A black van, carrying men in black coats, screeched to a halt in front of a Lutheran pastor on his way to church. They grabbed him and threw him into the van. The kidnapped man was thirty-nine-year-old Richard Wurmbrand. The men in the black trench coats were communist secret police. The question was, “what could Richard possibly have done to endanger his life?”
In August 1944, one million Russian communist troops stormed Romania, overran the government, and installed a communist government. The dictatorship jailed and murdered thousands of innocent people. In the hopes of wiping out Christianity, the communists confiscated church property and only allowed ministers to work under a license from the government. Shortly after gaining power in Romania, the government gathered the leaders of every Christian body in Romania. Four thousand priests, bishops, and ministers gathered in the communist parliament building underneath a huge portrait of Stalin, the communist dictator. One by one, they declared that communism and Christianity had similar goals and could thrive together harmoniously.
At the meeting were Richard Wurmbrand and his wife Sabina. They had heard every single “confession” so far, and it was closing up to Richard’s turn. They both knew that action had to be taken against these men who were not standing strong in the midst of a trial. It was Sabina who spoke first. She said to Richard with flaming eyes, “Richard stand up and wash away this shame from the face of Christ. They are spitting in his face.”
Richard and Sabina both knew the risks to this action that Richard was about to take, but it ended when Sabina stated,”I don’t want to have a coward as a husband.”
He requested to speak, and it was granted to him. Richard strode to the podium where a microphone broadcasted everything spoken into the microphone, including Wurmbrand’s following message, to the whole nation. “It is our duty as ministers,” Wurmbrand reminded his listeners,”to glorify Christ. Our loyalty is due first to Him and not to earthly powers.” As he continued, applause and cheers burst from every corner of the room. His right to speak was withdrawn, and this message was what had endangered his life.
The black van had taken Richard to jail without letting his wife and son, Mihai, know what had happened to him or where he was. Harsh lights blinded him when he woke up in the interrogation room. Interrogators demanded that he write down the names of everyone he was associated with and their recent activity. However, the strength that God was giving him helped him stand strong in the situation he was facing and the trials he was about to face. Richard would not reveal anything about them.
And so the tortures began. Wurmbrand was forced to stand in a box with metal spikes protruding out of every wall. Whenever his strength gave out, the spikes tore his flesh. Torturers whipped, branded, and knifed him. The tortures continued, and every single time the torturers questioned Wurmbrand’s endurance, he would remind himself, “Christ was whipped and crucified and it is my joy to share in His sufferings.”
Both interrogation and torture failed, and the Communists resorted to brainwashing. A loud message blared for seventeen hours a day saying, “Communism is good. Christianity is stupid. Give it up.” More often than never the prisoners were either driven to the brink of insanity or far into it, never returning to the formerly known world. However, Wurmbrand hung onto his faith. It was keeping him alive.
One day a top official brought Wurmbrand into his office, sat him down, and gave him an extremely tempting offer. The official told Wurmbrand that the government needed men like Richard who were strong and persistent, so an offer was made. If Richard would agree to be the bishop of a Romanian Lutheran Church, while getting rid of the “superstitions” that the outside world had created of the communist government, he would be given his freedom, a comfortable living, and his family. Wurmbrand was given some time to think about it. When he returned to his cell, he was overwhelmed by the temptation the offer provided. The next day, he was called back into the official’s office.
“I don’t feel worthy to be a bishop;” Wurmbrand responded, “I wasn’t worthy to be a pastor, and even to be a simple Christian was too much for me. The first Christians went to their deaths saying simply – ‘I’m a Christian’ – but I haven’t done that; instead I considered your shameful offer. But I cannot accept it…. I have considered well and weighed every danger and I rejoice to suffer for what I am sure is the ultimate truth.” He was soon to find out what lay ahead of him.
Hannula , Richard M. “Richard Wurmbrand: Tortured for Christ.” Trial and Triumph: Stories from Church History, by Richard M. Hannula, Canon Press, 2006, pp. 283–288.
Wurmbrand, Richard, et al. Tortured for Christ. David C Cook, 2017.