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Corrie ten Boom was one of the most godly, inspiring individuals that many of us have ever read words from. Her deep wisdom came with the cost of journeying through tremendous pain in this life, yet even today, she has left us with amazing nuggets of truth from her experiences. Evidence that God still uses all we walk through in this world for greater purposes and good, more than we could possibly ever imagine.
Corrie spent the first 50 years of her life living peacefully with her father and sister above their watch shop in Haarlem, Holland. But when World War II broke out, this Dutch Christian family knew they had to offer help to those being persecuted. They began providing "hiding places" for Jewish people and Dutch resistance fighters in their home, helping many to escape the Nazi Holocaust.
God brought incredible beauty and healing through her difficult experiences. Her words and stories continue to have great relevance and impact in our world today.
10 Inspiring Facts and Stories You May Not Know about Corrie Ten Boom:
1. Corrie ten Boom was born in Haarlem, Netherlands on April 15, 1892, the youngest of 4 children. She moved to Placentia, California in 1977, and on her birthday in 1983, at the age of 91, she passed into Heaven’s gates. According to Jewish custom, celebrating the same day for both birth and death is the unique sign of a very special individual. I think the rest of the world would agree.
2. Corrie’s grandfather Willem had established a watchmaker’s shop in 1837 in Haarlem, Holland. With the shop on the ground floor, the family lived in the upstairs. Later the shop was inherited by his son Casper, Corrie’s father. She then trained to be a watchmaker also, and in 1922 became the first female licensed as a watchmaker in Holland. But in addition to being an expert craftswoman, God had much more in store for Corrie’s life.
3. In May 1940, the Nazis invaded the Netherlands. At the age of 48, in the midst of the pressing reality of those suffering great persecution, Corrie decided she had to do something to help. She devised a way to assist those needing aid, and planned out the idea of the family’s house being used as a refuge. Since the watchmaker’s shop had many customers constantly coming and going, it was the perfect secret location, since it didn’t easily raise suspicions.
4. The secret room built into Corrie’s bedroom behind a false wall became the hiding place and refuge for both Jews and those who were members of the resistance movement, sought out by the Gestapo and Dutch authorities. This small space was the size of a small wardrobe closet and could hold up to six people at a time. There was a buzzer in the house which signaled danger as security sweeps came through the neighborhood, giving the refugees just over a minute to safely hide. There in this small space, they would have to remain very still and quiet, until an all-clear was given.
5. On February 28, 1944, Corrie and her family were betrayed by a man who was an informant. He had entered the shop saying he was Jewish and seeking help for his wife who had been arrested. Gestapo agents kept the watchmaker’s shop under surveillance throughout the day, then arrested every person who attempted to enter the house, and the entire ten Boom family also, 30 in all. Although the Secret Police suspected there were more persons actually hiding in the house, even after careful search, the 4 Jews and 2 resistance fighters were kept hidden until they were rescued by other members of Corrie’s network several days later.
6. All of Corrie’s family were arrested and imprisoned. When her 84-year-old father was told he could be condemned to death for saving Jews, he responded, “It would be an honor to give my life for God’s chosen people.” He died soon afterwards in the Scheveningen prison, and Corrie and her sister were deported to the notorious Ravensbruck concentration camp. The sisters were able to stay together throughout their imprisonment, until her sister Betsie died on December 16, 1944. Just days before her death, Betsie said these words to Corrie, which many people still quote to this day, “There is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still. They will listen to us Corrie, because we have been here.” Twelve days later, Corrie was miraculously released from prison due to a “clerical error.” A week after her release, all of the female prisoners from her age group were killed.
7. During their time in the concentration camp after long, hard days of work, Corrie and her sister Betsie held worship services in their barracks with the other women, using a Bible they had managed to sneak into the camp. Corrie writes in her book The Hiding Place, “At first Betsie and I called these meetings with great timidity. But as night after night went by and no guard ever came near us, we grew bolder… A single meeting might include a recital of the Magnifacat in Latin by a group on Roman Catholics, a whispered hymn by some Lutherans, and a sotto-voce chant by Eastern Orthodox women. With each moment, the crowd around us would swell… At last either Betsie or I would open the Bible. Because only the Hollanders could understand the Dutch text, we would translate aloud in German. And then we would hear the life-giving words passed back along the aisles in French, Polish, Russian, Czech, and back into Dutch. They were little previews of heaven, these evenings beneath the light bulb.”
8. In 1946 at the age of 53, Corrie started a worldwide ministry that took her to more than 60 countries over the next 33 years, and gave her the opportunity to share God’s love and hope with many people. She wrote many books, but her 1971 best-selling book The Hiding Place was made into a movie by World Wide Pictures in 1975, starring Jeannette Clift George in the role of Corrie.
9. She received numerous tributes for her work and courage, including being knighted by the queen of the Netherlands. She was also honored by the State of Israel for her work in aiding the Jewish people and was invited to plant a tree in the Avenue of the Righteous Gentiles, at the Yad Vashem, near Jerusalem. This is the place where Oskar Schindler is also honored. Corrie ten Boom’s childhood home in Haarlem is now a museum which is dedicated to her family’s memory and still an inspiration to all who enter. A watchmaker’s shop is still functioning on the ground floor.
10. Much of Corrie’s writings surrounded themes of love and forgiveness. She walked these qualities out in her own life so powerfully. Corrie tells this inspiring story in The Hiding Place:
“It was at a church service in Munich that I saw him, a former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower room 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 had 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 prayed, 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.”
Corrie ten Boom’s amazing life and journey remind us still today how to live strong and love well through the hope and freedom of Christ. May we press on in that rich wisdom, moving forward with the same forgiving, inspiring spirit that typified this courageous soul.
In her very own words, “We have nothing to fear because Jesus is Victor, and He will never let us down. With Jesus, even in our darkest moments, the best remains. And the very best is yet to be.”
Debbie McDaniel is a writer, pastor's wife, mom to three amazing kids (and a lot of pets). Join her each morning on Fresh Day Ahead's facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/DebbieWebbMcDaniel, for daily encouragement in living strong, free, hope-filled lives. Find her also at http://twitter.com/debbmcdaniel.
Publication date: June 29, 2016