By Melissa McLaughlin
Sometimes, a message of God’s hope is the only gift you can offer another person.
Sometimes, this is the only gift we really need.
One woman who has inspired multitudes with her message of hope in Christ is Corrie Ten Boom.
Corrie was born in the Netherlands on April 15, 1892, into a family of accomplished watchmakers. In keeping with family tradition, Corrie trained and later became the first female licensed watchmaker in the Netherlands.
The Ten Boom’s were sincere, faithful and generous Christians. Corrie’s family held weekly Bible studies and prayer meetings in their home. In addition, Corrie conducted Christian outreach programs and worship services for people with disabilities in her community. Recognizing the leadership of Hitler as sheer evil, Corrie’s family began hiding Jewish people in their home in order to protect them from Nazi persecution that spilled over from Germany after the Germans invaded the Netherlands during World War II. The Ten Boom’s became part of the Dutch underground resistance movement, protecting, hiding and helping Jewish people escape from their now Nazi occupied country.
After working together to rescue Jewish babies from an orphanage where they were slated to be killed, a young Dutch native who worked in the underground network with Corrie’s family, was said to emphatically proclaim, “There is no greater work to be done in this whole world than saving people’s lives.” Corrie gently corrected the young man, explaining that there was one greater task to be done, that of saving people’s souls. According to Corrie, “When you come to Jesus and bring your sins to Him, you are forgiven and He will give you a peace that passes understanding. Thank God that Jesus died on the cross for your sins and receive Him as your Savior and Lord.” She clarified for the young man, that sharing this message is our most important work.
At the time, the young man couldn’t understand the significance of Corrie’s words. However, some months later this same young man was imprisoned for his underground work and told that he and all those with him would be executed by the end of the week. The young man told his friends about Jesus and reassured them that when the gun fired, if they believed in Jesus, their souls would be at rest with Christ in heaven. Many accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. He wrote a long letter to Corrie just before he died, stating that now he understood the greatest work a person could do is tell others about Christ in order that souls may be saved.
He and the others were executed as scheduled.
After many months of successfully protecting Jews in their home as part of the Dutch underground resistance movement, tragically the Ten Boom family was betrayed by a Dutch neighbor who was secretly colluding with Nazi leaders. Corrie and her family were imprisoned on February 28, 1944. Corrie’s father died 10 days later at the age of 84. Her sister, Nollie and nephew, Willem were released. However, Corrie and her sister, Betsie, remained in prison.
While there, Corrie spent over three months in solitary confinement in a 5’ by 2’ prison cell. She experienced horrific conditions and felt desperate and lonely as day after day, week after week, month after month, she was completely and utterly alone. In an interview on the show I Believe in Miracles, Corrie described how she prayed from the depths of her soul, crying out, “God I can’t be alone anymore.” Shortly after voicing that prayer a small ant quietly wandered into the room. The ant strolled through and visited regularly and its tiny presence brought joy and a small sign of life from God. However, whenever a guard stomped down the hallway, the ant scurried off and hid in a small hole in the wall. Corrie felt God speak a message to her through the life of the ant, “As the ant has a hiding place in the wall, so I am your hiding place.”
Psalm 32:7 – You are my hiding place; You will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.
After several months, Corrie was taken to her first hearing. While on trial testifying, Corrie mentioned her work with the mentally disabled people in her community. The Nazi lieutenant who was overseeing the hearing sneered, as the Nazis had been annihilating mentally disabled people, due to their heartless eugenics ideologies. Corrie promptly defended her outreach efforts, asserting that from God’s point of view, a mentally disabled person might be more valuable “than a watchmaker or a lieutenant.”
Corrie and her sister, Betsie, were eventually transferred to the Ravensbrück concentration camp near Berlin, Germany, where over 90,000 women died by the time World War II ended. The Ten Boom sisters were able to smuggle a small Bible into the prison and regularly held Bible studies and worship services with fellow prisoners, bringing hope and Christian encouragement, in an otherwise bleak and hopeless situation.
One evening, all of the youngest prisoners were moved out at midnight to an ammunition factory in order to replenish the dwindling workforce there. All the prisoners knew this venture would be very dangerous, as the ammunition factory was targeted for bombings by allied troops fighting against the Germans. Corrie and Betsie were too old to be included in this group, so Corrie slipped out of the prison barracks at night and hid behind a building while the 250 young prisoners marched solemnly forward. Row by row in the pitch-black night air, Corrie whispered to them:
“God’s love stands after all else has fallen.”
”Jesus is Victor.”
Corrie repeated these phrases, alternating, one by one, row by row, until the prisoners were gone. Then she swiftly crept back to her bunk without being caught.
Sometime later, the prisoners returned to the concentration camp and told Corrie the factory was indeed bombed and they all feared for their lives. However, as the bombs dropped and the building shook, as they huddled together and waited in dread, they reminded one another of the two phrases that Corrie had whispered to them in the dark of night.
“God’s love stands after all else has fallen.”
“Jesus is Victor.”
Of the 250 young people who left to work in the ammunition factory, 249 returned alive. Corrie’s response to this miraculous sparing of life, “Prayer is powerful.”
Sometimes all we can offer is a whisper of hope.
But sometimes this is the very thing that is needed.
As time passed, Corrie’s sister, Betsie, grew very sick and knew she would soon die. Betsie asked Corrie to share this message once freed, “No matter how deep a pit you are in, the everlasting arms of the Lord are deeper still. We can tell them because we have been here. We are not talking about theory or theology, but reality and experience.”
Deuteronomy 33:27a – The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.
Betsie Ten Boom died on December 16, 1944 at the age of 59. Corrie was devastated. They had been together since birth and together had endured the unspeakable evil of the Holocaust. A mere fifteen days later, Corrie was released from Ravensbrück. Incredibly, this was just one week before they massacred all of the women Corrie’s age and older in the gas chamber, in order to make room for new prisoners. After her discharge, Corrie learned that her inexplicable and timely release was the result of a clerical error. Corrie’s life was miraculously spared. In her words, it was “man’s blunder but God’s miracle.”
After the war, Corrie opened a rehabilitation center for those who had survived the concentration camps as well as destitute members of the Dutch community. In 1945, Corrie returned to Germany where she met, and with the help of God, forgave two of the Ravensbrück guards. Corrie was invited to speak in more than 60 countries telling this amazing story of healing and hope in Christ, despite having faced such staggering hatred and heinous brutality. Corrie’s biography The Hiding Place recounts this intensely tragic and profoundly triumphant story.
Corrie dubbed herself “A Tramp for the Lord.” In her words, “By my suffering I could understand a fraction of the suffering of Jesus.”
Interestingly, Corrie Ten Boom died on April 15, 1983, at age 91 on her 91st birthday.
Of all her extraordinary acts and words of faith, the ones I most remember are her simple, but profound words, “Jesus is Victor!”
Sometimes all we can do is whisper hope.
But sometimes this is the very thing we need.
In darkest night, when everything else is lost, may we remember Corrie’s gift to others who marched expectantly toward their own death, may we imagine her hushed voice and whisper to ourselves and to others,
“God’s love stands when all else fails.”
“Jesus is Victor!”
Sources and Resources:
Unabridged Interview with Kathryn Kuhlman https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1OaP_aSjyC0
The Hiding Place Movie https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlZiDwsZVJw
Ten Boom Museum https://www.tenboom.org/
Photo By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53666540