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 14 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. I had known poverty in the difficult years of the First World War. At 14, I was as convinced an atheist as the communists are today. I had read atheist books, and it was not that I did 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 were reasons which did not belong to anything in my character, because my character was very bad.
One day, being a very convinced atheist, I prayed to God. My prayer was something like this: "God, I know surely You do not exist. But if perchance You exist, which I contest, 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 Rumania, 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 my reward should 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. Rumania has twelve thousand villages. But I went to that village. Seeing I was a Jew, the carpenter courted me as never a beautiful girl had been courted. He saw in me the answer to his prayer, and gave me the 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 Sabina 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 Rumania.
Then came the Nazi times. We had much to suffer. In Rumania, Nazism took the form of a dictatorship of extreme orthodox elements, which persecuted Protestant groups as well as the Jews.
Beginning on Aug. 23, 1944, one million Russian troops entered Rumania and, very soon after this, the communists came to power in our country. Then began a nightmare which made suffering under Nazi times seem easy.
At that time in Rumania, which now has a population of nineteen million, the Communist party had only ten thousand members. But Vishinsky, the foreign Secretary of the Soviet Union, stormed into the office of our much beloved King Michael I, pounded his fists on the table and said, "You must appoint communists to the government." Our army and police were disarmed and so, by violence and hated by almost all, the communists came to power.
Once they came to power, they skillfully used the means of seduction toward the Church. Thousands of priests, pastors, and ministers did not know how to distinguish the voice of seduction from the voice of love.
The communists convened a congress of all Christian bodies in our parliament building. There were four thousand priests, pastors, and ministers of all denominations. These four thousand priests and pastors chose Joseph Stalin as honorary president of this congress. At the same time he was president of the World Movement of the Godless and a mass murderer of Christians. One after another, bishops and pastors arose in our parliament building and declared that communism and Christianity are fundamentally the same and could coexist. One minister after another said words of praise toward communism and assured the new government of the loyalty of the Church.
My wife and I were present at this congress. My wife sat near me and told me: "Richard, stand up and wash away this shame from the face of Christ! They are spitting in His face." I said to my wife, "If I do so, you lose your husband." She said, "I don't want to have a coward as a husband."
Then I arose and spoke to this congress, praising not the murderers of Christians, but Christ and God, and said that our loyalty is due first to Him. The speeches at this congress were broadcast, and the whole country could hear proclaimed from the rostrum of the Communist Parliament the message of Christ! Afterward I had to pay for this, but it had been worthwhile.
[In the remainder of his book, Pastor Wurmbrand describes how he was in a communist prison for 14 years, and had to be tortured frequently. Afterwards, with the help of church organizations, he was able to escape and moved to the West.]
Editor's comment: Sabina encouraged her husband to perform morally good actions, even to the extent of heroism. They both knew that in so doing, there was a possibility of Richard being tortured and perhaps killed, but she was willing to lose her husband and become a widow, rather than offend or betray Christ. It is an example of a friendship in which they encouraged each other to perform heroic actions.