Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Raising a Voice: Administration or Ministry?

(The following are excerpts from the feature article of the upcoming August 2006 edition of The Voice of the Martyrs Newsletter. To subscribe, go to http://www.persecution.net/newsletter.htm)

It was 1945. A pastor and his wife sat listening as one religious leader after another come forward to swear loyalty to the new regime at a national church conference called by the recently installed Communist government in Romania. Although they knew that the Communists had sworn to eradicate religion, the delegates publicly declared how happy they would be to cooperate with the government.

As the pastor's wife listened, she was shocked. Hadn't communism shown its true face in Russia? At least, she thought, these men could remain silent in their fear for their families, jobs and salaries. But this flattery was tantamount to spitting in Jesus' face!

She could tell that her husband was boiling inside. So, she turned to him and said, "Will you not wash this shame from the face of Christ?"

"If I speak, you will lose a husband," he replied.

"I don't need a coward for a husband," she answered.

And with Sabina's words ringing in his ears, Richard Wurmbrand advanced to the front of the auditorium and boldly testified to the truth of God's Word, calling the Romanian church to renewed faithfulness to her Lord. He became a marked man for having the courage to raise a voice against the prevailing attitude of compromise and accommodation that lured so many and proved so deadly for the church in Romania.

In the years that followed, both Richard and Sabina suffered terrible persecution for having the courage to remain true to Christ in a sea of godlessness (see Richard's story In God's Underground and Sabina's in The Pastor's Wife; both available for sale on www.persecution.net). When Pastor Wurmbrand was finally released from prison in 1964 in a general amnesty, the opportunity arose to leave when friends in the West offered to ransom the family for $10,000. The decision to leave Romania was difficult. Years earlier, after Richard's courageous speech in 1945, they had struggled with whether to flee the country at that time. They had decided to stay and never regretted that decision, even though it cost them dearly. Twenty years later, they faced that decision again.

In his book, Tortured for Christ, Richard writes, "I would not have left Romania, despite the dangers, if the leaders of the Underground Church had not commanded me to use this opportunity to leave the country, to be the ‘voice' of the Underground Church to the free world. They wished me to speak to you of the Western world on their behalf about their sufferings and needs. I came to the West, but my heart remained with them. I would never have left Romania if I had not understood the great necessity for you to hear of the sufferings and the courageous work of the Underground Church, but this is my mission."

And Richard Wurmbrand did speak! Despite the Communist threats and the criticism of some Western church leaders, he bore witness to the sufferings of those who endured a Communist hell and spoke of their overcoming faith.

Within his first year in the United States, Pastor Wurmbrand was detained twice for "disrupting" pro-Communist rallies. He was called to testify before the Senate, stripping to the waist to reveal the scars of eighteen embedded wounds from the frequent tortures. Some Christian leaders called him a lunatic; one who had lost his mind in the confines of a solitary prison cell. To others he became the "Iron Curtain Paul" or the "Voice of the Underground Church." A reporter with the Philadelphia Herald said of Wurmbrand, "He stood in the midst of lions, but they could not devour him."

In October 1967, with $100, an old typewriter, and 500 names and addresses, Richard Wurmbrand published the first issue of The Voice of the Martyrs newsletter. This small publication was dedicated to communicating the testimonies and trials facing our brothers and sisters in restricted nations worldwide.

This newsletter was like no other. Readers would write to the Wurmbrands appalled at the atrocities he described. "How could this be true?" they asked. Others said the newsletter gave them nightmares and asked not to receive it. But those who looked beyond the sufferings and tortures saw a beauty - a beauty in the hearts of men, women, and even children who refused to renounce Christ. Readers also witnessed a living faith that enabled men like Pastor Wurmbrand to "kiss the bars" of their prison cell, to rejoice in the fellowship of Christ's suffering.

Yes, it was important to the Wurmbrands that Christians in West provide assistance to their persecuted brothers and sisters. Bibles, Christian literature, funds to help the families of martyrs or those whose father and/or mother was in prison for their faith, and radio broadcasts with solid biblical teaching for those cut off from such spiritual nourishment were the major projects in the early days of The Voice of the Martyrs.

Just as Richard Wurmbrand left Romania at the command of underground church leaders to be their voice, The Voice of the Martyrs in Canada is continuing to fulfill this command of the Persecuted Church as we share their stories in our monthly newsletter, in books, on the Internet or through television and radio. Some think that monies spend in this way are "administrative" expenses or not real ministry to the persecuted. They want all of their donations to go strictly to overseas projects. Of course, we honour such requests, each and every time. We are also thankful to the many of you who faithfully support our ministry through gifts to our Raising a Voice Fund or by making undesignated gifts. While most of the donations received by our mission do, indeed, go to supporting our ministries outside of Canada, your donations also help us to fulfill the cry of the persecuted and the biblical mandate to defend the defenseless and speak for those who suffer in silence. What some call "administrative expenses", persecuted Christians call ministry.

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