Reposting this review from earlier this year because the kindle edition is on sale for $1.99.
Takeaway: A Classic 20th Century Missionary Biography
Christians have been writing missionary biographies for a long time. The purpose of these biographies is to raise interest in the work, to raise money for the work, to encourage Christian to evangelism and missions in their back yard and to build greater trust and devotion to God in the reader’s lives.
The first time I ran across Brother Andrew was a comic book version of God’s Smuggler originally published in the early 1970s. I think I later read the full version of the book as a teen (but I may not have).
A couple months ago Christianaudio.com was giving away an MP3 of the audiobook of God’s Smuggler and I picked it up.
It is interesting that in light of my recent reading of God of the Mundane, I spent most of the book thinking about the relationship between special callings (like Brother Andrew) and the mundane calling of the majority of us Christians.
God’s Smuggler is the story of Brother Andrew, a Dutch Christian who became famous for smuggling bibles to Christians behind the Iron Curtain and into China and more recently for his work in the Muslim world. God’s Smuggler spends a lot of time making Brother Andrew seem like an average guy (barely any education, married with several children, poor background) except for the fact that he trusts God to blind the eyes of border guards so that he can sneak bibles into the eastern block.
Similar to the story of Brother Yun in Heavenly Man, God’s Smuggler is the story of a ton of miracles while working in places that are not friendly to Christianity and most of all trusting in God. Similar to my response to Heavenly Man, God’s Smuggler was exciting. It really did encourage me to trust in God for both large and small things. But at the same time I wonder how to reconcile my life and the life of Brother Andrew, and more importantly, my Christianity and the Christianity of Brother Andrew.
I appreciate John and Elizabeth Sherrill‘s work actually doing the writing for this book (they also were the writers behind The Hiding Place, The Cross and the Switchblade, a whole host of other books and the publishers of a number of books like Charles Colson‘s Born Again). But I am aware that the tendency to idolize great Christians in an unhealthy way and use books like this to either show that we are not good Christians (because we aren’t doing miraculous works similar to this) or to minimize the possibility that God works in miraculous ways at all.
So I want to read books like this in tension with books like God of the Mundane because most of us are called to do the mundane work of raising children, going to work every day and quietly living lives devoted to God, but never known.
Stylistically I wish this book was more directly biography and less of a ghost written autobiography. But I also am glad that it bends over backwards to view people behind the iron curtain as worth of support and ministry, that the Church of the West is a part of the body of Christ with those in more difficult situations. The epilogue explaining why Brother Andrew has changed ministry methods is also very worthwhile, methods of one time are not necessarily methods for all times. It is a book worth reading.