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On February 29, 1948, Richard Wurmbrand was arrested by the secret police. His crimes? Leading Christian worship and witnessing—both of which were illegal under the atheistic Communist regime of Romania. Richard spent fourteen years in prison. He was tortured, beaten, and locked into a solitary confinement cell. Sabina Wurmbrand spent three years in a labor camp,nearly freezing to death as she and other prisoners worked on the Danube Canal. She was repeatedly told her husband had died behind bars. But Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand had an unshakeable faith in Christ. Neither of them gave up hope, and neither of them would stop talking about Jesus. Now, for the first time, both sides of this amazing story are told in one book. Wurmbrand tells of Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand, combining stories and research from the following books: The Pastor’s Wife, In God’s Underground, and Tortured for Christ. Your faith will be inspired as you go deep inside the darkest prison cells to see how the light of Christ continues to shine from the hearts of those totally committed to Him.
|Publisher:||David C Cook|
|Product dimensions:||5.80(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.40(d)|
About the Author
The Voice of the Martyrs (VOM) is a nonprofit, interdenominational missions organization that offers practical and spiritual help to persecuted Christians around the world. Founded in 1967, VOM is dedicated to inspiring all believers to deepen their commitment to Christ and to fulfill His Great Commission no matter the cost.
Read an Excerpt
By his second glass of plum brandy, Richard had lost the sharpness of his senses. The long day at his brokerage firm in Bucharest, Romania, had come to an end, and now he could turn his attention to something more pleasing: the cabaret dancer in the feathered red dress. She seemed to recognize Richard, winking at him from the stage all evening.
The dancer's set ended, and as she sauntered toward him, Richard smiled. His good looks and tall build drew the gaze of many women, and his eyes — blue as ice — complemented the suits he could finally afford.
Richard knew what this woman wanted. It's what all women wanted: escape. Richard wanted to escape too. The early 1930s had been good to him, and in 1934, at the age of twenty-five, Richard no longer had to worry about finances. Yet with each promotion came more opportunities to indulge his fleshly desires. He had rightfully earned his playboy reputation, but all the wealth and women he accumulated ultimately failed to numb the bitter memories of his childhood. Inebriation promised relief, and with each burning swig of his brandy, Richard's painful past grew blurry and strangely tolerable.
In search of a better life, his father, a dentist, had transplanted the family from Bucharest to Istanbul, Turkey, in the midst of the First World War. The move seemed profitable at first but soon fell to pieces. The life he envisioned for his children ended when, like so many others, he succumbed to the ravages of the global flu pandemic of 1918–19. Richard was only nine years old when his father drew his final breath.
Some memories were easier for Richard to erase than others. A year after losing her husband, Richard's grieving mother moved her four children back to Bucharest. World War I had deprived their family not only of food but of clothes as well. Richard's wardrobe consisted of little more than threadbare hand-me-downs that often left him susceptible to the cruel Romanian winters.
Once a man offered to buy Richard a new suit. He had walked with Richard to a men's clothing shop, and the tailor sorted through the available options, choosing a pricey outfit — the best he had in stock. But when he held up the clothes next to the young man, the tailor's brow had furrowed. Richard would never forget his words: "Much too good for a boy like this."
If the tailor could only see him now.
Now a successful stockbroker, Richard was consumed by worldly pleasures. When he wasn't at the office, he passed his time in noisy places with half-naked women, loud music, and flowing alcohol. Yet somehow these distractions never filled the hollowness within. When the cabaret closed its doors each night, Richard always found himself longing for something more, something substantial.
Tonight as he blinked at the bright lights on the cabaret stage, he thought back to his early struggles about God. The Wurmbrands were Jewish, but their faith rarely permeated their daily lives. His family avoided the synagogue and didn't observe the Sabbath. Richard's transition from childhood to adolescence even lacked the defining mark of Jewish manhood, a bar mitzvah. As a young teen, he struggled to reconcile religion with the suffering around him and, years later, found himself searching for answers at a synagogue service. There he saw a man praying for his sick daughter, pleading with God to heal her. The following day the daughter died.
"What kind of God could refuse such a desperate prayer?" Richard asked the rabbi, who had no answer. With so many people starving in this world, Richard couldn't believe in a silent God, much less worship or serve Him.
A gentle touch brought Richard back to the present moment. The dancer in the red dress brushed her hand across the folds of his suit lapel, obviously admiring its quality. Her eyes smoldered and her rosy lips parted in a seductive smile. Richard smiled back and downed one final swig of his drink. Tonight this woman offered all the midnight pleasure he desired.
Richard stood, took the dancer's arm, and guided her out of the cabaret into the crisp night air of Little Paris.CHAPTER 2
In the early 1930s, Sabina Oster tilted her head toward the warm Parisian sun, its rays highlighting her delicate features and heating her thick, dark hair. Sabina's last class of the day had finally ended, and she'd been lucky to find a seat at the crowded café. The giddiness of her newfound independence had begun to sink in.
