God's Smuggler (by Brother Andrew)

It’s a long time since I read this book, now considered a classic of Christian biographies. It was written by the Dutchman known as Brother Andrew in collaboration with John and Elizabeth Sherrill, who have written other biographies too. It was first published in 1968 and has remained almost constantly in print ever since.

‘God’s Smuggler’ is a very readable account of Andrew’s life. We meet him at first as a risk-taking excitement-seeking teenager, often bored and frustrated with his life, yet very close to his family. He has a brother with a profound learning disability, and learns a great deal about love and patience as a result. But he plays at being a spy, longs for some action.

Andrew spends some time in the army and loses what little faith he had; he also realises that it’s not a glamorous career, and that he still has a deep longing for some kind of excitement. An injury takes him to hospital, and the care of some nuns; and eventually he finds a new and vibrant faith in God. That doesn’t mean he loses his dream of adventure, or of exploring the world; most of the book then focuses on his gradual forays behind what we used to call the ‘Iron Curtain’, into first the outer ring and then even the innermost strongholds of Communist Europe.

The writing is terse and clear, not weighed down with unnecessary detail, but focussing on Andrew’s new discoveries about God, and the life of faith, as well as what he learns about people living in closed countries, with their fears and persecutions. Andrew realises that what the believers want more than anything are Bibles in their own languages; some have only a single copy between a hundred or more people when he first meets them. Of course it’s totally illegal to smuggle Bibles into these countries, but God provides… transportation, and funds, and also a string of amazing circumstances.

It’s not written in a ‘religious’ way, but does take for granted that God exists, and that God plans and directs Andrew’s life and ministry. Other people are introduced; sometimes appearing in Andrew’s life by ‘natural’ means, sometimes by what can only be a God-ordained meeting. I found it an extremely encouraging book, reminding me that God is infinite, with a world of resources, and the ability to ensure that his purposes are fulfilled, no matter how difficult they seem to be from a human perspective.

I’d recommend this book to anyone; it could be read as a biography, as personal insights into life during the Cold War, or even an unusual adventure story. I read it as reassuring evidence of God’s existence and also his wonderful provision.

While I remembered the overall ‘plot’, I’d forgotten the details, and how very well-written the book is. I enjoyed it very much. Highly recommended.

'God's Smuggler' is available in many editions, and widely available second-hand.

Review by copyright 2015 Sue's Book Reviews

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