Heroes of the faith
Corrie ten Boom slowly walked through the house, treasuring all the memories the old walls held. After months in a Nazi concentration camp besieged by the worst suffering imaginable, it was surreal to be back in the warmth, safety, and love of the place she had called home all her 50 years. Despite the tremendous void left by those who had not survived, she did her best to resume her life working in the family’s watch shop and spending time with her remaining loved ones. And yet, she felt unsettled, restless.
Weeks later, when the grief for her sister seemed unbearable, she remembered Betsie’s words, “We must tell the people, Corrie. We must tell them what we learned…” And in that moment Corrie knew how she would spend the remainder of her days, for as long as God gave her.
Thou art my hiding place and my shield.
Growing up in a devout Christian home in Holland, Corrie learned from a young age to trust God in the hard times. Each day in the Beje, as they called their home, began with family breakfast and Bible reading. One such morning when she was six, Corrie recalls her father’s deep voice reading from the book of Psalms, “Thou art my hiding place and my shield: I hope in thy word.” What kind of hiding place? She wondered. What was there to hide from? She had no way of knowing at the time just how much that verse would become a lifeline for her and her sister.
“Lord Jesus, I offer myself for Your people. In any way. Any place. Any time.”
Not long after her 48th birthday, Germany invaded Holland. As she watched the persecution of Jews increase exponentially with each passing month, Corrie was overcome by the need to do something to help these innocent people. She joined the Dutch National Underground, and what began as merely coordinating stolen ration cards quickly became hiding Jews in her family’s home. A false wall was built in her bedroom to create a space where six people could hide should the Beje get raided. If caught, Corrie, her sister Betsie, and their father Casper would face severe punishment. But even in the face of possible death, they knew they had no choice but to continue, agreeing that “this was evil’s hour: we cannot run away from it.”
“This too is in His hands.”
The dreaded day came on February 28, 1944. At 5pm, after being tipped off by a neighbor, the Gestapo burst through the door of the Beje. Thanks to a warning system they had installed, all the Jews made it to the Hiding Place without being seen. But Corrie and her family were arrested and sent to a nearby prison, where 84-year-old Casper died just a few days later. After months of prison, solitary confinement, and multiple transfers, Corrie and Betsie eventually ended up in Ravensbruck concentration camp near Berlin where they were faced with the darkest evil that humanity had to offer. But while Corrie despaired, Betsie focused on praying for their oppressors and thanking God in everything, even the most unbearable circumstances, knowing that God was still sovereign over all.
“In darkness God’s truth shines most clear.”
With God’s help, they were able to smuggle a Bible into Ravensbruck and despite all the inspections and turmoil, He never let it be found. Often at the end of a long workday, hundreds of ladies would gather around Betsie and Corrie in the barracks to hear them read from their Dutch Bible, as their family had done every day of their lives. As Corrie recalls in her book The Hiding Place, “Then we would hear the life-giving words passed back along the aisles in French, Polish, Russian, Czech, back into Dutch. They were little previews of heaven, these evenings beneath the lightbulb.”
“Joy runs deeper than despair.”
Betsie, who had always been in frail health, died in Ravensbruck in December 1944. Two weeks later, Corrie was released. On a long walk weeks after her return home, she heard Betsie’s word once again, “We must tell people what we learned here. We must tell them that there is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still.” That same week, filled with a new purpose, Corrie began her speaking career at the age of 53. In the over 30 years of traveling the globe, Corrie spoke in over 60 countries and was pivotal in leading hundreds to Christ, including some of the former prison guards Betsie had spent so much time praying for. Until the day she died at age 91, Corrie never stopped sharing the good news that “Jesus was victor, He is victor, and He will be victor. Amen.”