Lifting Up The Living Stones: Voice Of The Martyrs

The Voice of the Martyrs is a non-profit, inter-denominational Christian organization dedicated to assisting the persecuted church worldwide. VOM was founded in 1967 by Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, who was imprisoned 14 years in Communist Romania for his faith in Christ. His wife, Sabina, was imprisoned for three years. In the 1960s, Richard, Sabina, and their son, Mihai, were ransomed out of Romania and came to the United States. Through their travels, the Wurmbrands spread the message of the atrocities that Christians face in restricted nations, while establishing a network of offices dedicated to assisting the persecuted church.


Richard Wurmbrand is born March 24, in Bucharest, Romania, the youngest of four boys in a Jewish family.

1937 – 1938
In a village in Romania, a godly old carpenter named Christian Wölfkes prays for years to win a Jew for Christ. A young Jewish man and his wife arrive in his village. In 1938, the carpenter leads the Jewish strangers, Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand, to Jesus Christ.

Romania supports Germany in the war against the USSR and is host to German forces. Richard Wurmbrand, now a pastor, engages in evangelistic activities with the occupying soldiers. During the Nazi terror, Richard and Sabina are repeatedly beaten and arrested. Sabina’s family perishes in the mass extermination of Jews in concentration camps.

Communists seize power in Romania and Russian troops pour into the country. Pastor Wurmbrand ministers to his oppressed fellow countrymen and to the Russian soldiers, printing one million Russian Gospels of John.

Richard and Sabina attend the “Congress of Cults”. As many religious leaders come forward to swear loyalty to the new communist regime, Sabina tells her husband to “wipe the shame from the face of Jesus”. Richard, knowing the cost, steps forward and tells 4,000 delegates that their duty as Christians is to glorify God and Christ alone.

On Sunday morning, February 29, Pastor Wurmbrand leaves for church. Secret police kidnap Richard and place him in a solitary cell, designating him “Prisoner Number One”.

The communists arrest Sabina and assign her to forced labor on the Danube Canal. The Wurmbrands’ 11-year-old son, Mihai, is left alone. Sabina is released in 1953 and continues to work with the underground church. She is told her husband died in prison.

Richard is released after serving eight and a half years in prison. He endured horrific tortures and was warned to never preach again, but he resumes the ministry.

Richard is turned in to the authorities by one of his own associates in the underground church. He is arrested again and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Richard is released from prison and resumes his work. Two Westerners cautiously make their way to the attic home of the Wurmbrands to see if the stories of Christians being imprisoned under communism are true. This is the first contact the Wurmbrands have with outside missionaries since their arrests.

The Wurmbrand family is ransomed from Romania for $10,000 and the secret police tell Richard to remain silent about his experiences.

In May, he testifies before Washington, D.C., before Senate’s Internal Security Subcommittee. His story spreads rapidly across the U.S. and the world.

The Communist Party in Albania declares all churches in the country closed. The Wurmbrands officially begin a ministry committed to serving persecuted Christians called, Jesus to the Communist World (later renamed The Voice of the Martyrs). Tortured for Christ, Pastor Wurmbrand’s testimony, is published and the first issue of a monthly newsletter is released. Pastor Wurmbrand preaches Christ at a pro-communist rally in the U.S. and shows his scars inflicted by communists.

1968 – 1969
VOM launches balloons with Chinese Gospels into China and begins Scripture balloon launches into North Korea.

Communist guerrillas terrorize Christians in Argentina, Colombia, Uruguay and Guatemala. The Church continues to win young people to Christ, threatening the power base for communist authority. VOM equips Christians with Bibles and literature to share Christ with their enemies.

Christians across Russia are jailed and put into insane asylums. Church buildings are closed, but Russian has the fastest-growing church in Europe.

Russian songbooks are written by hand because of the lack of printed materials. VOM smuggles songbooks and literature into Russia. Romanian Communists publicly declare, “The duty of the church is to fight against Wurmbrand.” Most North Koreans do not have radios, so a powerful loudspeaker is set up on the border between North Korea and South Korea to broadcast the Gospel.

