When communism took complete control of Romania after World War II, the gold scepter and crown of Romanian sovereignty and freedom wee crushed. The last king of Romania was exiled in 1947, and the country was proclaimed a communist state.
My boyhood slipped away as the nation was made a USSR satellite. In this overflowing breadbasket of East Europe, poverty swept plates bare throughout the land. Private ownership and bank accounts were abolished, as higher-priority steel mills were built and collective farms organized. Laws made it impossible to feed livestock. Farm people risked arrest. They had to drive starving cattle to government headquarters all over Romania and abandon them.
Romania is a land good for raising sheep. In 1956 when I was sixteen, I was a shepherd and learned about sheep first-hand.
I thought often of Moses, who tended sheep for forty years. I also read Jacob's story. As I lay down on the ground to watch the flock and catch some rest, I could easily imagine Jacob fleeing in the wilderness. I could see him vainly attempting to sleep, for his hunter-brother, Esau, from whom he had stolen his birthright, might be lurking nearby, waiting to pounce upon him.
One day while tending the flock, an angel suddenly appeared to me. I fell to the ground. As it must have happened to Jacob, the angel gazed at me. His countenance was radiant, his clothing a glistening white, and he had bright, gleaming, golden hair. "Don't be afraid," he said reassuringly. "I came to see you because God has heard your prayers. Stand up!"
It was true, as the angel said. All that summer I had been continually praying and seeking God. But struck dumb and helpless at the sight of the angel, I lay overwhelmed on the ground. "God wants to use you," the angel continued. "From a young age He chose you to be a leader of many people, a witness to multitudes in many nations."
I heard the angel's words, but I did not understand. There was no way a mere shepherd boy could imagine himself a witness to nations outside Romanian borders. The angel also said God would show His power and guide me in a mighty way, revealing new things. Then he left, leaving me trembling but filled with joy. I had seen God's power and divine reality. From that time I trusted God more, becoming a stronger witness. He began to give me visions to encourage the faith of others.
Who was this God, spoken of by the angel? He was Jacob's mighty, delivering God, the Shepherd of Israel. Unlike Jacob, I had stolen no birthright from my brother and so did not have to flee into the howling wilderness; yet just the same I was surrounded by an increasingly hostile, atheist-dominated government.
"Son of Jacob, fear not!" God was saying to me through the angel's appearance. "I will be your God, and will protect and guide you wherever you go."
The God of Jacob and Bethel is still with us today and hears the cries of fearful, despairing hearts.