Interview: 'God's Smuggler' on Megachurches, Persecuted Christians, and Middle East Challenges

CP: For the Twitter campaign that a lot of megachurch pastors participated in supporting imprisoned Afghan Christian Said Musa, there was concern afterwards from the US government, and other people working to free him that actually pastors coming out publicly to support Said Musa was harmful to him because it could have enraged his captors and been less effective than quiet diplomacy. What is your opinion on this?

Brother Andrew: I have no opinion on this because every situation is different. In some places it will help, publicity, and in other places it will turn against you. In some places political pressure will help and in other cases it will work against you. One thing that will always help is prayer. So that is our message, that we want to be a spiritual mission. We don't normally support action or protest. We don't climb on the barricades. A spiritual problem has a spiritual solution. It may seem a bit weak to other people, but it's the only weapon that God has given us.

CP: What is it like to be a Christian in countries like Somalia or North Korea or Iran?

Brother Andrew: I think it's just about the ultimate test of your faith and by the people involved, it's often experienced as a privilege. In the Scripture, especially in Acts, they went out after being arrested and beaten and they went rejoicing because they were worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus. I think it's a great privilege, but it's not something you seek, because then that is the wrong attitude. But when it comes over you, accept suffering as a good Christian, the Bible says. Don't object, but use your God given rights, if you have anything left in that country. But one right they have, and they can never claim that right, is that they have a right to be prayed for. And our responsibility therefore is to get information on that person or group and pray and make it known in our publications, in our speaking, radio, television and articles so we open the way for God's spirit to intervene.

CP: Would you say the Middle East is the most difficult region to do mission in current? Why or why not?

Brother Andrew: Well at the moment it is the most difficult area in the whole world. I know there are wars all over and very unrighteous wars all of them. But without understanding of the Scripture, we believe that the end solution will take place in the Middle East. How, when, by whom, we don't know. Anyone who claims to know, I disagree with them to begin with, because we don't know. And therefore it's important to know what is happening in the Middle East because there is also kind of a theory that the Gospel went after Pentecost westward and circled the whole world and comes back to Jerusalem and then the end comes. Many Chinese believers believe that and they want to go back to Jerusalem, the movement. And I've met a number of them, and I know a number of them are already out in the Muslim world, very effectively and very appreciated, very professional. How far is that a dream? I don't know, but for them it's a dream that keeps them going, so praise the Lord. Whatever dream that keeps them going no matter or not you get there. It's your engine to keep going, so it's always good to focus on something, like Middle East.

We just had the Arab revolution and we thought that it was Spring time for them, but then they forgot there is Summer and went straight into very cold Winter, that is where they are now. That means not an adopted political view of the situation, but a renewed effort to pray because the Christians are having a very hard time with the new fundamentalism. The question is what are we doing for them?

CP: In my interview with Carl Moeller a few years ago, he shared with me that you have quite a few friends who are Hamas leaders and that you visited the most radical madrassa in Pakistan and gave a New Testament to the Islamic leader there. Tell us how these types of relationships are even possible when you are well-known as an evangelist?

Brother Andrew: What amazes me is people think this is not possible because everyone is open and radicals are often more open – although they appear to be against Christ. People who couldn't care less – the man on the street – is harder to reach than the guy there who holds his reins and is known as a radical or a terrorist – which is a terrible word. I believe there are no terrorists because terrorists are not born – except my children were born, I thought they were terrorists for a long time, now we are good friends (laughs). Terrorists are made and it so strikes me that they have the right to complain that no one cared for my soul and that for me is the perfect setting of the making of a terrorist. Nobody cares for your soul, everybody writes you off, then you become a terrorist.

Let's go there because they have the first right to hear who Jesus Christ is. That is my starting point, I go to them. You mentioned one or two, but as it happens I know all of them. Never write off anybody, you'll be surprised how everyone that I have met is open to receive the messenger of God. Let's then not write off anyone because that is how you and I got saved – God hadn't written us off. We had every reason to be written off, but God didn't. We must not write off any person Jesus died for, if that becomes our foreign policy then our foreign policy might be a lot different than it is today.

CP: You have gone to war-torn countries and evangelized people who are in the midst of war, and you've probably seen people you've evangelized died. How are you able to believe in a good and loving God that is in control despite the horrendous things that have happened to people you love?

Brother Andrew: (Sigh) Everyone has a price to pay. When I think of Afghanistan, because it is so much in the news, I still have a church function in Afghanistan and in Iran, and with a church officially, but of the people in Afghanistan alone that I've baptized or some ordained for the ministry, at least 12 or 14 have been killed already. And when that news filters through to my office, I just sit and cry because it hurts very much. But if that should stop me, that is just what the devil wants. I must step up my efforts and do more to win others because in the numbers and influence of more Christians lies the solution for political and religious and for the racial conflicts. So we know the solution, but we don't apply it. We still rely on diplomacy – it could be good sometimes – we rely on military, I can't see how that can be good anytime, but that is my personal view because I've seen too much of what it does. And I have been in the war five years during Hitler time, the Nazis who occupy my country and my village and my schools. I've been in the war in the Far East for four years. I've been visiting a lot in Vietnam; I have been all along through the Vietnam War, one month every year, and I still hear General Westmoreland's say – by the way I was a war correspondent in Vietnam – he said to us, the soldiers and correspondents, "There is not a situation where we cannot handle." Oh boy, now you think of 1975 how they ran out of Vietnam, how they fled and whoever orchestrated that, he got big Nobel Price for Peace with honor. It's topsy-turvy world, there is no righteousness, no principle, no respect for people who think and believe differently. We have another ballgame, so to speak – be witnesses for Jesus, doesn't mean a pacifist – then you put a label on people. I am certainly not a pacifist, but I believe in righteousness and I want to continue that, whatever the cost to even my own self. One day I may die. You may hear Brother Andrew killed in an accident or whatever or shooting. It's okay, I'm ready.

CP: One last question, you're 84-years-old, going on to 85 soon, and you're still very active. Do you plan to retire soon?

Brother Andrew: What is that retire? Does that mean no tires on? Put new tires on and go another round? I think in serving God there is no retirement, but if you notice you can't do it anymore or your thoughts don't work or your memory, your hearing, whatever, then I think it's time to quit. But I will never sit in the garden and watch geraniums. I think they will die if I watch them. As long as I can, as long as I have a voice and a pen, and co-workers, I want to continue. I have no set date, if I can't do it anymore, then it's over.