March 24, 1909 – February 17, 2001
Founder of the Voice of the Martyrsby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
Christians in free countries can often forget the persecuted Christians in countries that violate human rights. Some people endure unimaginable tortures for their faith. Can you imagine being brainwashed for 17 hours a day? Can you imagine being burned by metal tongs and sliced by sharp knives as torture because of your love for Jesus Christ? That is what Christians went through in communist Romania and other similarly religion-restricting countries. Many were kept in prison until death. But one fortunate pastor, Richard Wurmbrand, was saved through the grace of God from those horrible prisons and was allowed to leave Romania. Ignoring the threats by the Romanian government he continued to preach the gospel to people in other countries, also explaining the terrible situations that many Christians were enduring. Wurmbrand devoted his entire Christian life to bringing people to Christ and encouraging Christians by reminding them of the remarkable bravery of the persecuted Church.
Richard Wurmbrand was born on March 24, 1909 in Bucharest, the capital city of Romania. He was the youngest of four Jewish boys. Wurmbrand spent a short time in Instanbul, the largest city in Turkey, and his father died when he was nine. At 15 Richard returned to Romania. He wasn't a Christian from the beginning; in fact, he became attracted to communism at an early age and attended some illegal meetings with the Communist Party of Romania. After being sent to Moscow to study Marxism he secretly returned home. He was soon caught by the secret police and put in Doftana prison but was not held for very long. Like many other ethnic Jews of his time, Richard grew up as an atheist.
“Although I was an atheist, something unreasonable always attracted me to churches. I found it difficult to pass a church without entering it.” Richard Wurmbrand said this in the first chapter of his book Tortured For Christ. This attraction was God beginning to call Richard to Christianity. However, he was not converted until an old carpenter in Romania would preach to him. This carpenter had prayed for a Jew to be brought to Christ through him before he died. His prayer was answered when Richard Wurmbrand visited his village. Wurmbrand said, “The carpenter courted me as never a beautiful girl had been courted.” As a result of this carpenter's efforts Richard accepted Christ in 1938 at the age of 29. Soon after his wife was converted as well. This conversion would be the start of Richard's Christian walk in which he would do many beneficial yet often painful things for Christ.
Not long after his conversion Richard became a pastor. When Romania hosted German soldiers, he evangelized to them. Richard and his wife were beaten and arrested during this time. Communism reached Romania shortly afterwards and Pastor Wurmbrand ministered to his fellow Romanians and the Russian soldiers coming into the country. He and his wife attended the Congress of Cults meeting where many religious leaders came to praise and swear loyalty to Communism. Richard's wife, Sabina, wished for him to “stand up and wash away this shame from the face of Christ.” Even knowing that this could be the arrest or death of her husband she still desired for him to stand up for Christ, not “[wishing] to have a coward as a husband.“ Wurmbrand stood up and preached to the 4,000 delegates that their “duty is to glorify God and Christ alone.”
Richard would spend the next three years distributing 1,000,000 Gospels to Russian troops. He also smuggled Gospels directly into Russia. But then, on February 29, 1948, on his way to Sunday church Richard was arrested by the secret police. And thus began what would be eight and a half years in prison for Richard. In 1950, two years later, Wurmbrand's wife would be taken for three years of slave laboring, after which she was told that her husband had died in prison. During Richard's time in prison he endured horrible tortures. The communists were attempting to make him denounce his faith, but Wurmbrand stood firm. He would not be shaken. His torturers also tried to brainwash him, but Wurmbrand was able to overcome it. After Wurmbrand's kidnapping, a Christian doctor became a secret police doctor to find out where Richard was being kept. After eight and a half years of Richard being in prison, the doctor found him. The doctor told fellow Christians that he was alive and in 1956 enough people demanded for his release that he was freed. For a short time Richard was able to return to his underground work, but he would soon be captured again.
Pastor Wurmbrand was only given three years of relative freedom before he returned to prison. He was caught doing underground work again and re-arrested. Five and a half more years would go by before he was released once again. During these many years Wurmbrand and other Christians preached to fellow prisoners. If they were caught doing this, they were beaten. In Tortured for Christ Richard says, “We were happy preaching; they were happy beating us – so everyone was happy.” The bravery and endurance these men had is amazing. Wurmbrand said that many times he saw Christian brethren preaching to prisoners. They were caught, beaten for a very long time, and thrown back into the prison. Once the man could somewhat regain his strength, he would continue preaching! “I have seen beautiful things” says Wurmbrand in his book Tortured for Christ. After enduring another painful time in prison, Wurmbrand was released in 1964. The next year, the Norwegian Mission to the Jews and the Hebrew Christian Alliance ransomed the Wurmbrand family for $10,000. This sum allowed them to leave Romania.
The Romanian government threatened to kill or spread rumors about him if he said anything bad about them in the West, but he did not heed their words. They could not force him to do anything. He wrote books describing his experiences. He founded the Voice of the Martyrs (VOM), an organization that helps persecuted Christians. In 1990 Richard and Sabina returned to Romania where they were received warmly. Richard continued to participate in his VOM organization until he died on February 17, 2001. His wife died less than a year earlier. The legacy of Richard Wurmbrand continues to impact Christians around the world.
1. Wurmbrand, Richard. Tortured For Christ. 30th Anniversary ed. Bartlesville, OK: Living Sacrifice Book Company, 1967.
2. Wikipedia, "Richard Wurmbrand." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Wurmbrand (accessed December 8, 2008).
3. Voice of the Martyrs, "Richard Wurmbrand Biography." http://www.torturedforchrist.com/?page_id=5 (accessed December 8, 2008).