1401 Charlestown Road
Phoenixville, PA 19460
800.432.8322 | 610.935.0450
1401 Charlestown Road | Phoenixville, PA 19460 | 610.935.0450
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"Don't bother to give God instructions, just report for duty."
Corrie ten Boom
Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to meet or even hear Corrie ten Boom in person. Her life, however, left an indelible imprint on countless individuals, including me. This is her story.
Corrie was born on April 15, 1892 near Haarlem in the Netherlands, as the youngest of four children. Her father was a well-liked watch repairman and was often referred to as "Haarlem's Grand Old Man,"
Corrie herself began training as a watchmaker in 1920, and in 1922 she became the first female watchmaker licensed in the Netherlands. She was a very devout Christian and an active member of the Dutch Reformed Church.
In 1940, the Nazis invaded the Netherlands and life suddenly changed for Corrie and her family. Some of her fervent religious activities were banned. And in 1942, she and her family became active in the Dutch underground by helping to hide Jewish refugees from the Nazi SS.
Word spread among the Dutch underground that the ten Boom family was helping to hide Jews. With the growing need for a place to hide, they decided to build a secret room in Corrie's bedroom which was in the highest part of the house. The secret room was "about 30 inches deep, about the size of a medium wardrobe with a ventilation system for breathing."
To enter the secret room, a person would have to open a sliding panel in a cupboard and crawl on their hands and knees. It even had a buzzer to give any person inside a warning of a raid. With the help of a Dutch informant, the Nazis raided the ten Boom house in 1944 with six people were inside the secret room.
The Germans arrested the entire ten Boom family on February 28, 1944. They were first sent to Scheveningen prison where Corrie's father died ten days later. Several family members were released but Corrie and her sister Betsie were sent to the Vught political concentration camp (in the Netherlands) and finally to the notorious Ravensbruck concentration camp in Germany.
At Ravensbruck Betsie died, but before she died in that awful place she told Corrie, "There is no pit so deep that God's love is not deeper still." Corrie was released on New Year's Eve in December 1944. She later learned that her release had been a clerical error. The women prisoners her age in the camp were killed the week following her release.
After the war, Corrie committed herself to help those who had suffered during the war. She also modeled again and again the importance of forgiveness. In her book Tramp for the Lord (1974) she referenced her encounter with one of the cruelest Ravensbruck camp guards. There she had spent four months alone in a cell. She had been beaten. People she loved had been cruelly treated; some had been killed.
But in spite of all of that, she described how her reluctance to forgive changed when she later met one of her most cruel prison guards. She wrote, "For a long moment we grasped each other's hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God's love so intensely as I did then."
Israel honored her by named her Righteous Among the Nations. She was knighted by the Queen of the Netherlands in recognition of her work during the war, and a museum in the Dutch city of Haarlem is dedicated to her and her family. Evie and I will never forget our visit to the Ten Boom house.
Corrie died on her 91st birthday, April 15, 1983. Her book The Hiding Place tells this story in an unforgettable way.
When I think of her life I am reminded again of the powerful influence of one person who can come out of a most horrible experience and in spite of it all, can make an enormous difference with her life.
Think about it.
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Valley Forge Christian College is a private Christian College located in Chester County, Pennsylvania, 35 miles northwest of downtown Philadelphia. VFCC offers on its sprawling park-like campus, as well as online, 67 undergraduate and seven graduate degrees in the Arts, the Sciences and the Professions. The college's mission is to prepare individuals for a life of service and leadership in the church and in the world.