I recently read this story about Richard and Sabina Wurmbrand, VOM’s founders, in the book In God’s Underground. This excerpt is long, but I think it’s worth the read. I love the picture it shows of the Wurmbrand’s hearts.
When Romania entered the war on Germany's side, a pogrom began in which many thousands of Jews were killed or deported. At Iasi alone 11,000 were massacred in a day. My wife, who shares my Protestant faith, is also of Jewish origin. We lived in Bucharest, from which the Jews were not deported, but her parents, one of her brothers, three sisters, and other relatives who lived in Bucovine were taken to Transmistria, a wild border province that the Romanians had captured from Russia. Jews who were not murdered at the end of this journey were left to starve, and there Sabina's family died.
Sometime later our landlord, a good Christian, told me sadly of a man who was staying in the house while on leave from the front. “l knew him before the war,” he said, “but he's changed completely. He has become a brute who likes to boast of how he volunteered to exterminate Jews in Transmistria and killed hundreds with his own hands.”
I went upstairs after supper to the landlord's flat. Lounging in an armchair was a giant of a man whom the landlord introduced as Borila, the killer of Jews from Transmistria. When he rose he was even taller than l, and there seemed to be about him an aura of horror that was like a smell of blood. Soon he was telling us of his adventures in the war and of the Jews he had slaughtered.
The murderer proved to be not only a murderer. Nobody is only one thing. He was a pleasant talker, and eventually it came out that he had a great love of music. He mentioned that while serving in the Ukraine he had been captivated by the songs there. “I wish I could hear them again,” he said.
I knew some of these old songs. I thought to myself, looking at Borila, The fish has entered my net!
“lf you'd like to hear some of them,” I told him, “come to my flat—I'm no pianist, but I can play a few Ukrainian melodies.”
The landlord, his wife, and his daughter accompanied us. My wife was in bed. She was used to my playing softly at night and did not wake up. I played the folk songs, which are alive with feeling, and I could see that Borila was deeply moved. I remembered how, when King Saul was afflicted by an evil spirit, the boy David had played the harp before him.
I stopped and turned to Borila. “l've something very important to say to you,” I told him.
“Please speak,” he said.
“If you look through that curtain you can see someone is asleep in the next room. It's my wife, Sabina. Her parents, her sisters, and her twelve-year-old brother have been killed with the rest of the family. You told me that you had killed hundreds of Jews near Golta, and that is where they were taken.” Looking into his eyes, I added, “You yourself don't know who you have shot, so we can assume that you are the murderer of her family.”
He jumped up, his eyes blazing, looking as if he were about to strangle me.
I held up my hand and said, “Now—let's try an experiment. I shall wake my wife and tell her who you are, and what you have done. I can tell you what will happen. My wife will not speak one word of reproach! She'll embrace you as if you were her brother. She'll bring you supper, the best things she has in the house.
“Now, if Sabina, who is a sinner like us all, can forgive and love like this, imagine how Jesus, who is perfect Love, can forgive and love you! Only turn to Him—and everything you have done will be forgiven!”
Borila was not heartless: within, he was consumed by guilt and misery at what he had done, and he had shaken his brutal talk at us as a crab shakes its claws. One tap at his weak spot and his defenses crumbled. The music had already moved his heart, and now came—instead of the attack he expected—words of forgiveness.
His reaction was amazing. He jumped up and tore at his collar with both hands, so that his shirt was rent apart. “Oh God, what shall I do, what shall I do?” he cried. He put his head in his hands and sobbed noisily as he rocked himself back and forth. “I'm a murderer, I'm soaked in blood, what shall I do?” Tears ran down his cheeks.
I cried, “ln the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I command the devil of hatred to go out of your soul!”
Borila fell on his knees trembling, and we began to pray aloud. He knew no prayers; he simply asked again and again for forgiveness and said that he hoped and knew it would be granted. We were on our knees together for some time; then we stood up and embraced each other, and I said, “l promised to make an experiment. I shall keep my word.”
I went into the other room and found my wife still sleeping calmly. She was very weak and exhausted at that time. I woke her gently and said, “There is a man here whom you must meet. We believe he has murdered your family, but he has repented, and now he is our brother.”
She came out in her dressing gown and put out her arms to embrace him; then both began to weep and to kiss each other again and again. I have never seen bride and bridegroom kiss with such love and purity as this murderer and the survivor among his victims. Then, as I foretold, Sabina went to the kitchen to bring him food.
Excerpted from In God’s Underground, pages 222-224.
If my husband woke me up in the middle of
the night and told me the man who killed my family was in the living room, I’m
not sure I would have the same reaction that Sabina did. But praise God this
incredible woman was able to respond with the same grace and forgiveness God
has shown us. I hope I can someday be the Christ-like woman Sabina was.