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How to Handle Stress

Richard Wurmbrand was the founder of The Voice of the Martyrs. Before he started VOM, he was imprisoned in Communist Romania for a total of 14 years because of his Christians activities. He died in 2001 at the age of 91.

Read below what Pastor Wurmbrand said about handling stress. (Edited for length, clarity, and age-appropriateness.)

Pastor Wurmbrand’s Secret
What is the secret of not having stress?

The New Testament was first written in Greek. In the original Greek, the Lord’s Prayer says, “Forgive us our trespasses, as we have forgiven those who trespass against us.” Not that we forgive them; we have already forgiven them — in the past tense.

I find it very difficult to forgive. If somebody hurts you or betrays you, it is difficult to forgive. But we are not meant to forgive. A believer is a person who never forgives anything — he has already forgiven.

From the first day I became a Christian, my teachers in the faith told me, “Soon you will be baptized. Now you have to forgive all those who have ever done you wrong, all those who do you wrong, and all those who will do you wrong until the end of your life.”

I would recommend that every one of you make that decision today. It changes your outlook so much. If someone does you wrong, you can look to them with love and say, “He can do whatever he likes; he was forgiven long ago.”

To forgive the person who did you wrong would have been difficult. But to not have to forgive him because he is already forgiven is one of the secrets of surviving stress and anxiety. Anxiety and stress are produced by people you clash with, who you can’t forgive and don’t forgive. This is one of the secrets we learned in prison.

To Talk About
*What do you think of Pastor Wurmbrand’s secret?

14 Years in Prison

Richard Wurmbrand was the founder of The Voice of the Martyrs. Before he started VOM, he was imprisoned in Communist Romania for a total of 14 years because of his Christians activities. (See the photo of his prison above.) He died twenty years ago today on February 17, 2001, at the age of 91.

Once a woman asked Pastor Wurmbrand, “Why do you think God did not deliver you from prison sooner?” Read Pastor Wurmbrand’s answer below. (Edited from the original for length, clarity, and age-apprpriateness.)

Pastor Wurmbrand’s Reply
I lead a mission [VOM], which is in more than 50 countries. We smuggle Bibles into [non-Christian] countries. And we help the families of Christians who are in prisons. This work has been made possible because I can tell my prison story. If I told about persecution, but without the authority of someone who had suffered himself, it would not have been possible.

In prison, we were given drugs to weaken our minds. I forgot more and more. I forgot the whole Bible. I did not forget the Person about whom the Bible speaks, but the Bible I had forgotten.

But on the day I finished 14 years of prison, I remembered the verse that said Jacob loved Rachel. He loved Rachel and worked for her for 14 years and it seemed to him a short time because he loved her. (See Genesis 29.)

And I said to Jesus, “Now I have fulfilled 14 years for You, and it has seemed to me a short time; You should know I love You.” And this one day was worth it for me to complete 14 years of faith.

To Talk About
*Why was it important to Pastor Wurmbrand that he could tell his prison story?
*Read Genesis 50:20. How can this verse apply to Pastor Wurmbrand’s situation?


Pastor Wurmbrand in prison

Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, who started The Voice of the Martyrs, was in prison in Romania for his Christian activities. He spent part of his time in prison in “solitary confinement,” meaning he was by himself in a silent cell.

After he left prison, Pastor Wurmbrand wrote the following.

“Two thousand years ago a Greek man name Phocion waited his turn to get his beard trimmed by a barber. The barber talked on and on about current events to the customer he was shaving. Phocion waited wearily while the barber talked.

“Finally the barber turned to Phocion and asked, ‘How would you like to have your beard trimmed?’

“Phocion replied, ‘In silence.’”

Pastor Wurmbrand continued, “We are victims of a plot against silence. Every day we hear the noise of cars, trains, planes, radios, TVs, vacuum cleaners, dishwashers, fans, chatter, clatter, and speech.

“I have known Christians who have spent years in solitary confinement in complete silence. When they once again heard humans speak, they wondered why so much of their speech was unimportant.

“If you wish to talk to God, create some silence around you. Turn off the noises that intrude on silence. You will learn more from God if you listen, as did Jesus when he spent whole nights in prayer on silent mountains.”

(Source: Reaching Toward the Heights by Richard Wurmbrand. Edited, paraphrased, and adapted.)

To Think About

  • Sit still and note all the noises you hear. Which noises would not have existed in Bible times?
  • Do you have a daily “quiet time” when you can read the Bible and pray without distractions?

The Wurmbrands: Potato Stories

*August 19 is National Potato Day

*Richard Wurmbrand was the founder of The Voice of the Martyrs. Before he started VOM, he was imprisoned in Communist Romania because of his Christian activities. His wife, Sabina, was also imprisoned for a time.

The stories below come from The Tochlighters Ultimate Activity Book. Find more information here.

Questioned About Potatoes
After the Wurmbrands were imprisoned, generous Christians helped take care of Richard and Sabina’s son, Mihai. But it was very risky to help the families of imprisoned Christians. One woman traveled many miles facing great difficulty to bring him a sack of potatoes — all she had to offer. The police discovered her kindness, took her to the police station, questioned her, and treated her harshly, just for feeding a child. Food was scarce in Romania during Richard Wurmbrand’s time in prison, both inside and outside of prison. Sometimes people outside of prison ate the same simple food three times a day. In prison, they had much less.

Try This
Richard Wurmbrand often said that the prison guards ate the potatoes and the prisoners only had the peels made into a soup. Make your own “potato peel soup” by peeling a potato and then putting the peels (only) into a saucepan. Add two cups of water. Bring the water to a boil for 5 minutes, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Let the “soup” cool, and then taste some. Romanian prisoners were thankful for even a potato peel meal!

A Prison Code

Pastor Wurmbrand’s prison

“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.)

The Code
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.

Morse Code
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.