew was our mutual love of Scripture. He would discuss the Bible any time. We also shared a mutual love of the writings of Oswald Chambers. We often talked about the daily reading from My Utmost for His Highest.

By 1979 Open Doors needed a structure to connect at least ten independent entities around the world. Andrew never cared much for organizational structure or operations nor for discussions about policy and budgets. He came alive when he was with the Persecuted Church. Over the years, God brought him talented leaders like Ed Netlund, Dick Burrow, and Johan Companjen, to strengthen the organization around the world. We formed Open Doors International and held our first board meeting in Manila. I served as chairman for the next 30 years.

When I reflect on the life of Brother Andrew I see God at work in every detail of his life. One of my main memories was an international Directors conference in the early eighties. Each morning Andrew spoke every morning about Islam, at a time when no one knew much of anything about Muslims, but I saw in Andrew, even then, a great love and compassion for them. We were still thinking
about Communism but Andrew prophetically saw a greater threat to the Church.

In his wildest dreams my friend Andrew never imagined Open Doors spanning the globe, working now in 68 countries. He told me that if he’d known how big this organization would get he would never have made that first trip to Poland. And that brings me back to the sovereignty of God, the God who knows the end from the beginning. Andrew obeyed God for the first step, then the next step, and now, thousands of steps later, we see all what God did because one man heard God and obeyed His call. That’s his legacy—to me and countless others around the world.

Sealy Yates is an attorney and Christian literary agent and is the Founding Chairman of Open Doors International. He first met Brother Andrew in 1974 with the formation of Open Doors USA. He developed a close working and personal relationship with Brother Andrew as he led the organization of Open Doors International in 1979. Their work together continued over the next 30 years while Yates served as Chairman of the international board.

Lynette Leibach
Executive Director, Open Doors Southern Africa 

Brother Andrew has had a profound influence on the generations he has been a part of and he will be dearly missed. We are grateful for Brother Andrew’s faith, obedience and example. His courage and determination brought the reality of the persecution of Christians into the public eye.

He leaves a growing legacy in the global ministry of Open Doors, reaching millions of the most persecuted Christians in over 70 countries annually. God’s Smuggler, which recounts his life and ministry, continues to inspire readers to act as a voice for the persecuted Church.

Jan Gouws
Former Executive Director, Open Doors Southern Africa 

Brother Andrew was one of my “heroes of faith”. For me he was a modern-day apostle. He had a calling from the Lord and through him the Lord performed mighty things. He just followed where Jesus led him and because he was obedient, the persecuted Church is so much better off. He truly “Did what he couldn’t”. May the peace of the Lord comfort all his loved ones and may Open Doors International go from strength to strength as they serve the most persecuted because of the foundation that Brother Andrew laid.

Deryck Stone
Founding Pastor, Open Doors International
(Deceased 2011)

I was only 27 years-old when I heard Andrew for the first time and my life was transformed. It was May 1971, and when he started telling about the smuggling of Bibles and helping the suffering church regardless of the risk factor. His message captured me and I was caught by his passion for the Persecuted Church. Andrew’s life motto was “faith in God.” Andrew promised people things he could never fulfill if God didn’t respond.

Jeff Taylor
Former CEO of Open Doors International
Currently chief of staff, Open Doors USA

Brother Andrew will always be a hero of the faith for me. From the first time I saw him on television in the 1970s to my last visit to his office in the Netherlands, he remained the same humble, funny, prayerful, radical model of simple obedience to the Master. How could he have known that his willingness to travel behind the Iron Curtain in 1955 would change so many lives, including my own? It’s a lesson to us all: Follow Jesus. Be faithful. He will build His church, even in the most difficult areas, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. And we have the privilege of partnering with Him in it all. Thanks for showing the way, Brother Andrew.

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