March 24, 1909|
February 17, 2001 (aged 91)|
Torrance, California, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Sabina Oster (1936–2000, her death)|
|Writings||Tortured for Christ and others|
Richard Wurmbrand, also known as Nicolai Ionescu (March 24, 1909 – February 17, 2001) was a Romanian Christian minister of Jewish descent. In 1948, having become a Christian 10 years before, he publicly said Communism and Christianity were not compatible. As a result, he experienced imprisonment and torture by the then Communist regime of Romania, for his beliefs. After serving a total of fourteen years, he was ransomed for $10,000. His colleagues in Romania urged him to leave the country and work for religious freedom from a location less personally dangerous. After spending time in Norway and England, he and his wife Sabina, who had also been imprisoned, emigrated to America and dedicated the rest of their lives to publicizing and helping Christians who are persecuted for their beliefs. He wrote more than 18 books, the most widely known being Tortured for Christ. Variations of his works have been translated into more than 60 languages. He founded the international organization Voice of the Martyrs, which continues to aid Christians around the world who are persecuted for their faith.
Richard Wurmbrand, the youngest of four boys, was born in 1909 in Bucharest in a Jewish family. He lived with his family in Istanbul for a short while; his father died when he was 9, and the Wurmbrands returned to Romania when he was 15.
As an adolescent, he was sent to study Marxism in Moscow, but returned clandestinely the following year. Pursued by Siguranţa Statului (the secret police), he was arrested and held in Doftana prison. When returning to his mother country, Wurmbrand was already an important Comintern agent, leader and coordinator directly paid from Moscow. Like other Romanian communists he was arrested several times, then sentenced and released again.
He married Sabina Oster on October 26, 1936. Wurmbrand and his wife (known as Bintzea to her friends) converted to Christianity in 1938 due to the witness of Christian Wolfkes, a Romanian Christian carpenter; they joined the Anglican Church's Ministry among Jewish people (CMJ UK). Wurmbrand was ordained twice – first as an Anglican, then, after World War II, as a Lutheran minister. In 1944, when the Soviet Union occupied Romania as the first step to establishing a communist regime, Wurmbrand began a ministry to his Romanian countrymen and to Red Army soldiers. When the government attempted to control churches, he immediately began an "underground" ministry to his people. Richard is remembered for his courage in standing up in a gathering of church leaders and denouncing government control of the churches. He was arrested on February 29, 1948, while on his way to church services.
Wurmbrand, who passed through the penal facilities of Craiova, Gherla, the Danube–Black Sea Canal, Văcăreşti prison, Malmaison, Cluj, and ultimately Jilava, spent three years in solitary confinement. This confinement was in a cell twelve feet underground, with no lights or windows. There was no sound because even the guards wore felt on the soles of their shoes. He later recounted that he maintained his sanity by sleeping during the day, staying awake at night, and exercising his mind and soul by composing and then delivering a sermon each night. Due to his extraordinary memory, he was able to recall more than 350 of those, a selection of which he included in his book With God in Solitary Confinement, which was first published in 1969. During part of this time, he communicated with other inmates by tapping out Morse code on the wall. In this way he continued to "be sunlight" to fellow inmates rather than dwell on the lack of physical light.
Wurmbrand was released from his first imprisonment in 1956, after eight and a half years. Although he was warned not to preach, he resumed his work in the underground church. He was arrested again in 1959 and sentenced to 25 years. During his imprisonment, he was beaten and tortured. Physical torture included mutilation, burning and being locked in a large frozen icebox.. His body bore the scars of physical torture for the rest of his life. For example, he later recounted having the soles of his feet beaten until the flesh was torn off, then the next day beaten again to the bone. This prolific writer said there were not words to describe that pain.
During his first imprisonment, Wurmbrand’s supporters were unable to get information about him; later they found out that a false name had been used in the prison records so that no one could trace his whereabouts. Secret police visited Sabina and posed as released fellow prisoners. They claimed to have attended Richard's funeral in prison. During his second imprisonment, his wife Sabina was given official news of Richard’s death, which she did not believe. Sabina herself had been arrested in 1950 and spent three years in penal labour on the canal. Sabina's autobiographical account of this time is titled The Pastor's Wife. Their only son, Mihai, by then a young adult, was expelled from college-level studies at three institutions because his father was a political prisoner; an attempt to obtain permission to emigrate to Norway to avoid compulsory service in the Communist army was unsuccessful.
Eventually, Wurmbrand was a recipient of an amnesty in 1964. Concerned with the possibility that Wurmbrand would be forced to undergo further imprisonment, the Norwegian Mission to the Jews and the Hebrew Christian Alliance negotiated with Communist authorities for his release from Romania for $10,000 (though the going rate for political prisoners was $1900.) He was convinced by underground church leaders to leave and become a voice for the persecuted church. He devoted the rest of his life to this effort, despite warnings and death threats.