Spanish tracts are dropped off boats and floated into Cuba. The Chinese Communist government orders all churches to close.

Somalia, Ethiopia, South Yemen, Iraq, Angola and Mozambique pass into communist hands even as VOM sends 30,000 New Testament Bibles into Angola and Mozambique.

VOM supplies Cambodian Christians with rice as many flee from attacks.

Russian children are put into psychiatric asylums for refusing to deny Christ.

Communists in Ethiopia commit mass murder of Christians. VOM responds by helping families of martyrs.

In Ethiopia, Christian prisoners are tortured with boiling oil and have their eyes sewn shut. Rather than abandoning their faith, they are busy with Bible distribution as never before. Tom White and Mel Bailey are captured in Cuba after dropping Gospel tracts from their plane. He is sentenced to 24 years in prison. Secret printing shops are started in three more countries. Literature spreads to emirates in the Arabic Gulf.

VOM begins work in Afghanistan and Nicaragua.

Soviet Christians are arrested and tortured. Christians in Iran are slaughtered by Islamic fanatics. VOM responds by being a voice for the suffering church. Mother Theresa speaks to Fidel Castro on Tom White’s behalf. Tom White is released from a Cuban prison through international pressure.

VOM prints Christian literature in more than 20 Indian languages. Literature is spread to Nepal, Bhutan, Pakistan and Bangladesh. In Poland, Christians pack their churches even though many clergy are beaten and arrested. VOM sends Christian anti-communist literature. Believers pray in fields in Czechoslovakia. VOM helps their children with food, toys and books. Six underground printing presses are at work in China printing hymnals, Gospels and Christian books.

VOM smuggles small booklets about Christ to Tibet. Thousands of evangelicals are murdered in Nicaragua by Sandinistas (communist guerrillas). VOM helps Nicaraguan Christians carry in literature to share Christ with their enemies.

Three hundred pastors in Ethiopia have passed through prisons. The few churches left open are full, especially with youth. The “Sendero Luminoso” (Shining Path) communist guerrillas in Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador and Nicaragua terrorize poor villages and hunt down Christians who threaten their power.

In the USSR, prisoners are drugged to elicit false confessions, children are forced to testify against their parents and a majestic cathedral is converted into a Museum of Atheism. VOM encourages readers to write to prisoners.

Christians in East Germany suffer behind the Wall. A church is dynamited to make more room for more construction of the Berlin Wall. VOM distributes literature in Arabic and Turkish in Sudan, Egypt, and Turkey.

Starving Mozambican Christians ask for canoes to travel and share the Gospel with their communist enemies. VOM provides the canoes along with food and clothing. VOM work is translated into Urdu in Pakistan. VOM provides raincoats, boots and tents to Christians who meet secretly outdoors in Russian. Christian broadcasting work is done in nine European languages, Chinese, and several Asian languages.

200 believers are hanged in Iran and 800 are jailed.

An estimated 1,000 protesters are massacred at Tienanmen Square in Beijing, China. On November 9th, the Berlin Wall is torn down. A Romanian pastor prays in Timisoara. Soon afterward, thousands of Romanians protest the oppressive regime of Nicolae Ceausescu. Soldiers are overcome by the conviction of the people and turn on the secret police. Communism falls in Romania.

Within days of Romania’s newly opened borders, VOM workers bring trucks filled with aid and Christian material to the people of Romania and other liberated countries, without the threat of imprisonment. Richard and Sabina return to Romania after 25 years of exile. Richard preaches a message of love and forgiveness. A Christian printing facility and a bookstore are opened in Bucharest. During 1989 and 1990, communism begins to fall in Hungary, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Lithuania, Russia, Germany and Ukraine, By 1991, Lithuania, Belarus, Yugoslavia and other countries become free from communism.

A VOM office is officially opened in Cherkassy, Ukraine. Ten tons of literature and aid are rushed to Siberia. On December 26, the Soviet Union officially breaks up, bringing an end to the one-party Communist rule for the first time since 1917. VOM increases work in Saudi Arabia, Cuba, Tibet and Vietnam.

