In commemoration of the life of Richard Wurmbrand, founder of Voice of the Martyrs, a friend of mine wrote a piece celebrating Wurmbrand’s remarkable life and work for the Lord. I share this story with you because Pastor Wurmbrand was born 100 years ago yesterday. Here it is:
A Modern Day Joseph Born 100 years ago today In the Book of Genesis we read how God faithfully preserved and protected Joseph through years of abuse and imprisonment only to raise him to a high governmental position in Egypt . When a famine arose in Israel Joseph’s brothers who had sold him into captivity came begging bread and were presented before Joseph whom they did not recognize. Eventually, Joseph told them who he was and they were terrified. But Joseph forgave them and told them that although they meant it for evil, God meant it for good so that his own family and people might be saved. Dr. Richard Wurmbrand was a modern day Joseph.
He was imprisoned for fourteen years in communist Romania where he was brutally tortured and mistreated. When he was ransomed by Western Christians and released by his captors, he came to Europe and eventually to America . The communists had tried to destroy him but they only increased his faith. God used their evil intentions for his own good purposes. God had a greater, better plan for Richard Wurmbrand. Persecution could have made him bitter but instead he continually prayed for his former captors. If Richard had become bitter then the communists would have won. God gave Richard a heart of compassion for his tormentors and jailers and he dedicated his life to preaching the Gospel to them.
Because Richard had suffered persecution, God gave him a burden for the persecuted church worldwide and that vision led him to establish the Voice of the Martyrs. Dr. Wurmbrand spoke before a Senate sub-committee the first week of May 1966 and his photo showing his scars appeared in the Washington Post. My wife Ann saw a brief advertisement in the newspaper that Dr. Wurmbrand would be speaking that Friday at Luther Place Memorial Church in downtown Washington . She asked if I wanted to go and I said, “Yes.” I still have my notes from that occasion. After more than forty years, I still see the spiritual glow that seemed to hover about this dear man of God. His demeanor was humble and his face glowed. We left that meeting feeling privileged to have been in his presence. That night Dr. Wurmbrand challenged us to remember the thousands imprisoned in Romanian prisons for witnessing for Christ.
At that time in Romania Bibles had not been printed for 25 years and none had been printed in Russia for 50 years. Before his arrest God had burdened Richard’s heart for the thousands of Soviet soldiers in his occupied country because they had been brought up as atheists. Many had a hunger to hear the Word of God because it had been forbidden under atheistic communism. Dr. Wurmbrand told us about the suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ and how he knew before hand what he must suffer and how he would die. The Apostle Paul also knew what suffering lay before him as well. He pointed out that in Romania Christians did not know they were martyrs.
But here in a well-fed society a theologian can say “God is dead.” But, said Dr. Wurmbrand: “we knew that God was alive.” Isn’t that ironic? Persecuted believers who might be expected to say, “Why me? Where is God?” knew that God is alive but well-fed theologians in the comfort of 20th century America were saying that God is dead. Dr. Wurmbrand’s prophetic voice tried to wake up Western Christians to the reality of their suffering sisters and brothers under communism.
Today we at Voice of the Martyrs humbly carry out that vision. Much of Western Christendom is asleep and so are many even in our churches. The communists thought they could destroy the Church by persecution. Persecution makes the church stronger just as persecution deepened Richard Wurmbrand’s faith and led to a great movement of the Lord’s people today. Dr. Wurmbrand and his beloved wife Sabina are in heaven but their vision lives on in all of us as we pray and work to encourage the persecuted church worldwide. Happy Birthday, Richard. A hundred years ago today you were born and one hundred years later your life’s work continues stronger than ever on behalf of the persecuted believers worldwide.
Blessings, Larry “Bud” Sizemore
Area Coordinator Tennessee/Kentucky Voice Network (Voice of the Martyrs)
(Used with permission from the author)