Richard’s feet had been beaten so severely during his imprisonment that he could not stand or wear shoes. Instead, he spoke to Australian Christians while resting his mangled feet on a pillow. The congregations sat in complete silence as the barefoot pastor shared his incredible testimony.
Richard’s face gleamed with joy as he shared of a faith that overcomes all obstacles and provided opportunities to learn about persecuted Christians and to pray for them and their persecutors.
Having never heard a message like this before, many were affected by his words and attitude.
Today, we see that same joy and strength in the faces of persecuted believers we meet on our travels around the world.
The ministry of Voice of the Martyrs began with a dream and a prayer in a solitary cell in communist Romania. For three years, Richard Wurmbrand sat alone in a prison cell, over nine metres below the ground. Other than brief interactions with his guards, he saw and heard no one. As far as he knew, the outside world had ceased to exist. But in that dark, lonely, cold cell, he cried out to God and dreamed about starting a ministry that would serve Christians in communist countries.
God heard his prayers
Several years later, Richard and his family were ransomed out of their Romanian homeland for $10,000, far more than what was normally paid for political prisoners. Within days of being freed from a Romanian prison and arriving in the West, he wrote his bestselling book, Tortured for Christ. Soon thereafter, he founded a mission called Jesus to the Communist World, which later became Voice of the Martyrs. Richard’s message was not always welcome. At a time when war protests and pro-communist rallies were occurring regularly around the United States, Richard boldly took the stage and spoke out against the crimes being committed by communist regimes.
Although he was often booed and jeered, he remained undeterred. When asked about his qualifications to speak out in this way, he would strip to the waist to show his 18 torture scars and say, “These marks are my credentials.”
Many Christians found his message hard to believe, and others didn’t care. “I have suffered more from the complacency of the West than from the Communists,” he once told a reporter. But he did not come to the West looking for approval and applause. He came looking for Christians who were willing to stand with their persecuted brothers and sisters and over time he found them.
Richard published a newsletter every month, sharing story after story of courageous Christians who were beaten, imprisoned and killed because of their faith in Christ. Some refused to read the newsletter, saying it was too depressing or graphic. But Richard had a different perspective. “What will you profit by reading this newsletter?” he wrote. “It will greatly enlarge your vision. … You need to enlarge your horizons sharing the joys and sorrows of your fellow men.”
He knew the stories were needed to spur the church to a deeper commitment to Christ and His Great Commission. He was unashamed of that message.
Richard’s dream of helping persecuted Christians and sharing the Gospel with their persecutors lives on at Voice of the Martyrs. The ministry he founded continues to help families of martyrs, equip front-line workers, provide Bibles to Christians in restricted and hostile nations, and inspire the church worldwide with testimonies of our courageous persecuted family.
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