I’ve been trying to upload pictures here for a few days now and nothing is working. While I wait for the tech support to get back to me, I thought I’d do just some writing, sans photos. It’s a lot of writing. If you get through it, I applaud you.
I love anything that has to do with WW2. I don’t know why; it all fascinates me. I own quite a few books on the subject and enjoy reading biographies/autobiographies and watching films on the subject. Most recently, I saw “A Woman in Berlin” which was based on an autobiography I read before moving to Peru – a female, German journalist who wrote every day during the time the Russians were living in Berlin. Fascinating. Graphic, but interesting.
This week, I have managed to run out of my own book supply, so I went to the schoolhouse and came home with my seventh grader’s reading book of last year – “The Hiding Place” – Corrie ten Boom’s autobiography. I read it in three days. I hadn’t read it since probably middle school, although I remember liking it back then. This time, though, I read it with such fresh eyes, it was like hearing the story for the first time.
What an amazing woman. Amazing family! There were a few things that stuck out to me most vividly.
The first was when her father, Casper, and she were looking out the window at the street below, before being taken captive. They watched a German beat up a Jew on the street and Corrie said she felt pity for the Jew. Her father said, no, he felt pity for the German. They had touched the apple of God’s eye.
Imagine that. Touched the apple of God’s eye. How true! Going through the “Daniel” study, I’ve been reminded over and over that God is Judge and He will dole out penalties to those who have hurt His own. I would not want to be on the receiving end of that anger. I think of Hitler and the impish way he died. Suicide? Are you kidding me? Much too easy. But, he will stand before the God of the universe and give an account. He will be punished for murdering millions of God’s children – His chosen people. God will not let it go. He has not forgotten. They are the apple of His eye. You mess with them, you mess with God. How true Casper ten Boom’s statement was!
Over and over again as well, Corrie’s sister, Betsie, reminded them that they were to love their enemies. While Corrie wanted to build a home for the mentally handicapped after the war because she felt they were in the greatest need, Betsie wanted to build a home for the guards in the concentration camps. She so sincerely felt that they needed to be rehabilitated and given time to heal from what they had done, she was willing to open her home to them and help them see the love of God. What love for your enemies! This love only came about through exorbitant, constant amounts of prayer. She was an amazing woman.
She also encouraged Corrie to constantly look around them and give thanks in all circumstances. While Corrie wanted to give thanks for just the good, Betsie encouraged her to give thanks for the bad as well. This included praising God for a bunker infested with fleas. This bunker was used during the day for the women who were not well enough to work outside – they stayed inside and sewed. Betsie became part of this crew. This was also the only building on the entire campus that the guards never entered, so when Betsie finished her quota, which was normally by noon, she would spend the rest of the day reading her Bible out loud and ministering to the women. They became the bunker that prayed for the rest of the camp, their guards, Germany, and the world. Months later, they learned that the guards refused to enter the bunker because… it was filled with fleas. Give thanks – even for the bad.
Corrie and Betsie also saw God work Old Testament miracles in their day. They watched their vial of vitamins last months longer than it should have – even after it was being doled out to up to 25 other women per meal, per day. Just when they were given actual vitamins, the vial ran out. Corrie was able to smuggle her Bible past security check-points, while the lady in front of her got searched three times! Corrie herself was released on a “clerical error.” A week later, every woman her age in Ravensbruck was gassed.
I look at her life and I think – look what God did with one, simple, Dutch woman. He didn’t use someone who was known for their bravery, their courage. He used a woman who willingly admitted she was not brave. In fact, after she was released, she was asked by the underground to do one more assignment and she basically blew it because she was so scared. She realized, openly, that God had given her bravery for when she needed it and when that time had passed, He’d taken it from her and given her the gift of public speaking instead. He used Betsie – a simple Dutch woman with major health problems, but a huge heart, to reach literally hundreds, if not thousands, for Christ. These two women would preach in the trains, the camps, the bunkers – anywhere and everywhere, allowed or not – and watch the transforming power of Jesus Christ change lives. They took the verse that talks about a light coming into the world literally. They became that light and in the midst of one of the darkest times of human history, they shone so bright, their stories are still told. They witnessed to guards, to captains, to police officers – God alone knows the ripple effect of these two lives.
They were both single, in their 50’s, no children, never married. Imagine if they had been married – if they had children. I’m positive God still would’ve used them, but their impact was so much bigger because they didn’t have extra cares and worries, like their older sister and older brother. Both of them were imprisoned as well, but had much less of an impact than Corrie and Betsie because they were both released earlier and spent most of their time with their families. I love being married and I wouldn’t change being pregnant for the world, but I firmly believe that God calls some to be single because He has such a big plan for them. They accomplished so much more because according to worldly standards, they had so much less.
I also highly respect their father, Casper. A Jewish lady with her newborn baby came to their house seeking protection. When they tried to place her with a pastor, the pastor’s response was that he could possibly die because of the baby and he adamantly refused to take them in. Casper ten Boom looked at the man and said that dying for that baby would be the highest calling he could ask for. He was in his 80’s during this time. He didn’t understand all the secretness of the underground (he questioned every “Mr. Smit” that came into the house with, “I knew a Smit family! Are you related to…?” never understanding that it was a cover name for hundreds of underground workers!), but he gladly gave up his freedom, and his life, for many complete strangers. He died ten days after being taken captive. In Corrie’s words, “He was freed.”
Corrie and Betsie said they never completely knew the political reasons why they were held as long as they were in different concentration camps. But, they both knew for certain that the spiritual reason was because someone needed to share hope in a place where hope was non-existent. Someone needed to shine a light in the pit of hell. For whatever reason, God called two, single women – a watchmaker and a caretaker – both in their 50’s, to be that light in hell.
I know I haven’t been called to that. I just pray that I can be the light He’s called me to be here, now, with the same boldness, the same love, the same excitement, that these women had in a place much more desolate.