Leaving a Legacy: A Study in Contrasts

These two are hugely influential – but only one leaves an everlasting legacy:

If you asked 1000 people in Melbourne or Chicago or London who Anne Van der Bijl is, probably at least 99 per cent would not have a clue. If you asked the same 1000 people who Mick Jagger or Keith Richards is, probably at least 99 per cent would have a very good idea.

While the former is largely unknown, and the latter are world famous and easily recognisable, just one has left a lasting legacy. While we all know about the Rolling Stones, Anne (or as he is more well-known: “Brother Andrew”) is in the eyes of the world a mere nobody.

But older Christians at least would know all about him. Here I want to compare the pair, or rather, contrast the pair. And I do this for two reasons. A new three-part documentary on the Rolling Stones is airing now on television, while Brother Andrew has just passed away – on September 27, at age 94. Let me speak to each.

The Rolling Stones

The Stones first played together in public as a group in 1962. If your math skills are up to the task, that means they have been performing now for 60 years. That certainly is incredible. They are rock royalty. Indeed, the claim to being the greatest rock and roll band of all time is not amiss.

When I was a young hippy I was a big fan, and I had all their singles and albums. I tried to see them perform in Seattle or Tacoma back in 1972. I did not have a ticket but I hoped to swap some Indian weavings I had made for a ticket, but no go.

They certainly are durable. If they stopped touring and performing now, that would still be hard to beat, but they may well go on for some years to come, although perhaps rolled out onto the stage in wheelchairs. Mick is 79 and Keith is 78. An original member of the group, Brian Jones, died at age 27 in 1969.

They are likely the most famous rock group in the world, and over the decades they would have played in front of millions of adoring fans, and been listened to by billions. In terms of this world, they certainly have left their mark – and their legacy is still ongoing.

Brother Andrew

As mentioned, most of us older Christians know all about Brother Andrew, the Dutch Christian famous for smuggling Bibles and Christian literature into communist countries. I became a Christian in 1971, and I soon read his 1967 book God’s Smuggler. Many millions of copies of this book have been printed and read over the past 55 years.

He of course is famous for what he prayed while at borders and guards were checking his Bible-laden car as he sought to enter: “Lord, in my luggage I have Scripture I want to take to Your children. When You were on earth, You made blind eyes see. Now, I pray, make seeing eyes blind. Do not let the guards see those things You do not want them to see.”

Image of God's Smuggler
God's Smuggler by Sherill, Elizabeth (Author) Amazon logo

The organisation that he established, Open Doors said this in part about the great man:

Brother Andrew earned the nickname “God’s Smuggler” for his daring Bible deliveries behind the Iron Curtain at the height of the Cold War and was known by many for his adventurous faith and intensely devoted prayer life.

 

“Brother Andrew was an ordinary man who chose to go to hard places and do amazing things for one reason: He was following Jesus,” said David Curry, president and CEO of Open Doors USA. “One of the most interesting and well-known Christian leaders of our time, his passing indeed leaves a great void. But we believe, as he did, that God will raise people up to continue His good work in the persecuted church, to be the Brother Andrews of our generation.”

 

Born in 1928, Brother Andrew grew up in the Netherlands. After enduring the German occupation during World War II, he went to Poland with a suitcase full of Christian material. There Brother Andrew discovered that churches behind the Iron Curtain were isolated, sparking his passion to serve them and ultimately leading him to form the ministry that became Open Doors.

 

His 1957 border crossing into Yugoslavia and Eastern Europe in a bright, blue Volkswagen Beetle stuffed with illegal Bibles is memorialized in his 1967 autobiography, God’s Smuggler. The first of 16 books written by Brother Andrew, it has sold more than 12 million copies and has been translated into more than 40 languages.

 

The Bible smuggling reached an apex in June 1981 when an Open Doors crew nosed a custom-built barge onto the China coastline under the cover of darkness. They floated one million Bibles contained in 232 packages, to a small, silent army of waiting Chinese Christians, who spirited them into the country. www.opendoorsusa.org/about-us/history/brother-andrews-story/

When I was serving as a missionary in Holland in the early 70s he spoke at our base, and some of my friends ended up going on a Bible mission for him into Eastern Europe. He kept active in his work to the very end. As the Open Doors’ piece goes on to say:

After the fall of the Iron Curtain, Brother Andrew turned his attention to the Islamic World, believing the rapid spread of radical, militant expressions of Islam posed the greatest challenge yet to religious freedom worldwide. Since then, Brother Andrew and the ministry he founded have committed themselves to serving the needs of persecuted Christians throughout the world. His travels logged an estimated one million miles through 125 countries.

