Friday, March 24, 2023
Today on the Christian History Almanac podcast, we remember Richard Wurmbrand, a Convert and Cold War prisoner for his faith.
It is the 24th of March 2023 Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org, I’m Dan van Voorhis.
Today we head back to the 20th century to examine the life of a man who experienced almost all of it- Richard Wurmbrand, who was born in Bucharest in what would become Romania on this day, the 24th of March in 1909. It was a country caught between three empires: the Russian, Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman, and the black sea. Richard moved with his family to Istanbul, but his dad died from the Influenza pandemic of 1919, and he was eventually raised in an orphanage.
He would travel to Moscow to study Marxism but returned to Bucharest, where he lived the life of a dissolute stock broker. He married Sabina Oster- also nominally Jewish, in 1936, and two years later, the two moved to the Romanian mountains after he contracted tuberculosis. There the two met a German carpenter who had been praying to share the Gospel with anyone, but especially Jewish people who could be shown that Jesus was the Messiah. The Christian Carpenter gave Richard a copy of the New Testament, and Richard shared the story of being moved to tears by the idea of a loving God reconciling the world to Himself in Christ. As an orphan, he had come to believe it was untrue but also harbored the secret desire that it was true.
He and Sabina would move back to Romania, where he would work with the Anglican Church in Romania as a missionary to Jewish people. The two had their one son, Michael in 1939.
The history of Romania in the 20th century can get slightly confusing- stuck between the USSR, the Nazis, and the Comintern in the aftermath of World War 2. Initially, Christians were permitted to live and work in Romania as a satellite state of the USSR but had to pledge certain allegiances to Stalin. When Wurmbrnad refused to cooperate, he was arrested in 1948 and, by his own account in his book “Tortured for Christ,” spent three years in solitary confinement undergoing extreme forms of torture. He was released but then arrested again- he would spend 14 years in prison for his faith before being ransomed in 1964 by Norwegian Christians who had heard of his plight.
In Norway, he began attending the American Lutheran church there and would eventually be ordained by the Lutheran church. When his story, seemingly extreme, was verified by the church's contacts in the US embassy, he began speaking in western countries about the persecution of Christians under communism. He would testify in front of the U.S. Congress in 1966, and his family immigrated to the United States in this same year.
Here he began “Christian Missions to the Communist World” that eventually became the international organization “Voice of the Martyrs”. Richard would publish some 18 books in English as well as collections of sermons and recollections from his time behind the Iron Curtain. He was a much sought-after speaker whose ministry lasted until his death on February 17th, 2001, at 91.
It is unfortunate to note, but Voice of the Martyrs was later brought into scandal when its leader in the last decade was accused of improprieties of the most nefarious type and, in response, took his own life. The Wurmbrand’s son, Michael, has asked that their work- still using his father's name- not be supported but instead has set up the Richard Wurmbrand Foundation at richardwurmbrandfoundation.com where you can donate, read sermons, and also request free paperback copies of Richard and Sabina’s own autobiographies.
The last word for today comes from the daily lectionary from Revelation 11- let’s get apocalyptic!
15 The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said:
“The kingdom of the world has become
the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.”
16 And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17 saying:
“We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 24th of March 2023, brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by a man who knows Romania, where they filmed Anaconda III: Offspring starring David Hasselhoff- he is Christopher Gillespie.
The show is written and read by a. Man, apropos of nothing, would like you to check out the video of David Hasselhoff’s Hooked on A Feeling video on Youtube- it’s brilliant. I’m Dan van Voorhis.
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.
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