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Nicolae Moldoveanu – Composing Hymns in Prison
During one of our missions to Eastern Europe, Rev. Bill Bathman introduced me to an extraordinary Christian Hymn writer, who composed many hundreds of Hymns while being tortured by the communists in Romania. Nicolae Moldoveanu is called “The Bach of Romania.” In his lifetime, he composed more than 6,000 Hymns, hundreds of those while suffering excruciating torture in the communist prison system of Romania.
Extraordinary Creativity and Mental Discipline Under Torture
Without access to the Bible, or any books, without any musical instruments, without pen or paper, Moldoveanu determined to compose Hymns of praise to God and commit them to his memory, to later be put down on paper, when finally released from prison.
The Testimony of Richard Wurmbrand
Richard Wurmbrand testified that Moldoveanu was “one of the greatest saints I met in my 14 years of prison. He came smiling from the torture room. His approach was that of a lamb. While I was protesting against the guard’s abuses, against others, or myself, he never protested.”
Resistance Through Singing
Indeed, the steadfast faith of Nicolae Moldoveanu and his resistance to atheist indoctrination and communist torture came through composing and singing great Hymns of the Faith. Most of the hymns sung in Evangelical Churches in Romania today are Nicolae Moldoveanu’s compositions.
From Poverty to the Military
Nicolae Moldoveanu was born 3 February 1922, near Sered River in Moldova to a very poor family. He lost his father by the age of 3 and his only opportunity for education came through enlisting in the military programme, called The Army’s Children, at age 12. These destitute children lived on military bases to serve the soldiers. Due to his love for music, Nicolae Moldoveanu was soon enrolled in the Military Brass Ensemble. The band director recognised his extraordinary talents and helped him develop his musical abilities. In the year 1938 at the age of 16, he was converted to Christ. In 1940, he wrote his first Christian poem and began to arrange songs, as well. While still a teenager, his compositions were already being used in Christian songbooks.
The Lord’s Army
Nicolae wrote: “I am now seeing God's hand in everything that has happened in my life…” He soon joined “The Lord’s Army,” a Reformed branch of the Greek Orthodox Church that emphasised the need for being born again, Repentance and having a personal relationship with Christ.
Conversion to Christ
Soon after joining The Lord’s Army, Moldoveanu experienced a conversion to Christ and began to publish musical compositions called Village’s Light. Nicolae Moldoveanu survived the Second World War, enriching the lives of fellow soldiers with great Hymns of the Faith.
Fasting for a Bible
During the war, for a whole month, he sold his daily rations of milk and bread, in order to afford to buy his first Bible.
Romania was invaded by the Soviet Union’s Red Army. In 1948, the communist regime of Romania, declared The Lord’s Army illegal and arrested all its leaders. Nicolae Moldoveanu continued to worship in secret.
A Threat to the State
Nicolae was accused of publishing “propaganda against the state”, in that he wrote Christian songs that had become “a threat to the state.” He was sentenced to twelve years in prison. His hands were disfigured because the communists had broken every bone in every finger of each hand because he loved to play the piano and organ to the glory of the Lord.
Look to the Sky
On the day of his arrest, Nicolae whispered to his wife, Lena: “Look at the skies. It will be the only thing we can share while separated.” For many months, Nicolae was not able to see the sky as he was incarcerated in an underground cell. When he was later moved into a cell that was above ground, it had a broken window, but in spite of the bitter winter cold, he rejoiced that he could share the view of the same sky with his wife, Lena, far away.
Fellowship of Prisoners
In prison, Nicolae Moldoveanu’s best friends were Traian Dorz, a prolific Romanian Christian poet from The Lord’s Army and Richard Wurmbrand, who would become the Author of Tortured for Christ and the Founder of the Voice of the Martyrs ministry. Both Richard Wurmbrand and Nicolae Moldoveanu praised each other for how their encouragement and ministry helped sustain them through excruciating torture.
