People of Faith: Corrie ten Boom, Part 4


After leaving the Nazi concentration camp, Corrie spent over thirty years speaking and writing about God’s love and forgiveness.

The conclusion.

What an extraordinary woman, we’re tempted to say. What made her faith so strong that she could endure such cruelty, grief, illness and isolation and still trust God as well as forgive her enemies?

Corrie said clearly that her faith accomplished nothing. It was too weak, too unstable, and sometimes she had a hard time believing when all around people were suffering hateful treatment and dying. She recognized instead that Jesus who promised to be with her always, carried her through those horrific circumstances.

From the age of five when Corrie prayed with her mother and yielded her life to Christ, she looked to Jesus. Her godly parents taught her by example and instruction to trust Him. Their love for God’s Word and commitment to prayer became infectious.

Besides the influence of Corrie’s parents, her sister Betsie proved to be a spiritual mentor, living her life in obedience to God and His Word and challenging Corrie to do the same. Before their arrest, Betsie prayed for the invading German pilots whenever she saw their planes. During her imprisonment she prayed for the German guards who mistreated them. In the months before she died, as she and Corrie prayed, God spoke to her about life after the war. She told Corrie of her vision to tell the German people of God’s love and forgiveness and to open homes for the hurting. Betsie understood that everything in life up to that point had been preparation for the ministry to come.

As God led in miraculous ways, Corrie embraced Betsie’s vision. But she also knew the truth about forgiveness first hand. Life in a concentration camp bred selfishness and a lack of love. Taking the warmest spot for roll call meant someone else would be cold, hoarding vitamins meant someone else would go without. Then there was the temptation to think that the power to help and to heal others’ hearts came from within her rather than from God. When the joy went out of her worship, Corrie faced her sin, confessed it and received God’s forgiveness and renewed fellowship. Later God would teach her to rely on the power of His love in order to forgive, even as she had been forgiven.

In the Beje Corrie had developed the life-time habit of beginning and ending each day with Bible reading and prayer. In prison she inhaled Scripture like one starving. During her concentration camp experiences the Bible was her light and hope. “The blacker the night around us grew,” she wrote in The Hiding Place, “the brighter and truer and more beautiful burned the word of God” (p. 177).

Was Corrie’s “secret,” then? Her upbringing? The godly influences in her life? Her prayer life? Her willingness to listen to and obey God’s Word? Corrie insisted the “secret” was not hers.

To illustrate the point, she wrote in Not I, But Christ about a trip in New Zealand she and a few others took by car. Along the way, they came to a primitive bridge. A man in their group got out to inspect the structure to see if it was strong enough for them to cross.

This man did not inspect our faith in the bridge, he inspected the bridge. So often we are inclined to look at our faith … but we must inspect the Bridge. We must not look at ourselves, but at Jesus. And when we look at Him we know He is strong. (p.53)

When people would approach Corrie and remark about the strength of her faith she similarly answered that Jesus sustained her:

It was His everlasting arms underneath me that carried me through. He was my security.

If I say it was my faith, then you, whenever you have to pass through hardships, can say, ‘I have not Corrie’s faith.’ But when I tell you it was Jesus, then you can trust the same One who has carried me through, will do the same for you (Corrie: The Lives She Touched, p. 153).

Corrie’s world turned especially dark during the Nazi era because the depravity of Man seemed to win out, but the truth is, we all live in a fallen world with sinful people who inevitably sin against us. Some of us may think we haven’t suffered to the same degree as Corrie and thus dismiss the idea that we too need to look to God to give us the ability to forgive. We think, perhaps, we should be capable of handling the “small stuff” or, worse, that we only have to forgive the “big stuff.”

Others of us may have suffered greater trauma than Corrie. Instead of the loving foundation and support of a godly family, we were hurt by those very people God designed to care for us. Perhaps the sin against us was violent or re-occurring over a long period of time.

Do the differing circumstances relegate Corrie’s life message as inapplicable for people in the twenty-first century? Hardly. Corrie did not direct her audiences to look at her or to learn x-number of steps in order to achieve forgiveness—such information might become outdated or irrelevant. Rather, Corrie ten Boom, before the traumatic events of World War II, during its blackness and the ensuing ministry to tell others what she knew to be true about God, and after as she experienced the approach of death, did what any person in any circumstance can do—she looked to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of her faith. She trusted in the One she knew to be the Victor and obeyed.

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Bibliography

Brown, Joan Winmill. Corrie: The Lives She’s Touched. Minneapolis: Special Edition, World Wide Pictures, Fleming H. Revell, 1979.

Rosewell, Pamela. The Five Silent Years of Corrie ten Boom. Zondervan, 1986.

Ten Boom, Corrie, and John and Elizabeth Sherrill. The Hiding Place. Chosen Books, 1984.

Ten Boom, Corrie, and Jamie Burkingham. Tramp for the Lord. Christian Literature Crusade, Fleming H. Revell, 1974.

Ten Boom, Corrie. Not I, But Christ. Thomas Nelson, 1983.

Ten Boom, Corrie. Prison Letters. Fleming H. Revell, 1975.

To read the entire article see Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Published in: on May 18, 2012 at 5:02 pm  Comments (1)  
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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.

– – – – –

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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