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Thursday, June 2, 2011

How Do You Use Your Hiding Place?

Corrie ten Boom, a Dutch Holocaust survivor, wrote The Hiding Place, an amazing autobiography about that described her life as a member of a family that helped many Jews escape the Nazis. I read this book many years ago, and I still find myself thinking about Corrie and the other ten Booms when I need a little inspiration concerning the power of faith and love.

The Story of the ten Booms

Here is a brief summary of the ten Boom story. This information is taken from E. Smith and the Corrie ten Boom House Foundation, 2002-2011. Here is the site:

"The ten Boom family were devoted Christians who dedicated their lives in service to their fellow man. Their home was always an "open house" for anyone in need. The Ten Booms were very active in social work in Haarlem, and their faith inspired them to serve the religious community and society at large.

"During the Second World War, the ten Boom home became a refuge, a hiding place, for fugitives and those hunted by the Nazis. By protecting these people, Casper and his daughters, Corrie and Betsie, risked their lives. This non-violent resistance against the Nazi-oppressors was the ten Booms' way of living out their Christian faith. This faith led them to hide Jews, students who refused to cooperate with the Nazis, and members of the Dutch underground resistance movement.

"During 1943 and into 1944, there were usually 6-7 people illegally living in this home: 4 Jews and 2 or 3 members of the Dutch underground. Additional refugees would stay with the ten Booms for a few hours or a few days until another 'safe house' could be located for them.

"Corrie became a ringleader within the network of the Haarlem underground. Corrie and 'the Beje group' would search for courageous Dutch families who would take in refugees, and much of Corrie's time was spent caring for these people once they were in hiding. Through these activities, the ten Boom family and their many friends saved the lives of an estimated 800 Jews, and protected many Dutch underground workers.

"On February 28, 1944, this family was betrayed and the Gestapo (the Nazi secret police) raided their home. The Gestapo set a trap and waited throughout the day, seizing everyone who came to the house. By evening about 30 people had been taken into custody. Casper, Corrie and Betsie were all arrested. Corrie’s brother Willem, sister Nollie, and nephew Peter were at the house that day, and were also taken to prison.

"Although the Gestapo systematically searched the house, they could not find what they sought most. They suspected Jews were in the house, but the Jews were safely hidden behind a false wall in Corrie’s bedroom. In this 'hiding place' were two Jewish men, two Jewish women and two members of the Dutch underground.

"Although the house remained under guard, the Resistance was able to liberate the refugees 47 hours later. The six people had managed to stay quiet in their cramped, dark hiding place for all that time, even though they had no water and very little food. The four Jews were taken to new "safe houses," and three survived the war. One of the underground workers was killed during the war years, but the other survived.

"Because underground materials and extra ration cards were found in their home, the ten Boom family was imprisoned. Casper (84 years old) died after only 10 days in Scheveningen Prison. When Casper was asked if he knew he could die for helping Jews, he replied, 'It would be an honor to give my life for God's ancient people.'

"Corrie and Betsie spent 10 months in three different prisons, the last was the infamous Ravensbruck Concentration Camp located near Berlin, Germany. Life in the camp was almost unbearable, but Corrie and Betsie spent their time sharing Jesus' love with their fellow prisoners. Many women became Christians in that terrible place because of Corrie and Betsie's witness to them.

"Betsie (59) died in Ravensbruck, but Corrie survived. Corrie’s nephew, Christiaan (24), had been sent to Bergen Belsen for his work in the underground, and never returned. Corrie’s brother, Willem (60), was also a ring leader in the Dutch underground. While in prison for this "crime," he contracted spinal tuberculosis and died shortly after the war.

"Four ten Booms gave their lives for this family’s commitment, but Corrie came home from the death camp. She realized her life was a gift from God, and she needed to share what she and Betsie had learned in Ravensbruck: 'There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still' and 'God will give us the love to be able to forgive our enemies.' At age 53, Corrie began a world-wide ministry which took her into more than 60 countries in the next 33 years. She testified to God’s love and encouraged all she met with the message that 'Jesus is Victor.'"

The Unbelievable Ability To Forgive

After the war, when Corrie started to put her sister Betsie's dream into action, she began ministering to those hurt by the war--Dutch and German alike. Using the Beje, along with a donated mansion called Blomendaal, and even an old concentration camp, Corrie began her healing work.

Corrie ten Boom advocated reconciliation as a means for overcoming the psychological scars. Her teaching focused on the Christian Gospel, with emphasis on forgiveness. One particular incident shows how her faith was put to the test. She tells the story of how, after she had been teaching in Germany in 1947, she was approached by one of the cruelest former Ravensbrück camp guards. This guard had humiliated her sister. She was reluctant to forgive him, but she prayed that she would be able to.

She wrote: "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." She also wrote (in the same passage) that in her post-war experience with other victims of Nazi brutality, it was those who were able to forgive who were best able to rebuild their lives.

Corrie understood that God's love can conquer all. It could even heal the scars of those maimed by a evil Nazi regime. Above that, Corrie also understood that she needed to forgive her enemies, the kind of forgiveness only possible through a strong faith in God. The power of this message is almost too much for human comprehension.   

During the war, Corrie’s father said that he felt sorry for the Germans because "they have touched the apple of God’s eye." Felt sorry? How could the man express such a thing about those who would eventually take the lives of those in his family? Casper pitied those without the essential ideals concerning love for their fellow man.

Consider how the ten Booms lived their own lives.They never thought of not allowing people who were in need into their home. Even before the war, they raised eleven foster children, and they gave back a great deal to their community. Corrie's parents taught the family to never turn their backs on anyone who might need them.

Understand also that the ten Booms believed in the responsibility of Christians to stand up against evil. During the occupation, many of the Dutch turned their backs on their fellow countrymen and some even collaborated with the Germans. But, Corrie and her family knew God expected people to be responsible Christians.

The Hiding Place is a timeless book. The themes demand utmost thought and consideration. I marvel at the lives of these people and the strength of their convictions. Needless to say, lessons in The Hiding Place abound and are certainly relevant in the lives of readers today. What a roadmap.

"It is not my ability, but my response to God’s ability, 
that counts."
— Corrie ten Boom
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