He was an outspoken anti-communist with the scars to prove it, a man raised Jewish who embraced Christianity with uncommon devotion, and a visionary whose life was dedicated to helping believers who suffer for their faith.
He was Richard Wurmbrand, founder of leading Christian-persecution organization The Voice of the Martyrs.
As WorldNetDaily reported, Wurmbrand began Voice of the Martyrs in 1967 after enduring years of imprisonment and torture at the hands of Communists in his native Romania.
As a young married man in 1937, Wurmbrand and his wife, then Jewish, traveled to a small village in Romania where Christian Wolfkes, an old carpenter who had been praying that he migth share the Gospel with a Jew, gave them a copy of the New Testament. Wurmbrand and wife Sabina eventually converted to Christianity.
As a pastor in Romania during World War II, Wurmbrand sought to reach out to occupying soldiers with the Gospel. He and Sabina, however, suffered repeated beatings and arrest by the Nazis. Jewish family members perished in Germany’s concentration camps.
A decision in 1945 would shape the rest of Wurmbrand’s life. A bio on the Voice of the Martyrs’ website states:
1945: Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand attend the “Congress of Cults” arranged by the Romanian Communist government. As many religious leaders come forward to swear loyalty to the new regime, Sabina Wurmbrand tells her husband to “wipe the shame from the face of Jesus.” Richard, knowing the outcome of such an act, steps forward. The delegates believe he too will praise the new leadership, but, to their surprise, Richard tells the 4,000 delegates that their duty as a Christian is to glorify God and Christ alone.
That act of obedience to his God caused Wurmbrand’s eventual designation as “Prisoner No. 1” by the Romanian government. He was arrested by police in 1948 on his way to church on a Sunday morning. Three years were spent in solitary confinement.
In 1950, the communists arrested Sabina for helping with the underground church she and Richard had begun and forced her to work on the Danube Canal. Her 9-year-old son, Mihai, was left behind and forced to live on the streets.
After three years, Sabina was released and told her husband had died in prison. In 1956, however, after serving eight and a half years in prison, Richard was released, having withstood horrific torture. Despite warnings not to do so, Richard again began working in the underground church in Romania.
After being turned in by an associate, Wurmbrand, in 1959, again was arrested. He served in prison for another five years.
In his book “In God’s Underground,” Wurmbrand describes the various horrors he suffered in prison: sleep deprivation; starvation diet; forced to race around his tiny cell for hours until he collapsed; beatings with truncheons and boots; water funneled down his throat until it filled his stomach, which was then violently kicked; the soles of his feet flogged Inquisition-style; guards urinating and spitting into his open mouth; drugged into delirium; and terrorized by dogs kept inches from his throat.
In 1965, the Wurmbrands were “ransomed” out of Romania for $10,000. They traveled to Scandinavia, England and eventually to the U.S. The pastor’s captors warned him upon leaving Romania that he was not to speak against communism, a warning he did not heed.
The next year, just one month after arriving in the U.S., Wurmbrand testified before the U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, where he stripped to the waist to reveal 18 wounds on his neck, back and chest – evidence of the torture he had suffered at the hands of the Communists.
Talking about his time in solitary confinement, Wurmbrand told the senators: “For years I … never [saw] sun, moon, flowers, snow, stars, no man except the interrogator who beat [me], but I can say I have seen heaven open, I have seen Jesus Christ, I have seen the angels and we were very happy there.”
Speaking requests poured into Wurmbrand after his Senate appearance, and he became committed to sharing about the atrocities Christians were subject to in Communist countries. Wurmbrand became known as “The Voice of the Underground Church” and “The Iron Curtain St. Paul.” At the same time the Romanian secret police was plotting to kill the pastor.
In 1967, the Wurmbrands began Jesus to the Communist World, which later became The Voice of the Martyrs. The ministry’s first monthly newsletter was published later that year. Richard also released “Tortured for Christ,” the story of his persecution by his Communist captors.
In the ensuing years, Wurmbrand expanded his work of helping persecuted Christians and educating the West about abuses, with activity eventually in 80 nations.
In 1989, Wurmbrand’s home country, Romania, gained its freedom after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the ousting of the oppressive regime of Elena and Nicolae Ceausescu.
After 25 years of exile, in 1990 Richard and Sabina returned to Romania and helped set up a Christian printing facility. In fact, the city of Bucharest offered one of the very cells Wurmbrand had been held to store Christian books.
In the early ’90s, Wurmbrand worked to get the Gospel and Christian literature to former Communist countries, including Albania, Romania, Moldavia, Russia, Ukraine and Bulgaria. At the same time, Wurmbrand led new efforts to help Christians in Asia and Africa.
Sabina died in 2000, and less than a year later, Richard succumbed, at the age of 91.
Besides “Tortured for Christ,” Wurmbrand wrote several other books, including “From Suffering to Triumph,” “If Prison Walls Could Speak, “Marx and Satan” and “The Church in Chains.”
Wurmbrand’s Voice of the Martyrs ministry was a way to help suffering Christians as he had been helped in his time of need. When asked how he survived as an illegal pastor in Romania, Wurmbrand told the Senate panel:
“The Christians sustained me everywhere. I had no salary. I had no regular salary, but the Christians everywhere sustained me. In Romania the first question asked of a pastor or a priest of any denomination is: Has he been in prison? If he has been in prison he is all right. All the Christians sustain him.”