Richard Wurmbrand prison photo
By Richard Wurmbrand (1909-2001), Tortured for Christ, 1967, pages 11-13. Wurmbrand suffered much for his faith in Christ, first by the Nazi invasion of his homeland Romania, then by the Russians, and then by the Romanian communists. He would spend 13 years in prison for proclaiming Christ, was often tortured, and spent several years in solitary confinement. After his release he came to the United States and founded the Voice of the Martyrs, an organization that continues to minister to persecuted Christians around the world. This is the story of his conversion in 1938 from an unbelieving Jew to faith in Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.
I was brought up in a family in which no religion was recognized. In my childhood, I received no religious education. At the age of fourteen I was already a convinced, hardened atheist. This was the result of a bitter childhood. I had been an orphan from the first years of life, and I had known poverty in the difficult years of the First World War. At fourteen, I was as convinced an atheist as the communists are today. I had read atheist books, and not only did I not believe in God or Christ, I hated these notions, considering them harmful for the human mind. So I grew up in bitterness toward religion.
But as I understood afterward, I had the grace to be one of the chosen of God for reasons which I don’t understand. These reasons did not belong to anything in my character, because my character was very bad.
Although I was an atheist, something which was unreasonable always attracted me to churches. I found it hard to pass a church and not enter it. However, I never understood what was happening in those churches. I listened to the sermons, but they did not appeal to my heart. I was very sure that there was no God. I hated the notion of God as a master whom I should have to obey. It was the wrong notion of God which I had in my mind that I hated. But I would have liked very much to know that a loving heart existed somewhere in the center of this universe. I had known few of the joys of childhood and youth. I longed that there should be somewhere a loving heart beating for me.
I knew there was no God, but I was sad that such a God of love did not exist. Once, in my inner spiritual conflict, I entered a Catholic church. I saw people kneeling and saying something. I thought, I will kneel near them, I will catch what they say, and I will repeat the prayers to see if something happens. They said a prayer to the holy virgin; “Hail, Mary, full of grace.” I repeated the words after them again and again, I looked at the statue of the Virgin Mary, but nothing happened. I was very sad about it.
One day, being a very convinced atheist, I prayed to God. My prayer was something like this: “God, I know surely that You do not exist. But if perchance You do exist; which I doubt, it is not my duty to believe in You. It is Your duty to reveal Yourself to me.” I was an atheist, but atheism did not give peace to my heart.
At this time of inner turmoil— as I discovered afterward— in a village high up in the mountains of Romania, an old carpenter prayed like this: “My God, I have served you on earth and I wish to have my reward on earth as well as in Heaven. And I would like my reward to be that I should not die before I bring a Jew to Christ, because Jesus was from the Jewish people. But I am poor, old, and sick. I cannot go around and seek a Jew. In my village there are none. Bring Thou a Jew into my village and I will do my best to bring him to Christ.”
Something irresistible drew me to that village. I had nothing to do there. Romania has twelve thousand villages. But I went to that village. Seeing I was Jew, the carpenter courted me as no beautiful girl had ever been courted. He saw in me the answer to his prayer and gave me a Bible to read. I had read the Bible out of cultural interest many times before. But the Bible he gave me was another kind of Bible. As he told me afterward, he prayed for hours together with his wife for my conversion and that of my wife. The Bible he gave me was written not so much in words, but in flames of love fired by his prayers.
I could scarcely read it. I could only weep over it, comparing my bad life with the life of Jesus; my impurity; my hatred with His love; and He accepted me to be one of His own.
Soon after me, my wife was converted. She brought other souls to Christ. Those other souls brought still more souls to Christ, and so a new Lutheran congregation arose in Romania.
The carpenter and his wife who God used to convert Richard Wurmbrand and his wife to Christ
Isaiah 57:20-21 — The wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud. “There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.”
Isaiah 55:6-7 — Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
Psalm 145:18-19 — The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them.
Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint;
heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.
My soul is in deep anguish.
How long, Lord, how long?
Turn, Lord, and deliver me;
save me because of your unfailing love…
The Lord has heard my cry for mercy;
the Lord accepts my prayer.