PREPARING FOR ........
PREPARING FOR THE UNDERGROUND CHURCH
By Pastor Richard Wurmbrand
Who is Pastor Richard Wurmbrand: He is an evangelical minister who spent fourteen years in Communist imprisonment
and torture in his homeland of Romania. He is one of Romania's most widely known Jewish Believer leaders, authors, and educators. In 1945, when the Communists seized Romania and attempted to control the churches for their purposes, Richard Wurmbrand immediately began an effective "underground" ministry to his enslaved people and the invading Russian soldiers. He was eventually arrested in 1948. Richard spent three years in solitary confinement, seeing no one but his Communist torturers.
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PREPARING FOR THE UNDERGROUND CHURCH
Christian pastors must learn what an underground church looks like and what it does. I spoke with a bishop in Britain for an hour or so about underground church work. Finally, he said, "Excuse me, but you speak of my hobby; I am very interested in church architecture. Would you please tell me if the underground churches use Gothic styles in the building of churches?"
The Underground Church is comparatively unknown. We have it right next door, but we are not ready to join it and we are not trained for it. Every Christian pastor must know this because we might pass through tragic circumstances. Even if we do not pass through these tragic circumstances we have a duty to help and to instruct those who do pass through them.
In Muslim nations, in Red China and so on, many believers have become victims. Many have gone into prisons and many have died in prison. We cannot be proud of this. The better thing would have been to be well instructed on how to do underground work and not to be captured. I admire those who know how to work so well that they are not caught. We have to know the underground work.
PREPARING FOR SUFFERING
Suffering cannot be avoided in the Underground Church, whatever measures are taken, but suffering should be reduced to the minimum.
What happens in a country when oppressive powers take over? In some countries the terror starts at once, as in Mozambique and Cambodia. In other places religious liberty follows as never before. And so it begins. Some regimes come to power without having real power. They do not have the people on their side. They have not necessarily organized their police and their staff of the army yet.
In Russia, the Communists gave immediately great liberty to the Protestants in order to destroy the Orthodox. When they had destroyed the Orthodox, the turn came for the Protestants. The initial situation does not last long. During that time they infiltrate the churches, putting their men in leadership. They find out the weaknesses of pastors. Some might be ambitious men; some might be entrapped with the love of money. Another might have a hidden sin somewhere, wherewith he may be blackmailed. They explain that they would make it known and thus put their men in leadership. Then, at a certain moment the great persecution begins. In Romania such a clamp-down happened in one day. All the Catholic bishops went to prison, along with innumerable priests, monks and nuns. Then many Protestant pastors of all denominations were arrested. Many died in prison.
"Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he has done to Thy saints at Jerusalem: But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way; for he is a chosen vessel unto Me, to bear My name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will show him how great things he must suffer for My name's sake "-(Acts 9:13, 15 and 16).
Jesus, our Lord, told Ananias: "Meet Saul of Tarsus. He will be My underground pastor, My underground worker." That is what St. Paul was - a pastor of an Underground Church. Jesus started a crash course for this underground pastor. He started it with the words, "I will show (him) how great things he must suffer..."
Preparation for underground work begins by studying sufferology, martyrology. Later, we will look at the technical side of underground work, but first of all there must be a certain spiritual preparation for it.
In a free country, to be a member of a church, it is enough to believe and to be baptized. In the Church underground it is not enough to be a member in it. You can be baptized and you can believe, but you will not be a member of the Underground Church unless you know how to suffer.
You might have the mightiest faith in the world, but if you are not prepared to suffer, then when you are taken by the police, you will get two slaps and you will declare anything. So the preparation for suffering is one of the essentials of the preparation of underground work.
A Christian does not panic if he is put in prison. For the rank and file believer, prison is a new place to witness for Christ. For a pastor, prison is a new parish. It is a parish with no great income but with great opportunities for work. I speak a little of this in my book, With God In Solitary Confinement.
In other books I mention Morse code, which is also part of the training for the Underground Church. You know what this is - a code by which messages are conveyed. Through this code you can preach the Gospel to those who are to your right and left.
