“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is” Ephesians 5:15-17 (NIV)
Corrie ten Boom was a Dutch watchmaker who lived with her sister, Betsie, and her father in the Netherlands. Corrie grew up as a Christian and helped care for disabled people in her charitable work. She and her sister never married and lived together with their father in his shop.
After the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands in 1940, Corrie and her father and sister were approached by a Jewish woman whose husband had been arrested and deported, to see if she would consider hiding her. The family didn’t think twice and took her in. They then hid 6 more Jewish men, women, and children in their home, which was just a block away from the Gestapo police station and joined the Dutch resistance. Corrie would obtain extra ration cards from the father of one of her disabled children that she cared for and would hand them out to every Jewish person she knew. She and her sister were even trained by a Dutch police friend how to be interrogated in the middle of the night and not give their secrets away, in case the Nazis would make a surprise raid. They called their home, “de Beje” or “The Hiding Place.” They never tried to convert their Jewish refugees and considered them honored guests. Being a devout Christian, Corrie struggled morally with the idea of lying, forgery, bribing and deceitfulness and prayed about it daily. She worried that her actions were putting not only herself but also her family in death’s path if they were caught. Yet she felt a strong “calling” to continue her work.
On February 28, 1944, an informant notified the Gestapo of Corrie and her family’s resistance work and she and 30 of her family members were arrested. Corrie and Betsie were sent to a Dutch political prisoner camp. Her father died 10 days later in custody. The rest of her family was released. The 6 Jews in hiding were saved and were never found by the Germans.
Corrie was held in solitary confinement for 3 months. At her first trial, she spoke about her work with the mentally disabled. The Nazi officers scoffed at her, as they had been exterminating the mentally ill for years based on their eugenics ideology. Corrie defended her work and told them that in the eyes of God, a mentally handicapped individual may be more valuable than a watchmaker or even a lieutenant.
Corrie and Betsie were eventually moved to Ravensbruck Concentration Camp in Germany, a women’s extermination camp that was known to be especially cruel to its prisoners. There, Corrie and Betsie held nightly church with a Bible that they were able to hide. Betsie was very forgiving in the camp, even of the Nazis who were so cruel to her. Betsie’s health deteriorated and she died on Dec. 16, 1944. Before she died, Betsie told Corrie, “There is no pit so deep that He (God) is not deeper still.” Corrie was released 15 days later due to a clerical error. She later learned that a week after her release, all the women in her age group were gassed.
After the war, Corrie started a rehabilitation center that took in everyone in need---refugees, the mentally ill and even those jobless folks who had collaborated with the Germans. No one was turned away. She returned to Germany in 1945 and met with two guards who had been especially cruel to Betsie and forgave them in person. She proceeded to go on a world speaking tour, telling of her experiences and wrote her book, “The Hiding Place”, which I read in high school. I was so inspired by this book and of Corrie and her sister’s faith, hopefulness, and forgiveness. Their story has resonated with me ever since.
God often calls us to do things that aren’t easy and puts us into situations where he knows we can help, even if that means forgiving those that do us wrong or hurt us or our families and friends. People may scoff at us or disregard us. We may doubt ourselves and it’s very easy to be discouraged during these times and to lose hope, especially when it seems like the “bad guys” are getting away with murder. But God lifts us up from the pit and uses others to help us. He encourages us and gives us the strength to continue. We just must be ready to listen and act.
Questions for Reflection:
- Have you ever felt that God has assigned you to perform a seemingly impossible task of forgiving someone even when the other person has clearly done you a horrible wrong and was clearly “the bad guy”? What did you do? Were you able to forgive them? How did God help you forgive that person?
- Have you ever tried to spread God’s word to those who wouldn’t listen? What did you do? How did God help you?
Heavenly Father, Thank you for your whispers and for encouraging us to do your work, even when it’s hard and it’s the last thing we want to do. Thank you for your reassurances that you are GOD and that your will be done, despite our setbacks and our doubts. Help us not to judge others, even when it’s hard not to. Thank you for giving us the strength to do your will in this world. Remind us of your presence with us each day. Give us courage and strength to continue to forgive and love, even in the worst of times. Amen.