For nearly 20 years Al Janssen worked closely with Brother Andrew, the Founder of Open Doors. Together they traveled to Muslim countries, wrote six books, met with political leaders and spoke to ministry donors. This blog tells the story of their friendship and some of the many lessons Al learned from this beloved mission leader.
“Al, be Christ to a hurting world.”
This is Holy Week, and Good Friday is an ideal time for me to recall and reflect on Brother Andrew’s sermon to me on the day of my ordination nearly nine years ago. I wasn’t the only person being ordained that day, but Andrew addressed most of his message to me personally, which was humbling but also convicting. The statement above is seared on my memory.
The passage he chose to preach from was one of his and my favorites: Galatians 2:20. It’s likely a verse you are familiar with—many have memorized it. “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (ESV).
I don’t remember every detail of the sermon—I’ve tried to obtain a recording of it. But I know the spirit of the message because I have seen my friend live it out in many situations.
The key to understanding this teaching of the Apostle Paul is essentially: I am dead!
I think Brother Andrew first began to learn this when he was injured while fighting for the Dutch army in Indonesia in the late 1940s. After surrendering himself to God, he recognized that his life no longer belonged to him. He was not free to choose where to go and what to do. So he considered every encounter, every meeting, every visitor to his office, as a divine appointment. It didn’t matter if the person was famous or a beggar.
There was a hotel where we stayed several times in a South Asian city where Brother Andrew always had his shoes shined by a poor Muslim man who worked outside the front entrance. Andrew spoke warmly to him, asked about his family and always gave the man a nice tip. Then as we waited for our car he would talk with the doorman who was a Christian and encourage him to pray for each person that entered the hotel.
We often were chauffeured to meet high-ranking government officials—on one occasion we even met with the country’s prime minister. Later that day, we might meet with the leader of a fundamentalist Muslim group. At night, Andrew would preach at an evangelistic service or spend time with adult students graduating from a literacy class. For each encounter, Brother Andrew’s attitude was the same.
“Al,” he would remind me. “You may be the only Jesus this person ever meets.”
That was the message that stands out to me from Brother Andrew’s sermon. Be Jesus! Be Christ to a hurting world. Indeed, that is what the Apostle teaches in this passage. If I’m dead, then who is alive? It is Christ in me. So everywhere I go, my call is to allow Christ to act in me and love others through me. I can’t say I understand exactly how this works, but I do know that the verse says we live this truth “by faith.”
Brother Andrew demonstrated living by faith in our encounters with the people God let us meet. He didn’t worry much about the impact he had on their lives. He trusted God to provide the right message for each person, then left the results up to God. Well, maybe it was slightly more than that. Our prayers after each meeting often focused on our message, and we prayed that God would allow our words to bear fruit in the hearer’s heart.
Now that I no longer have the privilege of traveling and working with my friend, I often think about his challenge to me from Galatians 2:20. Before I preach or write, make a phone call or meet with any individual, I try to remember to pray, “Lord, may I see what You see and hear what You hear and speak the words You want me to speak.”
That’s an ideal prayer for Good Friday and throughout the year. For if it is no longer I who live but Christ lives in me, then He is sure to answer that request.
Above photo: Brother Andrew preaching at Gaza Baptist Church. Pastor Hanna Massad (left) served as his interpreter, translating his message into Arabic.