A Prison Code
“Jail is no hindrance to a useful Christian life” — Pastor Richard Wurmbrand
Pastor Richard Wurmbrand was arrested in the mid-20th century in Romania for his Christian witness and activities. The story below tells about something that happened when he was in prison. Read the story, then tell how your name would be tapped in the improved code used by the prisoners. (For example, if your name is John, the first letter of your name would be signaled by 2 taps, then 5 taps.)
Tap. Tap. Tap. One day Pastor Wurmbrand heard a faint tapping on the damp concrete wall of his solitary cell. “What could it mean?” he wondered.
Tap. Tap. Tap. The noise continued. Pastor Wurmbrand tapped back. Suddenly a burst of taps erupted by his bed. He realized that the prisoner in the next cell was trying to teach him a code.
A = 1 tap
B = 2 taps
C = 3 taps
And so on.
“Who are you?” was the first message Pastor Wurmbrand’s neighbor sent him. “A pastor,” Pastor Wurmbrand replied.
It took a long time to send a message. The prisoners improved the code so it wouldn’t take so long. In the new code, one tap stood for the first five letters of the alphabet, two taps for the second group of five, and so on. Another tap told whether the letter was the first, second, third, fourth, or fifth letter in its group. So “B” was a single tap, followed by a pause, then two more taps.
The Improved Code
A = 1 tap, pause, 1 tap
B = 1 tap, pause, 2 taps
C = 1 tap, pause, 3 taps
D = 1 tap, pause, 4 taps
E = 1 tap, pause, 5 taps
F = 2 taps, pause, 1 tap
G = 2 taps, pause, 2 taps
And so on.
Then his neighbor, who had been a radio engineer, used this code to teach Pastor Wurmbrand Morse code. After that, they used Morse code to tell jokes, spread news, and even share chess moves. (Pastor Wurmbrand sometimes played chess with himself using tiny bits of bread as chess pieces.) Pastor Wurmbrand also taught prisoners Bible verses and shared the gospel with unbelievers using the code.