When I was in middle school, I went through a long phase of preoccupation with the Holocaust. My family had stopped in Washington D.C. when we returned from living in South America and were driving from Miami to New Hampshire, where my Nana lived. We hit all the monuments, the national museums, and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. I had never been so heart-broken or horrified in my twelve years leading up to that visit. I have vivid memories of receiving my passport at the entrance, with the picture and details of a Holocaust victim, walking through each room, stepping into a train car, looking at the dioramas of tiny nude bodies filing into gas chambers, watching the videos of survivors sharing their stories. The museum was dark, quiet, and overwhelming. After that, I remember spending months and months reading whatever I could find about the horrific plight of the Jews during WWII, staring in disbelief at pictures of starving children and piles of corpses.
I also remember reading the book and watching the movie The Hiding Place, which tell the story of the remarkable ten Boom family’s efforts to save Jewish people in their hometown of Amsterdam, and their capture and captivity in the concentration camp Ravensbruck in Germany. Corrie ten Boom was angry, bitter and doubting God, while her sister Betsie exhibited surreal faith in God and optimism despite their circumstances. One story that sticks out in my mind is when their barracks became infested with lice, Betsie said they should thank God for all things, and so she prayed in thanksgiving for the lice. And it turned out to be a blessing when the guards would not enter their dorm for fear of the infestation and they were able to lead Bible studies with the other inmates! Before Betsie died in the camp, she told Corrie, “There is no pit so deep that He [God] is not deeper still.” Corrie went on to honor her sister’s vision of a retreat center for survivors and guards after the war, and began an itinerant preaching ministry, traveling and teaching for the rest of her life on forgiveness.
Wikipedia shares this story: “Corrie ten Boom’s teaching focused on the Christian Gospel, with emphasis on forgiveness. In her book Tramp for the Lord (1974), she tells the story of an encounter while she was teaching in Germany in 1947. She was approached by a former Ravensbrück camp guard who had been known as one of the cruelest. Reluctant to forgive him, she prayed that she would be able to. 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.
In the same passage, she wrote that in her post-war experience with other victims of Nazi brutality, those who were able to forgive were best able to rebuild their lives. She appeared on many Christian television programs discussing her ordeal during the Holocaust and the concepts of forgiveness and God’s love.”
Corrie ten Boom is a looming hero of the faith for me. It really has not been that long since Corrie walked this earth and spread her message of love, mercy and forgiveness. She worked hard her whole life and sold millions of books, but lived simply and never kept more than two dresses to her name. She was a tireless and faithful witness, a truly Beautiful Kingdom Warrior. I wanted to share a bit of her story with you today, April 15th, as it is the anniversary of her birthday (1892) and also her death (1983). Let us be inspired by a woman who lived in the pit of hell and walked out with a new understanding of God’s love and mercy.
And I highly recommend purchasing one of her books!
The Hiding Place
Amazing Love: True Stories of the Power of Forgiveness
Tramp for the Lord
I Stand at the Door and Knock