Sabina was not the only woman to find freedom studying chemistry, physics, and math at Paris's famed Sorbonne. Forty years earlier, a woman named Marie Sklodowska had also studied at this university before meeting and marrying scientist Pierre Curie and eventually joining the school's elite faculty. Maybe Sabina, like Marie Curie, would also win a Nobel Prize for her work. These hallowed halls had spawned countless brilliant men ... so both scholarship and courtship were possible for the seventeen-year-old. Sabina's childhood in the Romanian university town of Czernowitz was modest but happy and full. Surrounded by older brothers, younger siblings, and a rich Jewish culture, she rarely lacked the necessities of life. But her Orthodox Jewish upbringing had been strict, and she stifled under the stiff prohibitions that surrounded her like a hedge.
For the first time in her life, Sabina was on her own, unconstrained and free. She sank back into her chair, daydreaming about the big event scheduled for that evening.
* * *
Sabina slipped her small feet into a narrow pair of black high heels. The clock on the wall counted down the seconds before the bell would ring and the caller would escort Sabina on her very first date.
She giggled at the thought of how her older brothers would react if they were here to meet her handsome beau at the door. Where would the young gentleman take her? What would they talk about? Catching her breath, she hadn't considered the alarming thought that forced its way into her mind. What if he tried to hold her hand? Heat spread up her chest to her neck and across her cheeks.
Sabina's suitor arrived right on time, a proper gentleman indeed. Sabina hugged her roommate and stepped outside to greet her date. For the first time in her life, she didn't have to abide by the stringent rules of her parents.
After dinner, the young man guided Sabina from the bustling restaurant onto the moonlit cobblestone street. Dinner had been delicious, and Sabina marveled at how easily the conversation had flowed. So far the night had more than met what she had anticipated.
Sabina's date brushed his hand across her palm and intertwined his fingers with hers. Through the Paris streets they strolled, past the Jardin du Luxembourg and the newly constructed Institut d'Art et d'Archéologie, a Mesopotamian-style monstrosity where art-history and archaeology students attended lectures. The couple made their way toward the recently opened international students' residence where Sabina lived, marveling at how the university town bustled with the activity of a student population that had tripled in size since the end of World War I.
As the evening came to a close, Sabina turned to thank her date. But as her eyes reached his, she froze suddenly and jerked her head back in surprise. He was leaning in for a kiss.
Sabina stumbled against the stone wall and raised her arms in protest. Her parents would never approve. She scrambled to explain her upbringing and the moral limitations of her childhood. Her date laughed. "If you believe in God," he proposed, "wouldn't you say that the same God made the hands and the lips?" Sabina blushed, unable to answer.
"If I can hold your hand," the fellow continued, "why is it wrong to touch your lips?"
He moved in closer, sliding his arms around the small of her waist and pulling her body toward his. Sabina struggled to respond.
"And shouldn't it be okay for me to hold you?" he persisted. She was aware of his body only inches from hers.
In a classroom setting, Sabina might have countered his logic with rational answers. But with her head clouded and attraction welling up inside her, she couldn't conjure up an appropriate response. And who was going to judge her? Thirteen hundred miles separated her from her parents; maybe this was what freedom felt like.
Sabina succumbed to his argument and then to his advances. Her eyes widened as he cupped her chin with his hand and pressed his lips against hers.
* * *
In the weeks and months that followed, Sabina enjoyed the carefree lifestyle of Paris. Gone were the days of morality, purity, and parental judgment. Gone were the constraints and restraints of Romania. Sabina happily sacrificed her former convictions on the altar of Parisian pleasure. Her body was her own, and she freely offered it to her boyfriend.
After all, she reasoned, an atheist is free to do whatever she wants.CHAPTER 3
After two blithe years, Sabina departed Paris for a vacation back home in Bucharest. She spent the break with family and other relatives but concealed her newfound open lifestyle.
One day her uncle, whose company she always enjoyed, invited her for a drive to his friend's house. As the car approached the residence, Sabina looked up and saw a young man on the balcony of the house. Upon further inspection, she noticed how irritated he looked, his face scowling in her direction. She could almost feel his anger as she debated the wisdom of exiting the vehicle.
When the man shifted his gaze to Sabina's uncle, his features softened, and he waved to them. Moments later he was at the front door greeting them. Her uncle introduced his young niece to Richard Wurmbrand, a man as handsome as any she had known in Paris. Admiring his height and countenance, she felt a faint flutter of enthusiasm.
Richard ushered them into the front room and politely invited them to sit. Looking embarrassed for giving his beautiful guest a negative first impression, he explained, "My mom's nagging me to get married. She's even picked out the girl, an heiress with a family business, two homes, and a million in dowry."
"That sounds really nice," Sabina said.
"It does," he replied while laughing, "and I definitely don't mind having the business and the inheritance. It's the girl I don't like. My mother thinks this is the best way for us all to be rich." Richard looked at Sabina and smirked. "But then I came out on the balcony and saw you."
Sabina wasn't expecting his honesty, but she was intrigued. "The thought occurred to me that if I could have a girl like you, I wouldn't care about the cash," he concluded.
