• December 22, 2004
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    Brother Andrew, Al Janssen Minister to Palestinian Believers
Brother Andrew, Al Janssen Minister to Palestinian Believers ?I had the opportunity to meet with Arafat many times and bring the Gospel to him and tell him of Jesus' love ?just like I have done for others in many countries for almost 50 years,? says Andrew.

Arafat was ?someone who needed Jesus, like so many others,? he adds.

Andrew points out that he received permission from Arafat to open a Bible shop in Gaza and hundreds of Muslim fundamentalists, especially those from Hamas, "because they know me, come to the shop and get Scriptures and JESUS videos."

In his latest book, coauthored with Al Janssen, Andrew shares his accounts of approaching Arafat, Hamas and other feared organizations as an ambassador for the Church. Light Force: A Stirring Account of the Church Caught in the Middle East Crossfire details Andrew?s embrace of persecuted Christians in the Middle East.

During a recent phone interview, Janssen told Crosswalk.com about his experiences traveling with Brother Andrew and about the climate for Christians in the Middle East.?Let me give you some background,? said Janssen. ?Christianity has been in the Holy Land for 2000 years. When Israel became a nation in 1948, about 15 percent of the Arab population was Christian. The Christians tended to be the business leaders. They had perhaps more resources than many of the people there, so when times got difficult, many of them fled to Europe and the United States.?

The Christian population dwindled and today, the Christian population among the Palestinians is less than 2 percent. In addition, Andrew noted, there are few Christians on the Jewish side. ?You have a small Messianic Jewish congregation and as near as I can tell, maybe 7000 believers. Among the Palestinians, maybe 70,000 believers. Now that may be a surprise to most Christians in the West who maybe haven?t realized there is a significant population of Palestinian Christians.?

But on both sides, Christians are obviously a minority and so they?re caught in the midst of the conflict, Andrew adds. ?The purpose of Light Force is to raise the awareness of the church in the West so that we can be praying for our brothers and sisters. The body needs to know what this other part of the body is going through, and how it?s hurting and suffering so that we can help them.?

Janseen and Brother Andrew assert that the love of Christ can reach anyone, even members of the terrorist group, Hamas. Yet, many Christians doubt this is possible. ?I sometimes wonder if we as Christians really believe it,? Janseen said. ?I think we say, ?God loves the whole world; everyone needs to hear the Gospel? but then we hear news of a terrorist group doing some atrocity and what?s our reaction? ?Let?s kill them; let?s wipe them out.? I?m not saying everybody thinks that way, but our tendency is to think of them as just a nameless enemy rather than as human beings who may be desperately searching for answers.?

The biggest eye opener for Janssen was his first trip to Israel when Brother Andrew was trying to make that contact with Islamic Jihad. ?We met this man who was kind of the gatekeeper to the head of Islamic Jihad and after he had checked us out and set up the appointment, he said, ?I want to ask you guys some questions.? What was so surprising to me is that he said, ?I?ve spent 15 years in prison and while I was in prison, I read the Koran and I read the Bible and that?s when I decided to become a committed Muslim.??

The man?s revelation startled Janssen, especially when he went on to ask questions about the Bible. ?He had some very pointed questions from the Old Testament and noted that the book Zechariah talks about the destruction of the Jews. He?s asking these questions about prophecy and I?m thinking, ?I can?t believe it ? I?m sitting with a member of Jihad having a Bible study on the book of Zechariah and probably half the Christians I know haven?t even read the book of Zechariah.??

Janssen said that opened his eyes to see God moving in this man?s life. By the end of the meeting, Brother Andrew had given the prisoner a copy of God Smuggler in Arabic and by the next day, he had read half of it. ?He asked us, ?What other books do you have in Arabic? I want anything you can get me.? It took us 18 months to get back to him but we brought him some more Christian books,? Janssen recalled.

We have no idea what God may be doing in these people?s lives, he added. ?So if someone doesn?t go to them, how are they going to hear??

According to Jansen, Brother Andrew has always been a pioneer, going where no one else has thought to go. In the 1950s, that was the Communist world. Brother Andrew established the first of what are now many ministries in Eastern Europe and Russia. His thinking, said Janssen, is that ?If I can do it, a Dutchman who never even got a full college degree, if I can go and have a ministry, then anyone can do it.?

God opened up a door for Brother Andrew in 1992 when 415 members of Hamas were deported from Israel. It was an international incident and they were left on the side of a mountain in southern Lebanon. Andrew felt compelled to visit the refugees, following the command of Matthew 25 where Jesus says, ?I was hungry and you fed me. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was lonely and you visited me.?

He went to the men as human beings, said Janssen, ?to see what their conditions were and visited many of their families. A relationship developed and guess what? He had the opportunity to share the Gospel with hundreds of Hamas over a period of a couple of years. He was probably the only evangelical person to ever speak on Christianity at Islamic University in Gaza at the invitation of the current leader of Hamas.?

The point, Janssen hopes, is clear. Andrew didn?t do anything special except to reach out to these men at their point of need. ?Look at the doors that God opened. We can?t be responsible for what these men do with the message, but the fact is they?ve had the opportunity to hear and we may probably never know until the heaven what the results of that effort have been.

?It?s an incredible story and should show us that there is no people group in the world that is completely unreachable,? Janssen added.

For Christians in the United States, Janssen has a couple of practical suggestions. First, whenever you see news, ask the question, ?Is there a church there??

?Often when we see the news of some horrific attack in Israel, we don?t stop to think, ?Are any of my brothers and sisters caught in that?? And they have been. Also on the Palestinian side, when Israel attacks Gaza, ask if any of our brothers and sisters are could be there.?

Second, said Janssen, Christians need to pray for the church and ministries such as the Palestinian Bible Society or the Bible Society of Israel. ?Those two groups are having tremendous ministry. We need to pray that the word of God will get out into more hands and that these ministries will be effective, because the only hope for peace is that the Christians, what we call the Light Force, shine their light in the midst of that darkness.?

Visit the Open Doors website at www.opendoors.org

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