Brother Andrew recently celebrated his 90th birthday. A little while before that, the man who became known as ‘God’s Smuggler’ returned from a rare visit to his beloved Pakistan. The trip cost him a lot of energy, but still, he enjoyed every minute of it. And his message sounded just as strong as when he first arrived in this beleagured nation. ‘Don’t ever forget we are here for the Book.’
The trip to Pakistan was a private one. He visited many of his friends, old and new. His mission – as always – was to encourage the local church. “We are fatigued, weary and aching”, one church leader said. “We were waiting for him. Seeing him and his friends, reminded us that we are neither forgotten nor alone. We are loved ever so much by the Body of Christ, this time represented by Brother Andrew.”
The trip took place only a few weeks after his beloved wife, Corry, went home to be with the Lord. “The Christians in Pakistan will forever remember her as a stalwart woman, full of faith, always praying for countries such as Pakistan.”
Brother Andrew of course met with a friend who started a correspondence with him over 30 years ago. Ever since, the two men have been friends. Brother Andrew challenged him to strengthen the church in his home country and they faithfully walked together in that mission.
Brother Andrew also took part in the opening ceremony of a new chapel, called ‘St. Stephen And All The Martyrs’. “The Chapel of ‘St Stephen And All The Martyrs’ is to remember the call to lay down our lives as did Stephen - the first martyr of the church - and then all the martyrs ever since,” explained one Pakistani church leader.
Brother Andrew was welcomed by children, then led a procession into the church. He was followed by family members of Pakistani Christians who had been slain for their faith, as well as survivors of attacks.
“My daughter and I are so happy to be in your midst,” Andrew said to the guests. “Because we want to see what God is doing in Pakistan. We know that the devil is doing many things, but we will never celebrate what he does. We only celebrate what God did in our midst. We feel so much one with you. And when we go back to our own country, we will certainly tell your story.”
He admired the building, but added: “That buildings are growing, is not important. The only thing that matters is that Jesus Christ grows in your heart.”
'His teaching strengthens what remains'
A local Christian was really encouraged by the visit. She said, “God has worked in Brother Andrew’s life as well as the lives of people here. We see how He has brought to fruition a vision, a new font of living water to flow to the nations. His teaching is grounded in the Word of God, strengthens what remains in a shattered community of believers and brings hope and joy.”
Another said, “Brother Andrew stood with delight, hope and boldness and spoke of his love for this ministry. He wants to be our voice and challenges his home church to recognise their responsibility in the killing fields of persecution and to be aware of those who are suffering. We are all part of the same Body of Christ. He encourages every one to be a thread in the blanket of prayer covering not just Pakistan, but all the nations.”
During his visit, Brother Andrew was also informed by locals about the situation of modern slaves, many of whom are Christians forced to work in brick kilns. They are being ministered to by pastors and offered the opportunity to have their chains of slavery broken. With vocational skills trainings, education and employment, a whole new life awaits for them. But this ministry is extremely difficult, challenging and even dangerous for the church.
Brother Andrew also blessed students who had just finished a literacy course and are now able to read and write. Some of them he had met several years ago, when he warned them that more persecution was going to come their way. Now, many of them had suffered violence and brutality at the hand of extremists.
“That moment was solemn," a local Christian said. “Brother Andrew spoke about John 15:13: ‘Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one’s friends’. This is the path to greater love, the path that Jesus directs us to. For us, his ‘family in Pakistan', Brother Andrew continues to be the reminder of God’s call to ‘go forth’, ‘take risks’ and ‘sincerely love’ our neighbour. God is not done with reminding the church in Pakistan to stand up and proclaim, to stay and be present, to be a vibrant burning presence and to serve the church in south west Asia, unflinching in the resolve to Christ, to comfort the people of God, to awake, to strengthen and to restore.”
We are on the same journey
Brother Andrew saw how a young child received a Bible, and said, “I am back in this beautiful centre and you are here smiling at me beautifully and this little baby smiling at me. We smile because we are here for the same reason: to mutually remember the cross and the resurrection. We remember we are both on the same journey. But is the book on the journey with us? I am so happy to see this little girl can read the Bible. Now give it to someone else and teach many more to read. Don’t stop.”
Many Christians were crying when brother Andrew was about to leave. One man held his hand and said: “Goodbye, brother Andrew. Until we meet again and will rejoice in what God will do in the next fifty years!”
His words will long be remembered by the Pakistani Christians who listened to him. He said: “Don’t ever forget we are here for the Book. If we are here for the Book and the One who gave us the book, we have to obey Him. Obey Him. Be Jesus in your form in Pakistan.”