Reading this book may seriously put some at risk – at risk of facing latent prejudices and stereotypes caused by selective reading or biased reporting on the Middle East. I am delighted that Hodder has had the courage to publish Brother Andrew’s book Light Force in Britain, because it could not have been an easy decision. There will be many who will wish this book does not receive the wide readership it justly deserves. Elizabeth Elliott, for example, lost many ‘friends’ when she wrote her similarly controversial book, Furnace of the Lord (published in 1969 also incidentally by Hodder & Stoughton), in which she describes her empathy for the suffering of the Palestinians and her overriding concern for people rather than so called ‘prophecy’.
In his first book, God’s Smuggler, Brother Andrew describes how the Lord provided an open door through the Iron Curtain enabling Western Christians to sustain and equip the suffering Church in Eastern Europe to withstand the onslaught of atheistic Communism. Eventually, however, he became too well known, a marked man. Brother Andrew was therefore led to focus his ministry on supporting another persecuted Church, this time in the Middle East, caught between Jewish Zionism and Islamic fundamentalism.
While many have succumbed to the temptation to make an all too brief visit and write yet another superficial account of their impressions of the Arab-Israeli conflict, Brother Andrew has waited 35 years to publish his diary, revealing with great candour, his many unpublicized visits to strengthen the suffering Church.
Light Force is Brother Andrew’s very readable and highly personal journal of dawning discovery, of theological reflection and bold compassion for Christians, Jews and Muslims in the Middle East. The book chronicles Brother Andrew’s ministry to the persecuted Church, interspersed with the moving and sometimes harrowing stories of indigenous Christians, like Bishara Awad, Principal of Bethlehem Bible College, who have lost their homes and possessions, sometimes more than once in the last 50 years. They have clearly been heartened and given courage by his mission to bring hope to this volatile part of the world.
He writes: “My purpose is to encourage and strengthen the local believers to be a Light Force, an alternative to military might.”
Brother Andrew is unafraid of controversy, even from within his own organisation. While many other Christian leaders have ‘abstained’ from entanglement in the Arab-Israeli controversy, or have more typically sided uncritically with Israel, Brother Andrew has taken the lonely path or the way of the cross.
With courage and integrity, he has reached out as an ambassador of Jesus Christ even to those branded ‘terrorists’ within the Islamic community such as the leaders of Hamas and other Islamic nationalist groups in Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza. He describes, for example, his private meeting with Hamas founder, Sheikh Ahmad Yassin, in 1997 at his home in Gaza, later assassinated by the Israeli military in 2004 as well as with Yassir Arafat, chairman of the Palestinian Authority.
Wrongly accused of being anti-Israel, Brother Andrew replies, “The best way I can help Israel is by leading her enemies to Jesus Christ.” He shows that genuine dialogue is possible based on our common humanity. Should we really be surprised, he asks, to discover that so called terrorists are human beings like you and me created in the image of God?
Dr. Carl Moeller, president of Open Doors USA, summarises the importance of this unique book. “Light Force is a riveting and often provocative book. The book details Brother Andrew’s passion and compassion for the Church and bringing the Light of Jesus to one of the world’s on-going hot spots. Like God’s Smuggler, it is compelling reading. By reading the daily headlines from the Middle East, we know Light Force will be both timely and relevant.”
Light Force is subtitled “The only hope for the Middle East”. For once this is not publisher’s hype. Brother Andrew demonstrates convincingly and compellingly that the only hope for the people of the Middle East is Jesus Christ. Only Jesus can turn hearts of stone into hearts renewed, forgiven and forgiving; only Jesus can transform enemies into brothers and sisters; only Jesus can reconcile Jews and Palestinians and entrust to them a ministry of reconciliation to bring healing to both wounded people. Brother Andrew’s book introduces us to some who have begun to. May the trickle become a flood.
It was Brother Andrew’s book God’s Smuggler, that inspired me as a young Christian in the early 1970’s to serve the suffering Church in Eastern Europe. Now some 35 years later, his new book, Light Force, has re-kindled my passion to serve God’s people in Israel and Palestine also. May it do so in you also.
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