Free parishioners look at their watch; "Already he has preached for thirty minutes. Will he never finish?" When arrested, watches are taken away from you; you have the parishioners with you the whole week and can preach to them from morning to night! They have no choice. There have never been, in the history of the Romanian or the Russian Church, so many conversions brought about as there have been in prison. So do not fear prison. Look upon it as just a new assignment given by God.
Men can accept this. But what about the terrible tortures which are inflicted on prisoners? What will we do about these tortures? Will we be able to bear them? If I do not bear them, I put in prison another fifty or sixty men whom I know because that is what the oppressors wish from me, to betray those around me. Hence comes the great need for preparation for suffering, which must start now. It is too difficult to prepare yourself for it when you are already in prison.
TRUTH ABOUT THE TRUTH
How much each one of us can suffer depends on how much he is bound up with a cause, how dear this cause is to him, and how much it means for him.
In this respect we have had in Communist countries very big surprises. There have been gifted preachers and writers of Christian books who have become traitors. The composer of the best hymnal of Romania became the composer of the best communist hymnal of Romania. Everything depends on whether we have remained in the sphere of words or if we are merged with the divine realities.
God is the Truth. The Bible is the truth about the Truth. Theology is the truth about the truth about the Truth. A good sermon is the truth about the truth about the truth, about the Truth It is not the Truth. The Truth is God alone. Around this Truth there is a scaffolding of words, of theologies, and of exposition. None of these is of any help in times of suffering. It is only the Truth Himself Who is of help, and we have to penetrate through sermons, through theological books, through everything which is 'words' and be bound up with the reality of God Himself.
I have told in the West how Christians were tied to crosses for four days and four nights. The crosses were put on the floor and other prisoners were tortured and made to fulfill their bodily necessities upon the faces and the bodies of the crucified ones. I have since been asked: "Which Bible verse helped and strengthened you in those circumstances?" My answer is: "NO Bible verse was of any help." It is sheer cant and religious hypocrisy to say, "This Bible verse strengthens me, or that Bible verse helps me." Bible verses alone are not meant to help.
We knew Psalm 23 - "The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want... though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death...." When you pass through suffering you realize that it was never meant by God that Psalm 23 should strengthen you. It is the Lord who can strengthen you, not the Psalm which speaks of Him so doing. It is not enough to have the Psalm. You must have the One about whom the Psalm speaks. We also knew the verse: "My Grace is sufficient for thee." But the verse is not sufficient. It is the Grace which is sufficient and not the verse.
Pastors and zealous witnesses who are handling the Word as a calling from God are in danger of giving holy words more value than they really have. Holy words are only the means to arrive at the reality expressed by them. If you are united with the Reality, the Lord Almighty, evil loses its power over you; it cannot break the Lord Almighty. If you only have the words of the Lord Almighty you can be very easily broken.
The preparation for underground work is deep spiritualization. As we peel an onion in preparation for its use, so God must "peel" from us what are mere words, sensations of our enjoyments in religion, in order to arrive at the reality of our faith. Jesus has told us "that whosoever will follow" Him will have to "take up their cross," and He, Himself, showed how heavy this cross can be. We have to be prepared for this.
We have to make the preparation now before we are imprisoned. In prison you lose everything. You are undressed and given a prisoner's suit. No more nice furniture, nice carpets or nice curtains. You do not have a wife or husband any more and you do not have your children. You do not have your library and you never see a flower. Nothing of what makes life pleasant remains. Nobody resists who has not renounced the pleasures of life beforehand.
I personally use an exercise. I live in the United States of America. Can you imagine what an American supermarket looks like? You find there many delicious things. I look at everything and say to myself, "I can go without this thing and that thing; this thing is very nice, but I can go without: this third thing I can go without, too." I visited the whole supermarket and did not spend one dollar. I had the joy of seeing many beautiful things and the second joy to know that I can go without.
DOUBT MAKES TRAITORS
I am Jewish. In Hebrew, the language which Jesus Himself spoke and in which the first revelation has been given, the word "doubt" does not exist. To doubt is as wrong for a man as it would be for him to walk on four legs - he is not meant to walk on four legs. A man walks erect; he is not a beast. To doubt is subhuman.