Albania’s communist government collapses, ending “the first atheist state.” The Voice of the Martyrs opens a Christian bookstore in Moscow and distributes over one million illustrated New Testaments to children in Albania, Romania, Moldavia, Russia, Ukraine and Bulgaria. Thousands of used Bibles and Christian books, provided by Christians in the U.S., are sent to Northern Nigeria where hundreds of churches were destroyed by radical Muslims.

To assist families victimized by Shining Path terrorists in the mountainous areas of Peru, VOM sends shipments of clothing and Christmas Care packages for children. In a continued effort to penetrate North Korea, 80,000 Scripture balloons are floated across its borders.

Agape Children’s Home opens in Romania. Bible distribution to China increases. VOM sends approximately 100,000 coats to Russia provided by Christian families in America. Tribal villagers in Vietnam receive Bibles in their own languages for the first time. Pakistani Christians begin receiving help from VOM.

The ministry develops new outreaches into Laos and Sudan. The Bibles to Captive Nations Fund is established, bringing a substantial increase of Bible deliveries into closed countries. VOM begins broadcasting Gospel programs into the Middle East. The first International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church is observed. VOM begins a student ministry, today called Kids of Courage, and prints its first quarterly newsletter.

1997 – 1998
Rebuilding churches VOM raises funds to distribute Sudan Life Packs. The first complete Hmong Bible is published by VOM and delivered to Hmong in communist Southeast Asia. Due to increased hostility toward Christians in Indonesia, VOM helps rebuild churches burned by radical Muslims. Radio broadcasts into China begin.

Hindu radicals expand Christian persecution in parts of India. The Sudan Blankets of Love program begins. VOM publishes the first Farsi/English parallel New Testament Bible for Iranians.

Medical ministry to Pakistan begins. Sabina Wurmbrand dies on August 11.

On February 17, Richard Wurmbrand dies. The Christmas Care Project for Egypt begins to help Christian Children.

In Pakistan, the worst massacre of Christians since 1947 takes place. Three Islamic terrorists open fire on the Church of Pakistan, killing 75 congregants. VOM responds immediately to help the families of the martyrs. VOM launches Action Packs as a way for U.S. families to minister to persecuted Pakistanis and Afghanis.

VOM expands the Action Pack program to include Iraq. As the war in Iraq ends, and at the request of Iraqi Christians, VOM floods Iraq with Christian literature in order to take advantage of this window of opportunity. The Persecuted Church Academic Program-a dream of Pastor Wurmbrand-is launched in partnership with Oklahoma Wesleyan University.

2004 begins and VOM readers write to Christian prisoners in their own languages. Over the next year, more than a dozen prisoners are released around the world. VOM continues to find the “forgotten ones”-Christian martyrs who have suffered much for their faith-in Romania and other formerly communist nations. In Bangladesh, families are attacked by radical Muslims. VOM helps sponsor a home for children.

The public trial of three Indonesian Sunday school teachers gains international attention. VOM helps the families of the imprisoned women and the church to continue their ministry to Muslims. Riots and attacks increase in Nigeria and many churches are burned down. VOM helps rebuild churches, support Christian orphans and provide widows with grinding machines to give them a means of supporting their families. Two hundred and eighty Emmanuel Theological Seminary students in Kota, India are attacked on their way to graduation. Persecution of Christians in Vietnam intensifies, especially for the 62 ethnic groups like the Hmong, who are targeted by the government.

Bibles Unbound begins, allowing Christians in the U.S. to partner with persecuted Christians in mailing New Testaments into restricted nations or hostile areas. China, Egypt, Colombia and Indonesia are the first countries to be targeted for Scriptures. Persecution increases in India as attacks by radical Hindus spring up around the country.

Since the beginning days of the ministry, 14 nations have been “released” and today are now places where Christians can share and live their faith without fear of physical attacks. In 52 restricted and hostile nations Christians still suffer for their faith. Five of these countries-Cuba, North Korea, China, Vietnam and Ethiopia have been on VOM’s list of restricted nations for more than 30 years.