* * *
Following their initial conversation, Richard and Sabina entered a whirlwind courtship and spent every available moment of her vacation together. She was pleased to hear that Richard was an up-and-coming stockbroker and was making good money. He certainly didn't seem to mind spending it on Sabina. Every night they went to nightclubs and theaters, parties and bars, casinos and cabarets.
The more they dated, the less the boys of Paris meant to Sabina, especially when she discovered that she and Richard not only shared a host of common interests and experiences but were also Jews who had abandoned their religion for the prospect of wealth, luxury, and indulgence.
One night, though, Richard surprised Sabina with a sobering comment.
"I'm not an easy person," he said, sipping a dark elixir. "You'd suffer a lot with me."
Perhaps. But Sabina had fallen in love with him. And if suffering was in their future, she was certain there would be enough pleasure to compensate.CHAPTER 4
Sabina never returned to Paris. She had found a better life with Richard in Bucharest and was soon employed with a local insurance agency. Their courtship continued until October 23, 1936, when the two were married in the home of a rabbi. The newly wedded couple stood beneath a traditional Jewish covering, or chuppah, and crushed a wineglass beneath their feet as a reminder of the Babylonian sacking of Jerusalem in 586 BC. The religious symbolism meant little to the atheist couple, but they were happy to appease their parents.
Having children was out of the question for Richard and Sabina. They couldn't allow anything — especially little ones — to encumber their untroubled life. Their goal was simple and achievable: they would chase pleasure wherever it could be found.
Richard's womanizing habits died hard, even after his marriage. Without a moral code they could rely on, Sabina looked the other way when her husband's eyes and heart strayed toward other women. Lying and indulging became routine vices for both of them. Yet despite his indiscretions, Richard and his young bride spent the early days of their marriage in carefree revelry.
* * *
For the better part of a year, the newlyweds enjoyed happiness. All that changed, however, when Richard's indulgent lifestyle caught up with him. It started as an annoying, persistent cough that he was able to ignore for a while, but he eventually surrendered to his wife's insistent pleas and made an appointment with his doctor.
A ghastly pallor masked his usually stalwart features the day he returned home from the appointment.
In the 1930s, tuberculosis was a death sentence. One of the world's most critical health crises, it spread through Europe with frightening speed. Doctors were scrambling to find a cure, but it would take nearly a decade before a newly developed TB vaccine was routinely administered.
Excessive drinking had so weakened Richard's immune system that he became susceptible to mycobacterium tuberculosis, which invaded his respiratory system. The threatening patch of bacteria on his lung soon spread, causing night sweats and feverish chills that wreaked havoc on his feeble body. His lungs, which were filling with liquid, struggled to deliver oxygen to his brain and caused Richard to cough up blood. In short, Sabina's twenty-seven-yearold husband would soon drown in his own fluids.
Richard's only option was to relocate to an isolated sanatorium deep in the Carpathian Mountains, where he could breathe fresh air and sit under ultraviolet lamps. With enough bed rest, he might recover. But the prognosis wasn't good. He had a fifty-fifty chance of survival.
Sabina grieved her new husband's death sentence. Their marriage had proved happy, but Richard's diagnosis became an unbearable burden. For the first time in their relationship, their thoughts turned toward the future and the haunting likelihood that Sabina would be widowed.
As Richard boarded a train and traveled over the rolling green hills of the Romanian countryside to the sanatorium, Sabina went to live with his mother. Every two weeks, Sabina made the long journey to visit her ailing husband, but being with him didn't keep her from crying herself to sleep. Other women wept over Richard as well, including his mother and even some of the ladies he had seduced.
For Richard, however, the serenity of the sanatorium offered the respite he had lacked in Bucharest. "For the first time in my life," he told his wife, "I'm resting."
But the silence of the mountains also forced him to confront his past, from the immeasurable hours he had squandered in bars, theaters, and nightclubs to the many people he had hurt.
Waves of painful memories ambushed him, each one plaguing him as much as his tuberculosis. He could see the faces of business associates he had cheated and hear the lies he'd told as clearly as when he had first uttered them. The mountain air brought to the surface every thought, word, deed, and sin. It's coming back to me like scenes from an agonizing play, he thought. Richard had invested his youth in defaming, mocking, and deceiving others — and for what? The landscape of his life was before him, a wasteland of foolishness. He had lived for himself, and now he would die by himself.
The irony of his isolation felt deserved in these secluded surroundings. Soon the stubborn atheist's first prayer to God emerged when he least expected it. Though his body had betrayed him, his soul was preparing to breathe out a prayer to the God he didn't believe in.CHAPTER 5
Richard's youth had been difficult, and he had turned to books to alleviate his childhood agonies. By his tenth birthday, he had consumed every piece of literature in his house. He especially identified with Voltaire, a French religious skeptic he came to admire. In spite of his age, Richard was also becoming a skeptic. If the all-powerful God was supposed to be loving and good, he ruminated, why had He allowed Richard's father to die?
Once while attending a Catholic service, Richard approached an ornate statue of the Virgin Mary and decided to join the people surrounding him who were praying to her.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Wurmbrand"
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