The church in Munich, where she had just finished her story, was packed. The people now got up and left the room, filing towards the door in an eerie quiet. It was an unspoken silence which was the common expression of the sorrow and guilt, which had gripped this nation. A nation which just a few years ago thought to subjugate the world and exterminate the Jews, the people of God, from the face of the earth.
Standing in front of the audience, while the crowd slowly moved along the rows of wooden chairs, towards the door, she suddenly saw a balding, heavyset man in a grey overcoat and a brown felt hat clutched between his hands, moving her way against the stream of people making his way toward her. In an instant she recognized him and her heart was gripped by fear.
It was 1947, Corrie had come from the Netherlands, to the church in Bavaria Germany, the former heartland of Nazi ideology, to share her story with the former oppressors. A story of pain and suffering, but also a story about a Great God who forgives greatly.
The Glory of God’s forgiveness was a truth that was needed most in that bitter, bombed out and utterly destroyed country. Corrie told them: “When we confess our sins, God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever”. When Corrie told the audience about God’s forgiveness, the solemn German faces stared back at her, not quite daring to believe.
(Micah 7:19 ; Colossians 1:13-14 ; Isaiah 43:25 ; Daniel 9:9 ; Psalm 103:12 ; 1 John 1:9 ; Hebrews 8:12 ; Proverbs 17:9 )
Corrie ten Boom
Growing up as the daughter of Casper ten Boom, in the late 19th and early 20th century, Corrie was blessed to have a God fearing father and in him a teacher, who endowed her with spiritual wisdom, taken from every day events.
The ten Booms were a well-known and beloved family who lived in the centre of Haarlem, the Netherlands. Father ten Boom was a watchmaker by trade and he ran a little shop, on the ground floor of their house.
The ten Booms were God fearing, Bible believing Calvinists. They were members of the Dutch Reformed Church and lived their lives in the truth of God’s promises.
(Proverbs 22:6 ; Deuteronomy 11:19 ; Ephesians 6:4 ; Psalm 34:11 ; 2 Timothy 2:15)
Darkness covers the world
When Corrie was very young, she witnessed the death of a baby and came to realise how fragile the human being actually is. Corrie was frightened and weeping turned to her father, saying: "I need you, you can't die. You can't !"
Desiring to comfort his beloved daughter, Casper ten Boom sat down next to her and asked:" Corrie, when you and I go to Amsterdam, when do I give you the ticket?” She sniffled a little, and replied, “Why, just before we get on the train.” “Exactly,” her father responded, “and our wise Father in heaven knows when we are going to need things too. Don’t run ahead of Him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need, just in time.”
Little did Casper and Corrie realise that soon this lesson would be fundamental for the survival of Corrie’s faith, as the world grew dark with hatred and cold with death.
It was May 1940. Hitler’s armies invaded the Netherlands and gained control over the country after only three days of fighting. They marched forward and overran the European mainland with unexpected ease, the darkness of Nazism settled over Europe and would not depart for five long years.
The ensuing persecution of the Jews and the needs of others quickly motivated the ten Boom family to open up their house, contrary to the decrees of the government.
(Isaiah 40:29 ; Psalm 34:18 ; Job 5:19 ; Psalm 27:5 ; Psalm 42:5 ; Psalm 138:7 ; Isaiah 46:4 ; John 14:27 ; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10)
Not everyone who says Lord, Lord
The ten Boom family took in a Jewish baby boy and hid him from the Nazi’s, violating the new anti-Jewish laws. The preacher of the church, the family ten Boom attended, felt the need to reprimand Casper ten Boom about this. The preacher told the ten Booms that, as Christians, they should obey the law. He also warned them that they might lose their lives for that Jewish baby.
Casper answered him calmly and said: "You say we could lose our lives for this child? I would consider that the greatest honour that could come to my family" For Casper ten Boom, the law of man could only be obeyed where it is not opposed to the greater Law of God.
When the preacher left, Corrie mentioned her amazement about the preacher's lack of compassion for the baby and of his great fear for the evil in the world. where was his trust in Jesus Christ, whom he preached ? Father ten Boom answered: "If a mouse lives in a cookie jar, it doesn't make him a cookie !"
(Matthew 7:21-23 ; Matthew 7:15-20 ; 1 Corinthians 5:12)
Love your enemies
One day, Corrie noticed her father looking out the window and heard him say "those poor people" To Corrie's surprise, she saw that her father was looking at the German soldiers, lining up to march away. Father Casper said: "I pity the poor Germans Corrie… They have touched the apple of God’s eye."