To every one of us doubts come, but do not allow doubts about essential doctrines of the Bible such as the existence of God, the resurrection of Jesus Christ, or the existence of eternal life to make a nest in your mind. Every theological or philosophical doubt makes you a potential traitor. You can allow yourself doubts while you have a nice study and you prepare sermons, and you eat well - or you write a book. Then you can allow yourself all kinds of daring ideas and doubts. When you are tortured these doubts are changed into treason because you have to decide to live or die for this faith.
One of the most important things about the spiritual preparation of an underground worker is the solution of his doubts. In mathematics, if you do not find the solution you may have made a mistake somewhere, so you continue until you find out. Don't live with doubts, but seek their solution.
TEST OF TORTURE
Now to come to the very moment of torture. Torture is sometimes very painful. Sometimes it is a simple beating. We have all been spanked as children and beating is just another spanking. A simple beating is very easy to take. Jesus has said we should come to Him like children, which is rather like candidates for spanking!
However, with us, Communists did not stop at beatings - they used very refined tortures. Now torture, you must know, can work both ways. It can harden you and strengthen your decision not to tell the police anything. There are thieves who resist any torture and would not betray those with whom they have co-operated in theft. The more you beat them the more obstinate they become. Or, torture can just break your will.
Now I will tell you of one very interesting case which was published by the Czech Communist Press. Novotny, who was the predecessor of Dubcek and who was a Communist dictator, had arrested one of his intimate comrades, a Communist leader, a convinced atheist, and a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party. (Not only Christians, Jews or patriots were in prison. One Communist arrested another and tortured him just as they would do anybody else.) They arrested this Communist leader and put him in a prison cell alone. Electromagnetic rays, which disturb the mind, passed through this cell. A loudspeaker repeated day and night: "Is your name Joseph or not Joseph?" (His name was not Joseph.)
They tried to drive him mad. Day and night. He felt that he would lose his mind. At a certain moment, he got an illumination. "I have now met unmitigated evil. If Communists torture a Christian, it is not absolutely evil because Communists believe that they will construct an earthly paradise. Christians hinder them, so it is right to torture Christians. But when a Communist tortures a Communist, it is torture for torture's sake. There is absolutely no justification for it. But wait a little bit. Every coin has two sides, every electric cable has two poles. If there is an unmitigated evil, against whom does this unmitigated evil fight? There must be an unmitigated good. This is God, and against Him they fight."
When he was called to the interrogator, he entered smiling into the room and told him that he could switch off the loudspeaker now because it had attained its result. "I have become a Christian." The officer asked him, "How did it happen?" He told him the whole story. The officer said, "Wait a little bit." He called a few of his comrades and said, "Please repeat the stop before my comrades." He repeated the story, and the captain told the other police officer, "I told you that this method will not work. You have overdone it."
The Devil is not all mighty and all wise like God. He makes mistakes. Evil torture is an excess which can be used very well spiritually.
MOMENT OF CRISIS
Torture has a moment of explosion, and the torturer waits for this critical moment. Learn how to conquer doubt and to think thoroughly. There is always one moment of crisis when you are ready to write or pronounce the name of your accomplice in the underground work, or to say where the secret printing shop is, or something of that kind. You have been tortured so much nothing counts any more; the fact that I should not have pain also does not count. Draw this last conclusion at the stage at which you have arrived and you will see that you will overcome this one moment of crisis; it gives you an intense inner joy. You feel that Christ has been with you in that decisive moment. Jailers today are now trained and refined, aware that there is a moment of crisis. If they cannot get anything from you in that moment, then they abandon torturing: they know its continuation to be useless.
There are a few more points in connection with torture. It is very important to understand what Jesus said: "Take no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for itself." I have had fourteen years of prison. Brother Hrapov had twenty six, Wong MingDao had twenty-eight. It seems impossible to bear long years of prison. You are not asked to bear it all at once. Do not bear even one day at a time - bear an hour at a time. One hour of pain everybody can bear. We have had a terrible toothache, a car accident - passing, perhaps, through untold anguish. You are not meant to bear pain more than this one present minute.
What amplifies pain is the memory that I have been beaten and tortured so many times and that tomorrow they will take me again, and the day after tomorrow. Tomorrow, I might not be alive - or they might not be alive. Tomorrow, there can be an overthrow, as in Romania. Yesterday beating has passed: tomorrow's torture has not come yet.
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