As has been mentioned casually, your humble servant worked for twenty-two years as a uniformed officer of the U. S. Customs Service – and after a governmental re-organization, the U. S. Customs and Border Protection agency. Part of my duties were to seek out, detect, seize merchandise – including contraband – imported contrary to law and apprehend those responsible.
Obviously I looked for smugglers.
I cannot remember the date anymore. I should have noted the date and time, but I didn’t. I remember it was after the collapse of the Soviet Union. That makes it post 1991 at least. But it was in the early 90’s as I recall. It’s been a while.
I was working the day shift at the Port of Entry at Los Angeles World Airport in the Bradley Building. I had a job ‘floating’, that is, moving from arriving flight to arriving flight, observing and questioning passengers to determine if any required further attention. Not a serious morning; as I recall most of the flights were from Europe and nothing of consequence.
One young man was approaching and I approached him, asking for his passport and Customs form. He had it very handy and presented them with a cheerful smile. I asked him his business and he told me he was a representative of “Open Doors”. My lightening fast brain started whirring as the memories in my head bubbled forth. Okay, it might have been a squeal instead of a whir, a minor amount of smoke and one memory fell out of my ear. But it was a good one.
“You’re one of the smugglers!” I said with my winning smile.
The young man looked slightly ‘stricken’ for just a moment, then remembered where he was and the smile returned. “Yes”, he said, shaking my outstretched hand and warming up, “We are.”
I asked the obvious question, “Is he here today?” My interviewee immediately said, “Oh, yes…” looking about he said, “He’s over there by the front of the [examination belt], heading for the door.” Oddly, he didn’t point; one acquires habits like that.
I looked where the gentleman directed and saw a very ordinary looking man in a business suit walking purposely toward the exit. Without breaking stride, he turned and waved. He knew someone was looking at him.
The man in question is now identified as Andrew van der Bijl. However, for many years – I first found out about him in the late 1960s, he worked under an the alias of ‘Brother Andrew’. I was not then, nor am I now surprised when he made me in the Customs hall. He was and is the most successful smuggler in the modern world. (Possibly in the ancient world as well; such things are hard to evaluate.) For over thirty years – closer to forty – Brother Andrew smuggled Bibles into Communist block countries and delivered to trusted Christian contacts. He was never caught.
He’s still in the business, by the way. Check out the website – http://www.opendoors.org/ – for current details. He co-wrote an autobiography in the middle 1960’s called God’s Smuggler, detailing his youth and career. It reads like a James Bond novel, except no one gets killed and he doesn’t sleep with any women, let alone three or four.
Once, I was about thirty-five feet from shaking hands with Brother Andrew and I missed him. I don’t feel too bad, the Soviets couldn’t get him in nearly forty years.