Chapter 6 - The Iron Collar

"...Joseph, who was sold for a servant [slave], whose feet they hurt with fetters; he was laid in iron until the time that his word came [to pass]: the word of the Lord tried him." (Psalm 105: 17-19)

Joseph was seventeen, a shepherd lad, when he was torn from his family and sold as a fettered slave to Egypt. Many years passed before the former slave was appointed Prime Minister of Egypt and was re-united with his father, Jacob. Yet as a boy back in Canaan, Joseph had dreamed that one day he would be raised up above his family, so that they would all bow to him. Some translations speak of his feet being bound with fetters and an iron collar round his neck, though the original Hebrew indicates his entire body was "laid in iron." However his condition is described, the scriptures clearly speak of testing. For Joseph the glorious fulfilment of his dreams entailed a long and faithful wait on God amidst trying circumstances. Have you too been waiting a long time on God for something very important? For your health, your provision, for a mate, for deliverance from bad circumstances? For a turn-around in your marriage? For the salvation of your loved ones or family or children? Whatever it is, you can look at Joseph and his example will show what it takes to endure and finally obtain the answers to God's glorious promises. For me it was a long wait too, joined by my wonderful wife, with whom I continued to wait, trusting God for the eventual fulfilment of His promises. This is the "Joseph experience" of every true child of God. Do not run from it. Let God take you through. However difficult and long, the process will make you what God wants, not break you as it may seem to be doing just now. Let God take you through. He will not ever fail you!

People in the Western countries are often unaware of how long people have been wearing iron collars in Romania, waiting for release amidst crushed and shattered dreams. But instead of looking to God for deliverance, as Joseph did, millions cross their wrists as a symbol of their bondage and despair...and their fetters screw even tighter.

As a Soviet Union ally, Romania was required to supply slave labor to Soviet projects such as the Danube-to-Adriatic canal. The barge canal was a scheme for bypassing the Turkish-controlled Bosporus and more effectively draining the Romanian "bread-basket" of its foodlstuffs. Tens of thousands of Romanians (and others) were imprisoned and assigned to slave gangs to dig communist East Europe's own version of the Suez Canal. Engineers were shot who said that the project was impractical. The insane work was abandoned, but not before multitudes had perished from squalor, disease, and maltreatment.

The God of Joseph, indeed, was merciful. He spared my life while such atrocities were going on. I never had to take part in the Danube canal fiasco. But over twenty years would pass before God's promise to set me free would be fulfilled, and I had to experience the attacks of the KGB, arrest, and interrogation, and all sorts of harassment.

After I was finally set free in 1974 and was visiting West Germany, I was befriended by a fine Christian family and met a modern "Joseph" who had been waiting for God's fulfilment of a dream. While praying with them, God gave me a word for him: "I will use you, my son, and you will be a blessing to many people, for I will do a miracle for you."

Johannes was a successful banker and looked nothing like Joseph the Hebrew slave in Egypt. Inside the tailored suit and immaculate shirt was a man of God who had a heart to serve the Lord full-time in a special ministry. Like Joseph, he had received a promise from God. He, too, had to wait a long and difficult time for its fulfilment. He had already been waiting about ten years before we met.

In a vision I saw a house God would give Johannes for use in serving the Lord's people. It was large and beautiful, with any windows. It was set in a part of Germany famed for forest scenery. Johannes wrote the vision down and no more was said abut it. I left Germany and did not hear from Johannes for years. Then I received a letter from Johannes with a change of address. "Please come and visit us anytime in our home," he wrote. When I revisited Germany, Johannes met me at the train station. Greeting each other, we might have noted the passing of seven years in each other's face. But Johannes had something else on his mind, for he asked if I remembered the vision about the house. "Do you think you would know the house if you saw it?" he questioned me.

Since I could still see it in my mind's eye I said, "Yes," and off we went in his car After a kilometer or two he pulled over to the roadside and pointed. "Is that the house?" he asked. "No," I replied. Again we drove, then stopped abruptly. "How about that house over there?" Again: "No." Johannes did this several times, and then he halted by a large building. "That's the house God showed me in a vision seven years ago!" I exclaimed.

Johannes showed me the facility God gave him. The "house" contains a 50-room hotel and a fine restaurant, and is the meeting place of a church as well. It is a unique setting for rest and Christian fellowship in a society ridden with anxiety and fear. It is also proof that years ago Johannes dreamed beautiful things and, most significantly, had the patience to wait on Joseph's glorious God. This is something all of us children of God can do.

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