Donate | VOM Resources

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.

Richard Wurmbrand

By Elise, Kids of Courage Student Reviewer

Richard Wurmbrand, a pastor in Romania during the 1940’s, founded The Voice of the Martyrs. However, before the organization began in 1967, Pastor Wurmbrand was in prison. Placed in solitary confinement by the Communist government for three years, he preached to himself more than 300 sermons in rhyming couplets to keep his mind alert.

Born in 1909 to a Jewish family, Wurmbrand never expected to become a Christian pastor. But when he converted to Christianity, he knew what his new life’s path would be – to bring the gospel to Romania. Over the next two decades, he did just that. Wurmbrand founded a church, married a Christian woman named Sabina, and led many people to Christ. However, all of that would change very soon with the spread of communism into Romania.

When the Soviet Union under Stalin took over Romania, the Communist leaders gathered all of the country’s religious leaders into a conference called the Congress of Cults. Everyone knew that they were supposed to sing the praises of the Communist government, or they would face punishment.

Sabina and Richard Wurmbrand faced a dilemma. Would they lie about the benefits of this government, or would they refuse and be sent to prison? Sabina told her husband to go up to the platform and tell the truth. He warned her that if he did so, he might be taken away to prison and she might never hear from him again. Nevertheless, she insisted that he be bold and say what he thought about the Communist regime.

Wurmbrand was quickly sent to prison after saying what he believed in front of the Congress of Cults. While he was in confinement, his wife Sabina was also sent to a labor camp, where she worked on a canal with many other women who had been imprisoned for their faith.

After escaping Romania along with their young son, the Wurmbrands began an organization that would inform Christians in freer countries of persecution and assist those being persecuted. Today it is known as The Voice of the Martyrs and it is over 50 years old.

Richard Wurmbrand even testified in front of the U.S. Congress about how the Soviet Union violated human rights. The couple published more than thirty books about their experiences, including The Pastor’s Wife, Tortured for Christ, and In God’s Underground. Their legacy has been one of enduring faith in suffering and boldness to practice their belief even when it was difficult.

The Wurmbrands’ experiences opened America’s eyes to what was happening under Soviet control. Their experiences also opened America’s eyes to what many Christians around the world had to deal with each day to honestly practice their faith. In the end, Richard and Sabina’s legacy, continued by The Voice of the Martyrs, has changed the world.

Enter “Wurmbrand” in the Search box to read stories by and about Pastor Wurmbrand.

Remember Children Without Their Mothers

Pastor Richard Wurmbrand started The Voice of the Martyrs after he was released from prison in Romania. He had been imprisoned for spreading Christianity. After he left Romania, he told many stories of Christians who were faithful to God in difficult situations. The story below is about a boy who honored his mother by following what she taught him.

In one country where the government did not like Christians, a policeman put many Christians in jail. One day, a 12-year-old boy came to the policeman’s office holding a flower. “Sir,” said the boy, “you put my mother and father in prison. Today is my mother’s birthday. I always give her a flower on her birthday. But because of you I can’t be with my mother today.

“My mother is a good Christian,” the boy continued. “She taught me to love and forgive my enemies. She taught me to repay evil with good. So I thought I would bring a flower to your wife, the mother of your children. Please take it to her. Tell her about my love and the love of Christ.”

The policeman hugged the boy. Because of the boy’s love, the policeman didn’t want to put any more Christians in jail. He quit his job. Then other policemen put him in jail. He thought it was an honor to be in jail with followers of Christ.

On Mother’s Day, remember children who are separated from their parents because of Christian persecution. Ask God to help the children remain faithful to Him like the boy in Pastor Wurmbrand’s story.


Stuck Inside?

Kids in many places are staying at home more, because they are on school vacation or because their family is avoiding illness. How do you spend your time when you have extra time at home?

Pastor Wurmbrand
The founder of The Voice of the Martyrs, Pastor Richard Wurmbrand, served a total of 14 years in Romanian prisons because of his Christian activities. Of course, he had fewer freedoms in prison than Christians living in free countries today. But we can learn lessons from his writings about how to use time wisely, even in less-than-perfect conditions.

A Schedule
Even in times of solitary confinement, Pastor Wurmbrand created a schedule. He had no pencil and nothing to write with, so he kept his schedule in his head. His schedule kept him busy as long as he was awake.

In his tiny cell, Pastor Wurmbrand even exercised! He could walk two steps in one direction and three in the other direction, over and over. How many ways can you think of to exercise inside?

Games to Strengthen His Mind
Using tiny pieces of bread for chess pieces, Pastor Wurmbrand also played chess — with himself. He said he never lost a game!

Pastor Wurmbrand also spent a lot of time in prayer. But after a while, he no longer prayed to be free. He said, “Which of God’s commandments could I keep better outside of prison than inside?” Keeping God’s commandments was the most important thing to him.

So Pastor Wurmbrand prayed for others — his family and friends, people around the world, and countries. He prayed for all the countries he could remember. How many countries can you name without looking at a map? You can find ways to pray for many countries here.

Comfort from God
God comforted Pastor Wurmbrand through all his struggles in prison. He enjoyed his time with God. When he was finally released, he prayed, “God, help me not to rejoice more because I’m free than because you were with me in prison.”