Profound Sacrifice

Mary Clare A, Columnist

Around the world, Christians suffer persecution. Far too many are flogged, harassed, mocked, and killed daily because of their testimony. But by these martyrs’ example, millions of Christians around the world are inspired to testify to Christ. Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand devoted their lives to accomplish just that. The Wurmbrands were willing to face constant torture, imprisonment, and rejection for over fourteen years for Jesus Christ.

According to The Voice of the Martyrs website, born into a Jewish family in 1909 in Romania, Pastor Richard Wurmbrand was one of four boys and intellectually gifted, fluent in nine languages. In October of 1936, he married Sabina Oster, who was also Jewish. Although initially resistant to Christianity, under the influence of Christian Wölfkes, a German carpenter, the Wurmbrands converted to Christianity after reading one of the Gospels. Richard was soon ordained as an Evangelical Lutheran minister. 

The Wurmbrands took World War II as an opportunity to evangelize the Word among the occupying German forces and their victims. Preaching in bomb shelters and rescuing Jews from ghettos, the Wurmbrands were arrested, tortured, and several times, nearly executed. In 1945 when Romanian communists gained power and Russian military troops flooded the country, the Wurmbrands were as rebellious and valiant as ever; Pastor Wurmbrand ministered to Russian soldiers and his fellow oppressed Romanians. In that same year, the Wurmbrands attended the Congress of Cults, during which many religious leaders and influencers swore loyalty to the Romanian Communist regime. Pastor Wurmbrand was disgusted and walked up to the podium, declaring to the delegates that his duty was to glorify and obey God and Christ alone.

Between 1945 and 1947, the Wurmbrands had smuggled over one million Gospels into Russian troops and Romanians, disguising the books as communist propaganda. In February of 1948, however, Pastor Wurmbrand had finally exhausted the communist government’s patience. The secret police captured Pastor Wurmbrand, locking him in a solitary jail cell labeled “Prisoner Number One” and torturing him mercilessly for over three years. He was forced to watch fellow Christians humiliated, tortured, and ridiculed. In 1950, Sabina was imprisoned as well. She was released three years later along with Pastor Richard, only to be rearrested and released in 1964 in an amnesty. 

“In December 1965, two organizations paid a $10,000 ransom to allow the Wurmbrand family to leave Romania [and their imprisonment]…Richard was convinced by other underground church leaders to leave and become a ‘voice’ to the world for the underground church,” according to The Voice of the Martyrs. The Wurmbrands and their son, Mihai, fled Romania to Norway and later England. 

Pastor Wurmbrand and Sabina became the voice of martyrs and persecuted Christians, using their fame to spread their message and story. In May of 1966, Pastor Richard stood before the US Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, stripping to the waist to show eighteen scars resulting from torture he faced during the three times he was imprisoned. His story spread through newspapers throughout the US, Europe, and Asia. Though Romania’s communist regime planned to assassinate Pastor Wurmbrand, he would not be quiet. 

Pastor Richard wrote two books telling of his persecution and imprisonment, which have both become immediate bestsellers, one of which was recently made into a film: Tortured for Christ and In God’s Underground. The Wurmbrand’s founded numerous organizations committed to providing relief to Christians in communist and Islamic nations and other countries where Christians are persecuted, establishing The Voice of the Martyrs, whose mission reaches over sixty countries.

Pastor Wurmbrand has been nicknamed “The Voice of the Underground Church” and “The Iron Curtain Paul.” Even though the Wurmbrands have passed on from this world, their resolute faith inspires millions of Christians – persecuted or not – today. Their message to Christians has always been, “Hate the evil systems, but love your persecutors. Love their souls, and try to win them for Christ.” Despite the ruthless torture they endured over the course of their three imprisonments, the Wurmbrands loved their enemies and fearlessly testified Christ. 


Bates, Stephen. “Pastor Richard Wurmbrand.” The Guardian, The Guardian News and Media, 15 March 2001,

 “Our Founders.” The Voice of the Martyrs, The Voice of the Martyrs, n.d.,

“Who Was Richard Wurmbrand?” The Voice of the Martyrs, The Voice of the Martyrs, n.d.,

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