Songs released from prison
Nicolae Moldoveanu published sixteen songbooks with 400 songs in each one. 361 songs came from his time in prison. Perhaps the most well-known of the songbooks was Songs of Grace… Songs Released from Prison.
The principles that governed his life
One of his songs proclaim, “I don’t only want to talk about You and Your Word; but that Your life would be IN ME, as when You lived on earth.” He said, “In everything I seek that the Lord Jesus be seen and I want to be like Him. I don’t want to be part of a group, because they would control me… they would enslave me. But in the Lord Jesus, Who is the Truth, there is liberty. The truth will set you free. Who can understand this, if he does not belong to Jesus? All that comes into the Christian life is a plan of God. You walk and the Holy Spirit guides. I am human: I can be wrong (he said it so humbly). I ask that I will not hinder the unfolding of His plan.”
Steadfast Perseverance Under Persecution
For more than 62 years, God enriched the faith of Romanian Christians through the uncompromising Christian testimony, courage and steadfastness of Nicolae Moldoveanu and the rich treasury of over 6,000 Hymns he gave to the Church. He stood fast during 45 years of Romania’s darkest years under communist persecution. Even when the communists broke the bones in his fingers, Nicolae Moldoveanu re-learned to play the piano later, despite his fingers being mangled.
Triumph Despite Torture
All of his songs are taken from the Word of God. “I did not have a Bible,” he said, “but I did have the Word” stored up in his memory. Before his prison sentence, he had spent much time studying the Bible and now, as he meditated on the Word that remained in his memory the Holy Spirit helped him to remember. “However,” he advised, “if one does not study, there is nothing to remember.” One of Nicolae’s compositions was entitled: Break my Will, Even with Heavy Blows. Other titles of Moldoveanu’s Hymns include: Only Grace; If We Gather Together in the Lord; Don’t Doubt, But Believe! Teach Me to Do Your Will; I Sing to You My God and Break My Plans. Christians in Romania are still singing the hymns God gave Nicolae Moldoveanu while in prison, sixty years ago.
A Sacrifice of Praise
"Therefore, by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God that is the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His Name." Hebrews 13:15.
A Call to Prayer
IDOP-Africa invites you to join Christians around the world in praying with, and for, the persecuted church on Sunday, 14 November. www.idop-africa.org provides you with news, articles, resources, PowerPoints, video links and contacts to enable you to mobilise your friends, family, co-workers, congregation and community to prayer and action on behalf of those who are persecuted for the Faith.
Mobilise Prayer for the Persecuted
Is your church planning to observe Sunday, 14 November as a Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church? Please visit www.idop-africa.org and www.FrontlineMissionSA.org websites for resources, information, prayer posters and prayer requests for the persecuted.
Click here for a 3 minute Remember the Persecuted video that you can share and show to friends, family, school and church.
Click here to view the Missions to the Nuba Mountains of Sudan video (also available in German and French).
Click here to listen to the latest From the Frontline podcast on Serving the Suffering.
"Remember the prisoners as if chained with them - those who are mistreated - since you yourselves are in the body also." Hebrews 13:3
Dr. Peter Hammond
P.O. Box 74 Newlands 7725
Cape Town South Africa
Thank you so much for this testimony to Nicolae. He's one of those believers who are hard to forget because he made it thru.
In the 1980s, while I served at a church in Florida, a young woman brought me many of the manuscripts of Dorz/Nicolae Moldoveanu. She was trying to make arrangements of the songs so that the songs could be sung in America. The one song that I have kept and sung many times with various groups is O Crestem Uberia. This is the first time that I am learning of the history and how God used these men and their music. For so long, I thought I was one of the only ones to know this music. Now, to see that song recorded so many times by so many different people is mind-blowing. How amazing God is to have worked through such horrific circumstances. I was told that one of them would put soap on a piece of glass and then etch the song on the glass and then teach it to the other prisoners. Then they would re soap the glass and write another song. Does anyone know if that story is true? So amazing.
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