More and more people used the family ten Boom's house as a safe hide away. The local resistance took notice and helped the ten Boom's organize. They built the now famous hiding place in Corrie's bedroom and even installed an alarm system, to alert the residents of danger.
Not long after, a Dutch collaborator betrayed the ten Boom's. They were arrested and put on a lorry, to be transported to prison. Casper was offered to stay in his house, due to his old age, if he would just keep quiet... Casper's response was: "I will open my house to all who are in need". With that they were forced into the truck and sent to the prison in Scheveningen, near the Hague.
Father Casper died ten days after his imprisonment and was put in an unmarked grave. Corrie and Betsy were transported to camp Vught and from there to the infamous Ravensbrück concentration camp.
(Luke 17:33 ; 2 Corinthians 5:8 ; Luke 10:25-37)
Into the fiery furnace
Ravensbrück was called a concentration camp for women. Corrie called it hell. The women were sent to work in forced labour. Between 1939 and 1945, the camp housed over 150.000 people, mainly women and children. Of them over 90.000 died due to starvation, over working, execution, decease and medical experiments.
Corrie managed to obtain a small pocket Bible in the prison in Scheveningen, which she kept close to her heart. when she and her sister Betsie entered Ravensbrück, they hid the Bible and miraculously, because of a sudden tumult, the guards took no notice of them and they smuggled the Bible into Ravensbrück.
In that fiery furnace, amid all the horrors, God sent two of His servants, carrying His Light, to shine a path for those whom He had before known, whom He had chosen from before creation. Not even the Satan’s Nazi’s could keep the Light from breaking through.
Betsy and Corrie started sharing the Gospel with their fellow prisoners and many women became followers of Christ in that terrible place.
(Daniel 3:16-28 ; 2 Timothy 4:2)
Within a year, we will be free
Betsie, with her weak health, got sick, she had visions of things that would be. In December 1944, just after Christmas, she told her sister: “we will both be released by the beginning of the year”.
The next day, Betsie died, leaving Corrie alone, but not alone, for Christ was with her in the afflictions of Ravensbrück. Corrie was released a few days later, because of a clerical error… the next day all the women of her age were executed.
Corrie was a branch plucked from the fire and she and her sister Betsie were freed, just as Betsie had foreseen. One went home to the Netherlands, the other went to a far better eternal home with Christ Jesus.
(Zechariah 3:1-2 ; Psalm 91:10)
My witness to all the world
After the war, Corrie at age 53, travelled the world, to tell everyone: "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". Unbeknown to her, that last believe would soon be put to the test.
During a speaking engagement at a church in Munich, a former Ravensbrück camp guard, a balding, heavyset man in a grey overcoat and a brown felt hat clutched between his hands, made his way against the stream of people leaving the church. He made his way towards Corrie, with an outstretched hand. In an instant she recognized him and her heart was gripped by fear. It was the guard who oversaw he women, when they entered the camp and had to strip and shower. He did not recognize her, she was sure, but there he stood, hand still outstretched, asking her forgiveness.
Corrie hesitated, she fumbled het pocketbook rather than shake his hand… She knew that this was a test. Did she really believe what she had just witnessed in front of all those people, concerning love and forgiveness ?
But then, with a quick prayer, she surrendered herself to the will of God and asked that He provide the strength. Mechanically she raised her arm and the former guard grabbed it. Their hands held each other for a long time.
Corrie would later remark, "For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely as I did then."
The former camp guard had found Jesus Christ after the war and had repented from the evil he had done, now he had found forgiveness from his victim and this story of God’s Loving Grace was born as a witness to you, who now read this article.
(Matthew 28:16-20 ; Matthew 5:44)
The scent of smoke
Corrie ten Boom, by the Grace and Power of God, was able to forgive and embrace as a brother, one who had been her enemy. One who embodied the people who were responsible for the death of her beloved father and sister and almost of herself.
Corrie was put into a fiery furnace heated sevenfold, but Christ was with her among the flames. When she was released, there was no scent of the smoke of hatered on her, nor were her hairs singed by fire. The love and Grace of God abided on her still. From her experience, Corrie was a witness for Christ Jesus to all who came after her, untill she died in 1983, age 91.
One day, perhaps soon, the darkness will re-emerge. We can take heart in the fact that the God who was with Corrie in the deepest darkest pit imaginable, is an unchanging God, who will be with His own and will never leave them. No one will be able to pluck us from His hands, even when we are called to suffer for His Name.
When that day comes, may we also stand in love and truth and in righteousness, as the ten Booms showed us, by emulating the Master on the Way.