I’ll never forget the morning that Jim (VOM’s President) and I were driving a long-term associate of Richard Wurmbrand to the airport. “Brother T.” is a peppy, passionate 80-year-old Italian—the kind of person who deeply impacts everyone he meets! In a few hours, all three of us would be leaving on separate early-morning flights. As we drove together in the pre-dawn darkness, Brother T. energetically shared stories about Richard Wurmbrand.
He began by reminiscing about the first time he met Richard in 1973, and about his responsibilities a year later when he began serving as Richard's assistant. For many years, Brother T. traveled with Richard all over the US, throughout Europe, into Egypt and other locations, serving Richard and Sabina in any way he could.
Brother T. talked about several occasions where Richard was threatened and challenged, including one meeting overseas where they were greeted with signs proclaiming Richard a "fascist." It was so violent that several police officers assigned to guard the event were beaten by the angry mob.
But what really arrested my attention was when Brother T. highlighted the immense "burden" of senior leadership. He said, "I couldn't have handled that kind of pressure. God didn't make me that way. He made me to be ‘second’ and that's a great place to be!"
He elaborated further, as he leaned between us from the back seat, "The stuff that Jim has to carry is incredible. When you are ‘second’ there are a lot of advantages," he said. "I got to be with Richard at all kinds of amazing events, and I was there when he received all kinds of gifts…I would sit in the back row with Sabina and listen to Richard share powerful lessons."
The three of us agreed that if God calls you to be a senior leader, He will equip you to fill that role. But if you try to play that role without His call and His blessing, you are going to be miserable—and make a lot of people around you miserable too!
Brother T. noted that it was awkward around Richard sometimes because he was such a strong, prophetic voice. On his first assignment as Richard's driver and escort for a week, he said "I just kept my mouth shut the whole week because whenever I opened it Richard would offend me by what he said."
He continued while laughing, "In fact, almost anything I'd say would prompt Richard to share a profound thought with me—sometimes he'd go on for seven minutes about a simple phrase that I'd said!"
Brother T. continued, "One time I was with Richard and a brother named Hans in a meeting in Germany. They were talking about theology and doctrine and I wanted to jump in to the conversation. So I asked them, ‘Well, what do you think about that verse in Matthew 24?’"
Richard and Hans both looked directly at him for an awkward couple of seconds without saying anything at all, then turned back toward each other and continued their conversation in German!
Finally, as the three of us sat at an airport coffee shop, Brother T. looked at a picture of my children and said, "Money is the currency of the world, isn't it? Well, what do you think the currency of heaven is?"
Several possibilities raced through my mind, but before Jim or I could respond, Brother T. exclaimed, "People are the currency of heaven! And you are a rich man with five children, and Jim is a rich man with all his grandchildren."
With that, and a quick handshake, we parted ways, but Brother T’s words about "being second" resonated in my soul all the way to Los Angeles!
Dr. Jason Peters serves in VOM’s International Ministries department, traveling frequently to meet with our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world. He has ministered in 35 countries, as diverse as Cuba, India, Nepal, Saudi Arabia, Burma, Sri Lanka, Colombia, Kyrgyzstan, Bangladesh, Thailand, Indonesia and Nigeria. Before joining VOM’s team, Jason was a faculty member of the Air Force Chaplain Corps College, where he directed Crisis and Trauma training. He also completed a one-year residency at a Level I Trauma Center and has utilized his experience as a trauma responder to offer practical and spiritual assistance to those who are suffering. Jason and his wife, Kimberly, along with their five children, consider it a great honor to serve alongside the persecuted church.