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Heroes of the Faith: Corrie Ten Boom

The Hiding Place

In 1940, a small watch shop sat in Haarlem, Holland. It was run by an 80-year-old Christian man and his two unmarried daughters, Betsie (55) and Corrie (48). They lived upstairs and led unimpressive, ordinary lives... until Hitler did the unthinkable and invaded Holland and Belgium.

During the years of the occupation, the Nazis worked to capture the Jews in Holland and send them to concentration camps. The Ten Boom family, compelled by their faith and love in Christ, responded by joining the underground network of Holland that hid and smuggled Jews. The Ten Boom family and their many friends and co-workers saved the lives of an estimated 800 Jews and other refugees.

They would not only host Jews but also helped coordinate and smuggle them to other homes, and the watch shop was the perfect cover for this underground ministry. "Customers" would come needing a place to stay until they could be transported out of the city to a safer location. Five or six of these refugees chose to extend their stay and became permanent house guests at the Ten Boom home (see picture below).

Despite the ever-present threat of home invasion and capture, the home was filled with life and joy as the Word of God was read and practiced. Their nightly routine was to come down to the dining room at night, to eat, to sing and play instruments until the power was cut off by the Nazi curfew. But instead of going to bed, they would all gather in the living room where a bicycle powered lamp shed light on the Bible that they would read together.

Arrest and Anxiety

So continued the Ten Boom's life for 2 years until one day some German intelligence officers burst into their house only moments after the guests were safely tucked away in their hiding place. The Ten Booms were interrogated and hauled off to prison. And one of the last things Corrie heard from her father was an officer saying to him, “I’d like to send you home, old fellow. I’ll take your word that you won’t cause any more trouble.” And her father replied evenly and clearly, “If I go home today, tomorrow I will open my door again to any man in need who knocks.”

So, all three Ten Booms were sent to concentration camps. Corrie and Betsie, along with 1000 other women were taken to their sleeping quarters which were built for only 300 people. Half of the women were sick, the room was infested with fleas, and the inmates faced the constant threat of death. However, Corrie and Betsie continued their nightly routine of reading the Bible that God had miraculously allowed Corrie to smuggle into the camp.

Betsie even obeyed Ephesians 5:20 by giving thanks for everything, even the sickness and the fleas. She thanked God for them because they kept the guards out and allowed the women to read the Bible without being discovered. Years later, Corrie wrote, “The blacker the night around us grew, the brighter, and truer, and more beautiful burned the word of God.”

Corrie's story teaches us how to fight our fears with truth from God's Word. One author wrote, “If Scripture sustained these women in the darkest of places, surely it’s our sustenance as we wait for our own darkness to end.” So, like Corrie, start "pedaling your bike" now, even before your trial or anxiety comes. Prioritize meditating on the Word of God that can lead us to abound in joy and peace in any circumstance.

Freedom and Forgiveness.

Only Corrie survived the concentration camp, and she went on to write her famous biography, The Hiding Place. Although Corrie was left with external and internal scars, she travelled all around the world to tell everyone that "there is no pit so deep that God's love is not deeper still" and that "God will give us the love to be able to forgive our enemies."

But all her talk about forgiveness was put to the test one day. Corrie wrote, “It was at a church service in Munich that I saw him, the former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower door in the processing center at Ravensbruck. He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time. And suddenly it was all there – the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsie’s pain-blanched face.

He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing. ‘How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein.’ He said. ‘To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!’

His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who preached so often to the people in Bloemendaal the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.

Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him.

I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me your forgiveness.

As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.

And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on his. When he tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.”

Romans 5:5 says that “God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” So, yes, God commands us to forgive even the worst of sinners, because we ourselves were the worst of sinners, but God also graciously gives us his love and forgiveness through the Holy Spirit who dwells in our hearts. So, like Corrie, rejoice in Christ's forgiveness and extend that same forgiveness to others.

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