Here is the last post in this series about Rich and Sabina. After their conversion to Christ, Rich and Sabina’s life completely changed as they to embraced His call for them. Rich did become a pastor, and Sabina served faithfully at his side. But their lives would be changed again–this time it happened when the communist party came to power in their country. Rich narrates what happened next:
The campaign to undermine religion developed rapidly. All church funds and estates were nationalised. A Communist Ministry of Cults controlled the priesthood completely, paying salaries and confirming appointments…The next task was to tear apart the Roman and Greek Catholics, of whom there were two and a half million. The Greek Catholics, usually called Uniates, while keeping many traditions of their own (including the right of priests to marry), accepted the Pope’s supremacy. Now they were taken over and forcibly ‘merged’ with the obedient Orthodox Church. Most of the priests, and all of the bishops, who objected to this shotgun wedding were arrested, their dioceses abolished and their property seized. The Roman Catholics, ordered to break with the Vatican, refused; they, too, paid dearly for their resistance. With priests filling the jails and lurid stories of their treatment spreading through the country, the minority religions simply bowed the head and waited to hear their fate.
They did not have long to wait. In 1945 a ‘Congress of Cults’ was called in the Rumanian Parliament building, with 4,000 representatives of the clergy filling the seats. Bishops, priests, pastors, rabbis, mullahs applauded as it was announced that Comrade Stalin (whose vast picture hung on the wall) was patron of the congress–they preferred not to remember that he was at the same time president of the World Atheists’ Organisation. The trembling old Patriarch Nicodim blessed the assembly and the Prime Minister, Groza, opened it. He told us that he was a priest’s son himself, and his lavish promises of support, echoed by other personages who followed him, were appreciatively cheered.
One of the chief Orthodox bishops said in reply that in the past many political rivulets had entered the great river of his church–green, blue, tri-coloured–and he welcomed the prospect that a red one should join it, too. One leader after another, Calvinist, Lutheran, the Chief Rabbi, rose in turn to speak. All expressed willingness to co-operate with the Communists. My wife, beside me, could bear no more. She said, ‘Go and wash this shame from the face of Christ!’
‘If I do, you’ll lose your husband,’ I replied.
‘I don’t need a coward. Go and do it!’ Sabina said.
I asked to speak and they were pleased to invite me to the rostrum: the organisers looked forward to publishing a congratulatory speech next day from Pastor Wurmbrand, of the Swedish Church Mission and the World Council of Churches.
I began with a brief word on Communism. I said it was our duty as priests to glorify God and Christ, not transitory earthly powers, and to support his everlasting kingdom of love against the vanities of the day. As I went on, priests who had sat for hours listening to flattering lies about the Party seemed to awake as from a dream. Someone began to clap. The tension snapped, and applause suddenly broke out, wave after wave, with delegates standing up to cheer. The Minister of the Cults, a former Orthodox priest called Burducea who had been an active Fascist in other times, shouted from the platform that my right to speak was withdrawn. I replied that I had the right from God, and continued. In the end, the microphone was disconnected, but by then the hall was in such uproar that no one could hear anything.
That closed the congress for the day.
If you didn’t already know, the narrator is Richard Wurmbrand, founder of Voice of the Martyrs, who, after this speech, spent 14 years imprisoned by the communist government in Romania. You can read Sabina’s side of the story in her book The Pastor’s Wife.
Their story is another beautiful illustration of people whose ordinary lives God redeemeds, who then are taken up and used by God as they simply seek to be faithful to the God who saved them. If you want to read about the rest of Rich’s life, I recommend the book these posts were taken from: In God’s Underground.