He was a good friend of Costache Ioanid, a well known Romanian Christian poet.
Achievements, influence and death
Wurmbrand travelled to Norway, England, and then the United States. In May, 1966, he testified in Washington, D.C., before the U.S. Senate's Internal Security Subcommittee. That testimony, in which he took off his shirt in front of TV cameras to show the scars of his torture, brought him to public attention. He became known as "The Voice of the Underground Church," doing much to publicise the persecution of Christians in Communist countries. He compiled circumstantial evidence that Marx was a satanist.
In April 1967, the Wurmbrands formed Jesus to the Communist World (later renamed The Voice of the Martyrs), an interdenominational organisation working initially with and for persecuted Christians in Communist countries, but later expanding its activities to help persecuted believers in other places, especially in the Muslim world.
In 1990 Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand returned to Romania for the first time in 25 years. The Voice of the Martyrs opened a printing facility and bookstore in Bucharest. The new mayor of Bucharest had offered a storage space for the books under former dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu's palace - where Richard had spent years in confinement, praying for a ministry to his homeland. Wurmbrand engaged in preaching with local ministers of nearly all denominations.
Wurmbrand wrote 18 books in English and others in Romanian. His best-known book, titled Tortured for Christ, was released in 1967. In several of them he writes very boldly and emphatically against Communism; yet he maintained a hope and compassion even for those who tortured him by "looking at men... not as they are, but as they will be... I could also see in our persecutors... a future Apostle Paul... (and) the jailer in Philippi who became a convert." Wurmbrand last lived in Palos Verdes, California.
He died at the age of 91 on February 17, 2001 in a hospital in Torrance, California. His wife, Sabina, had died six months earlier on August 11, 2000. In 2006, he was voted fifth among the greatest Romanians according to the Mari Români poll.
- 100 Prison Meditations
- Alone With God: New Sermons from Solitary Confinement
- Answer to Half a Million Letters
- Christ in the Communist Prisons
- Christ On The Jewish Roads
- From Suffering To Triumph!
- From The Lips Of Children
- If Prison Walls Could Speak
- If That Were Christ, Would You Give Him Your Blanket?
- In God's Underground
- Jesus (Friend to Terrorists)
- Was Karl Marx A Satanist? or Marx and Satan
- My Answer To The Moscow Atheists
- My Correspondence With Jesus
- Reaching Toward The Heights
- The Answer to Moscow's Bible
- The Oracles of God
- The Overcomers
- The Sweetest Song
- The Total Blessing
- Tortured for Christ
- Victorious Faith
- With God In Solitary Confinement
- Tortured for Christ - Docudrama.
- Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand - documentary DVD.
- Torchlighters: The Richard Wurmbrand Story - animated DVD for children 8-12.
- Hannula, Richard M, Trial and Triumph: Stories from Church History. Canon Press & Book Service, 1999, pp. 283–88
- Wurmbrand, Richard. Tortured for Christ. Living Sacrifice book co. 1967. p. 35
- Voice of the Martyrs, Extreme Devotion, Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2002, p. 296
- The war on religion by Paul Kengor
- Wurmbrand, Richard, The Wurmbrand Letters, Diane Books, Glendale, CA, 1972, p. 11
- Moise, Anutza, A Ransom for Wurmbrand, Zondervan Publishing, 1972, p. 87
- Moise, Anutza, A Ransom for Wurmbrand, Zondervan Publishing, 1972, p. 89
- Wurmbrand, Richard, With God in Solitary Confinement, Living Sacrifice Book Company, 2001 (reprinted from 1969), pp. 127-128
- Contemporary Authors Online, Gale, 2010. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale, 2010. read online
- Mathewes-Green, Fredericka, "Could We Survive Persecution?" Christianity Today 1 Mar. 1999: 68. General OneFile. 15 Jan. 2010.
- Wurmbrand, Richard. Marx and Satan. Bartlesville, OK: Living Sacrifice Book Co., 1986.
- Sobran, Joseph. "Marx and Satan." National Review 15 Aug. 1986: 42+. General OneFile. 15 Jan. 2010.
- Voice of the Martyrs, Extreme Devotion, Thomas Nelson, 2002, p. 244
- dc Talk and The Voice of the Martyrs. Jesus Freaks: Stories of those who stood for Jesus: the ultimate Jesus Freaks. Bethany House Publishers, 1999, p. 67
- "Briefs / The World." Christianity Today 2 Apr. 2001: 31. General OneFile. 15 Jan. 2010.
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- (in Romanian) Richard Wurmbrand at Mari Români
- Richard Wurmbrand audio sermons including some in German
- Mother's Day sermon (French). May 8th 1988, Québec City Canada MP3
- Richard Wurmbrand on IMDb