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, FOUNDING CHAIRMAN, OPEN DOORS INTERNATIONAL