“I have found truly jubilant Christians only in the Bible, in the underground church, and in prison.”
Richard Wurmbrand was the youngest of four boys, born into a Jewish family on March 24, 1909, in Bucharest, Romania.
As an adult, he was intellectually gifted, being fluent in nine languages. Richard was active in leftist politics and worked as a stockbroker.
On October 26, 1936, Richard and Sabina were married, and both converted to Christ in 1938. They both joined the Anglican Mission to the Jews in Bucharest. Richard was ordained, first as an Anglican, and then after World War II, as a Lutheran minister.
During World War II, Richard and Sabina saw an opportunity for evangelism among the occupying German forces. They preached in the bomb shelters and rescued Jewish children out of the ghettos. Richard and Sabina were repeatedly arrested and beaten and, at least once, nearly executed. Sabina lost her Jewish family in Nazi concentration camps.
In 1945 Romanian Communists seized power, and 1,000,000 Russian troops poured into the country. Pastor Wurmbrand ministered to his oppressed countrymen and engaged in bold evangelism to the Russian soldiers.
That same year, Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand attended the Congress of Cults organized by the Romanian Communist government. Many religious leaders came forward to praise Communism and to swear loyalty to the new regime.
Sabina said, “Richard, stand up and wash away this shame from the face of Christ.”
Richard warned, “If I do so, you’ll lose your husband.”
“I don‘t wish to have a coward as a husband,” she replied.
Thus Richard declared to the 4,000 delegates, whose speeches were broadcast to the whole nation, that their duty is to glorify God and Christ alone.
Between 1945 and 1947, Richard distributed 1 million Gospels to Russian troops. Richard also smuggled Gospels into Russia. On December 30, 1947, the People’s Republic of Romania was proclaimed.
On February 29, 1948, the secret police arrested Richard while on his way to church and took him to their headquarters. He was locked in a solitary cell and labeled “Prisoner Number 1.”
In 1950, his wife Sabina was also imprisoned. She was forced to serve as a laborer on the Danube Canal project, leaving their nine-year-old son, Mihai, alone and homeless. Richard was released in 1956 after serving eight-and-a-half years in prison. He was warned never to preach again. While in prison, he went through horrific tortures at the hands of the brutal secret police. Despite the treatments and the warnings he received from his persecutors, Richard resumed his work with the “underground” churches after his release.
He was re-arrested in 1959 through the conspiracy of an associate, and sentenced to 25 years. He was accused of preaching ideas contrary to Communist doctrine. Due to increased political pressure from Western countries, Richard was granted another amnesty and released in 1964.
In December 1965, the Norwegian Mission to the Jews and the Hebrew Christian Alliance paid $10,000 in ransom to the Communist government to allow the Wurmbrand family to leave Romania. Reluctant to leave his homeland, Richard was convinced by other underground church leaders to leave and become a “voice” to the world for the underground church. Richard, Sabina, and their son Mihai left Romania for Norway and then traveled on to England.
Richard began his ministry of being a voice for persecuted Christians in England with Rev. Stuart Harris. Later, Richard moved on to the United States, and in 1966 he appeared before a U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, where he stripped to the waist and revealed 18 deep torture wounds on his body. His story spread rapidly, leading to more and more speaking engagements.
In 1967, the Wurmbrands officially began a ministry committed to serving the persecuted church, called Jesus to the Communist World (later renamed The Voice of the Martyrs). In the same year, Richard released his book, Tortured for Christ.
In October, 1967, the first monthly issue of The Voice of the Martyrs newsletter was published in the U.S. By the mid-1980s his work was established in 80 restricted nations with offices in 30 countries around the world.
In 1990, after the fall of Nicolae Ceausescu in December 1989, Richard and Sabina returned to Romania after 25 years in exile and were warmly received. A printing facility and bookstore were opened in Bucharest, and the officials of the city offered to store Christian books in a room below the palace of Ceausescu, the very site where Richard had been held in solitary confinement.
During his ministry, Richard wrote 18 books in English and others in Romanian, some of which have been translated into 38 different languages.
Richard retired from the day-to-day work of The Voice of the Martyrs in 1992, but he continued as a consultant and member of the board of directors, maintaining a keen interest in the work until his death in 2001.
Sabina Wurmbrand, who passed away August 11, 2000, is remembered as a woman of great integrity, a student of the Scriptures, a mighty faith warrior, and a true help mate to her husband.
Here, in a rare video from the 1960’s, is a biographical video featuring Richard Wurmbrand, and his experiences being “Tortured for Christ.”