 

Brother Andrew was married for 59 years to his wife, Corry, who passed away on Jan. 23, 2018. They lived all of their lives in Holland and are survived by their five children and 11 grandchildren.

Please have a look at this moving 6-minute video about Brother Andrew and his amazing ministry: www.youtube.com/watch?v=fK3eTJQtPug

Leaving a legacy

As I have said, in terms of this world and its values, Brother Andrew is known by hardly anyone, while the Rolling Stones are household names around the globe. If this life were all there was, the Stones would hands down have left a far greater impact on the world, at least in terms of being such a recognisable and enduring rock band loved by millions.

But as far as I am aware, none of them are Christians. So their influence will be in this world only. In the next world they will not be doing as well, nor still living the good life. At the very least, we should pray for Mick and Keith and the others. While they may have had everything this world has to offer – fame, fortune, fans and females – they will be completely empty-handed in the next, unless they come to know Christ as their redeemer.

Brother Andrew on the other hand will be one of many great saints that I and so many others will want to spend time with in eternity. Sure, he, like all believers, will take any crowns he has earned and lay them at the feet of our Saviour. God will get the ultimate credit and glory, but champions like Andrew have their place in God’s hall of fame.

The question for each and every one of us is this: what sort of legacy are we leaving? Will it be for this world only, or will it endure into all eternity? Will you seek to be a Mick Jagger or a Brother Andrew? I know which camp I want to be in. Choose wisely.

In sum, one friend that I knew in Holland just posted this on the social media. I am not sure if she wrote it or just shared it from someone else. But it is a fitting tribute indeed:

Dear Anne, we knew you would be leaving one day to personally meet and stand before the Father, His Son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit who you loved and served with all your heart and strength. That day has finally come, and we can only try to imagine what it was like for you to enter into the presence of God, having run your race as you did, and finishing it so well! You must have had a joyous reunion with Corrie, your family and friends, and some of the team who went before you! All the weight you carried for the persecuted Christians and unreached people has finally been lifted from your heart now, so we choose to think of the victory and joy you are celebrating, and not the hole you have left behind. You fought the good fight God put before you as few ever have. You truly were a very ordinary man, as you claim, but God living through you, made you and your life anything but ordinary. Thank you for challenging us to love the world as God loves the world. We saw how you even loved the terrorists with the heart of a father. Thank you for showing us what it means to lay your life down for your brothers and sisters. Thank you for your friendship. We will carry on the battle we once shared with you … us from here, and you from above until we meet again. The verse that tells us there is a great cloud of witnesses watching us run our race has taken on new meaning tonight as I learned you have joined that crowd. You were faithful and victorious to the end! To God be the glory!

[1591 words]

9 Replies to “Leaving a Legacy: A Study in Contrasts”

  1. What a lovely tribute to a wonderful man, doing Gods work for so many years

  2. A beautiful tribute. I tell the story of Brother Andrew to children and adults at church gatherings. There are so many remarkable aspects of his life that it makes a fascinating narrative. I’m thinking especially of his childhood penchant for mischief and how God used his talent for daring in a completely just cause. I could go on all day about how his example inspires me. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Can this be anonymous, Bill?
    I started reading Keith Richard’s autobiography, Life, published in 2010, a few days before this post. It begins with an account of that 1972 tour to the USA, the drug busts, the concerts that featured a large blow-up penis on stage, etc. I got about 80 pages into it, remembering the records and the bands that were around in Keith’s early days growing up in a working-class English neighbourhood. I was researching, but it was predictable and as I flicked ahead, the tale of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll unfolded as I had lived it. The sexual revolution was part of the rebellion that swept the world. The drugs took many lives, but the sex probably accounts for more and I began to look through the Index. I was in that world for three decades, until I was saved. Indeed, the Stones need our prayers as do many who survived those years. From my perspective, this lifestyle cumulatively ruined more lives than some wars of the twentieth century. Some of us were pulled from the fire. I put my stage clothes in the wheelie bin and give thanks to the Lord. People like Brother Andrew were watchmen. They saw it coming, but were ridiculed by the hipsters.

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