People of Faith: Corrie ten Boom, Part 3

Continued from Part 1 and Part 2. Corrie and her sister Betsie have been sent to the German concentration camp, Ravensbruck.

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Miraculously Corrie was able to take her Bible (Betsie had given hers away, a book at a time) into Ravensbruck, though the prisoners were stripped and required to leave all their belongings behind in the processing center. In the darkness of that sin-sick place, God’s light—His Word, His miraculous answers to prayer, the worship offered Him by those living on the edge of death—shone brightest. Whenever possible, Corrie told her fellow prisoners that Jesus died on the cross for them, and by way of encouragement she reminded them that Jesus was Victor.

The sisters were assigned to the knitting crew and this group soon became the praying heart of the camp, making petition for their guards, the healing of Germany, Europe, the world—just as their mother had once prayed from the prison of her crippled body, just as Corrie would one day pray from her own personal confinement.

They held their services in the evening, and the highlight of their worship was reading Scripture. Because the prisoners in Ravensbruck came from all over Europe, only a few could understand the Dutch rendition Corrie read, but a translation chain developed and the life-giving words were passed from one language to another.

Even as their spirits grew stronger, however, their bodies grew weaker. In late November Betsie became gravely ill, and in December she died. Three days later Corrie received word that she was to be released—a miracle since all the women her age and older were scheduled for execution soon after. However, she failed the required physical and spent two weeks in the medical facility. Finally her clearance came through, and by New Year’s Day she was on her way back to Holland.

After a period of recovery, Corrie tried to return to her previous activities, working in the watch shop and re-establishing her ministry to the mentally disabled, but she was restless. At last she realized she needed to fulfill the work that Betsie had envisioned for them during those months in Ravensbruck: telling people what they had learned—that even in a concentration camp, Jesus was Victor because no pit was so deep that God wasn’t deeper still. That very week, Corrie began her speaking career.

After the war, by God’s providential provision, she was able to open a home for concentration-camp survivors in a fifty-six-room mansion in Haarlem. Because God had taught Corrie forgiveness through His Word and Christ’s example on the cross, she also turned the Beje into a home where the hated Dutch collaborators could find restoration.

A year later, she saw the fulfillment of another of Betsie’s visions—an old concentration camp in Germany converted into a facility to minister to those displaced by the war.

Meanwhile Corrie continued to speak, in part to raise money for these rehabilitation efforts but also because those who survived the war had a hunger for the message of forgiveness.

Over the years her evangelistic speaking ministry expanded until she became a “tramp for the Lord” (the title of one of her later books), traveling during the next thirty-three years to more than sixty countries. She spoke in prisons and churches, to large groups and small, always telling about God’s love and forgiveness, most clearly lived out by Betsie in Ravensbruck as she expressed compassion for her enemies and prayed for those who mistreated her.

Eventually Corrie added writing to her speaking engagements. Her autobiography, The Hiding Place, co-authored by John and Elizabeth Sherrill, was published in 1971. Four years later eighty-three-year-old Corrie saw her story become a movie distributed by World Wide Pictures.

The next year she shifted her focus from personal speaking engagements to writing and film production. To facilitate the latter she decided to settle in Southern California. She found a home she called Shalom House and much like her father before her, opened her doors to those in need of prayer and counseling. Including those she talked to on the telephone, Corrie ministered in this way to hundreds of people. Correspondence flooded her from across the globe.

Eighteen months after Corrie moved into Shalom House, her longest imprisonment and most remarkable ministry began. In August 1978 she suffered the first of a series of strokes that left her progressively disabled. First she experienced temporary paralysis and loss of speech. While she regained some mobility, she lost the ability to communicate in sentences. Though Corrie worked hard at therapy, a subsequent stroke robbed her of all speech, and she lost much of her independent functions.

Despite her limitations, God continued to use her. Nurses, visitors, the gardener, a cleaning lady—any number of people saw the love and joy of the Lord shining through her eyes. Some came to Christ as a result. Many commented on the peace of God that pervaded her home. And Corrie continued to pray. Eventually she became bed-ridden. Five years after her first stroke, on her ninety-first birthday, she passed into God’s presence. But even in death the message of her life continued—inscribed on her grave marker were the words “Jesus is Victor.”

“She had served Jesus Christ in her strength; she served Him in weakness,” wrote her companion and care-giver Pamela Rosewell Moore in the forward to Corrie’s devotional Not I, But Christ. “She served Him in her life; she served Him in death. How precious her life and testimony were to Him, even when she was removed from the public eye. She followed and obeyed Him then as constantly as she ever had” (p. 12).

To be continued.

See “People of Faith: Corrie ten Boom, Part 4.”

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