The family of ten Boom lived in Haarlem, Holland (Netherlands). They attended the Dutch Reformed Church. Cornelia Arnolda Johanna “Corrie” ten Boom’s father, Casper, was a well-known watchmaker throughout Europe. In later years, Corrie (1892-1983) also learned how to make watches; she became an expert in doing wristwatches. She was the first woman-licensed watchmaker in the Netherlands.
Corrie’s sister, Nollie, helped their father in their watchmaking business. Another sister, Betsie, became a teacher, and her brother, Willem, was a Reformed Pastor. Corrie usually stayed at home doing house chores and assisting her aunts and mom. Most of their family were sickly; her aunts have diabetes, the other has tuberculosis, and her mom is already physically weak. Even though her busyness at home, Corrie finished her Normal School and Bible school. She learned to teach children, mainly young girls, at her home.
Corrie’s family is devoted to God and compassionate in serving others. However, she wondered and asked why her family needs to suffer from these illnesses and sufferings that they have. Sooner, one of her aunts died, while another had to endure serious pain in her diabetes. Moreover, at a young age, she became seriously ill too. She was disappointed in God; pondering that her family was faithful to God but why does she need to experience such struggles.
Willem visited and left some theology books with Corrie. She started reading the books, meditating on her Bible and read Paul in his never-ending trials. She found strength in the Gospels. She prayed to God, “Deliver me from this affliction, Lord.” After five months in her bed, the doctor checked her up and it turned out she had appendicitis. She needs to have an operation. After surgery, her fever vanished. Corrie recovered from her health.
When Corrie was twenty-one years old, she fell in love with her brother’s classmate in the seminary, Karel. Karel was about to be ordained as a pastor; he will now be available to get married. For three years, they were exchanging letters. Corrie was expecting that they will be together as to how she prayed it to God. But one night, she heard a knock on their door.
When she opened the door, it was Karel, but this time with his fiancée. “I want to introduce my fiancée,” Karel said. She felt pain, excruciating pain. After they left, Corrie ran to her bedroom and cried out to God. Her father followed and told her, “Love is the strongest force in the world, and when it is blocked there is great pain.” “It is excruciating”, Corrie answered. “We can kill the love to make it stop hurting. Or we can direct the love to another route. Give your love to God,” uttered Corrie’s dad. After hearing these words, she thought at first that she will never love another man. But she realized that she needs to give her love to God. And she did pray for it.
She focused on her studies in the Bible School but she failed the final test. She took it again and this time she passed. Indeed, it was a blessing for her, until her mother had a severe stroke that led to comatose. After her mom recovered, they attended Corrie’s sister’s wedding, Nollie. They sang their mother’s favorite Hymn: Fairest Lord Jesus. Corrie’s mom sang the last verse then she relapsed. After a month their mom died. After some years her other Aunt died also. Now the ten Boom family were just Nollie, Betsie, Corrie, Willem, and their father, Casper.
Still, Corrie continued her ministry by meeting the young girls at their place; they grew as a Girl’s club. Their four club rules were: (1) seek your strength through prayer, (2) be open and trustworthy, (3) bear your difficulties cheerfully, and (4) develop the gifts that God gave you. During the development of her club, Corrie’s dad got hepatitis. She prayed earnestly because she did not know what will happen to her if her dad dies. But her dad recovered and started employing staff for their business.
Everything went well until the German Nazis came to bring chaos to their nation. And this is where God used the ten Boom family, especially Corrie. The horror now came to their place. The German Nazi started invading nearby countries and torturing people especially Jewish people. The Gestapo – the secret police of the Nazis came to Holland and started searching their places. Most of the time they confiscated their radios, bicycles, and took men ages seventeen above.
Now Corrie’s dad is devoted to God and to the Jews since they are the chosen nation. The ten Boom family taught of keeping Jewish people in their house. And they did, they saved Jewish people who knock on their door by hiding them in a secret room. If given the chance, they transport them to a safer place. Their place became known as Beje. They were now thinking if that they are now worst of traitors to the Third Reich or most loyal of the faithful to God’s glory.
One day their place became noticeable since they do the rites of the Jewish people and worship with them. The neighbors became suspicious. Corrie and her family practiced their drill whenever a Gestapo office visited them. They made a buzzer that warns the Jews to hide in the secret room. It was doing well until someone from their place revealed them.
Corrie was summoned to the station and asked to confess all the main players of the underground who helps the Jews. But she answered, “My role is to free lips, not to silence them. And I will pray for you.” But later, they were all imprisoned, even her father. Since Casper was too old, he was allowed to go home as long as he promised to behave. But he answered, “If I go home, I will open my door again to anyone who knocks.” After 10 days in prison, he died.
Corrie and her sisters were grieving inside. They were now in prison for three months, deprived of taking a bath, eating delicious food, and sleeping in a comfortable bed. Yet Corrie thought that in all things, give thanks. Corrie praised God for the ant, for it was the first time since someone visited her. Providentially, she memorized some of the passages and meditated on those verses. She was able to pray for an officer and shared Jesus with him. Through this end, the officer helped them to be released.
Most of them were released except Betsie and Corrie. They were taken and transferred to a concentration camp. Their situation became harder; their hairs were shaved and kept there for a long time. But the sisters found the courage and became the light inside the camp. They worship and read the Bible that they got from a nurse. But after some months many died because of lack of food and no medical service.
Later, they were transferred again to Southeast of Berlin, the Ravensbruck. It was a hell-like life that they had there. They worked for the Germans like they were slaves. But they endured these adversities with the hope that they will taste freedom once again. Yet every day became heavier and heavier. Also, as for their health, Betsie became pale, skinny, and had pneumonia. While Corrie, because of the continuous beating became weak and broke some of her bones.
Nonetheless, the more they became weak, the more they became strong in Christ. Betsie was 59; Corries was 52 by that time. Grateful as they were, they praised God for potatoes; praised God for the fleas because the guards won’t enter their rooms since Germans were scared to get sick. God provides new vitamins for them every day which they shared with others. One night Betsie had a high fever that the lady guards rushed her to another room to be isolated. But there were no doctors in the camp, she was just there resting.
Corrie escaped one day from her duty as a prisoner and visited Betsie secretly. Betsie shared that she envisions that after their release, they will put up a home for all who suffered from the Nazis, and even the German people who were just victims of this madness. She described that it should have golden tiles, with a large garden, many rooms, and other specific details. Corrie admired her sister’s faith. Betsie did not have even a single inch of hatred towards their oppressors.
Betsie died months before their release. Corrie was deeply grieving, she was devastated. The Americans and French people now intervened in the war; Germans are losing. After some time, Corrie finally tasted freedom. Together with some of the prisoners, they traveled once again towards their place using the same train that they used going to Berlin. But they needed to have a stopover since most of the railroads were destroyed during the war.
Old people were able to find rest in an apartment with some nurses. One of the nurses asked Corrie where her hometown is. She answered that it was in Holland. The nurse was surprised and asked if she knows Corrie ten Boom. Corrie cried while asking, “Are you one of my girls?” Indeed, her work is not in vain. Her girls are being used by God in debriefing camps and nurses.
She went home to Holland and tried to reestablish their watchmaking business. However, she had this desire to pursue Betsie’s vision. She started proclaiming how Christ was faithful during their imprisonment. How God provided for them, and how she desires to help these people who also suffered. Glory to God, a lady volunteered to donate her mansion as a home for these people. Amazingly, all the specific descriptions of Betsie were the same as the mansion.
This center became an emblem of reconciliation for overcoming the pain and scars that resulted from both parties. The center did not just receive the persecuted ones but also the Germans who needed assistance. This was truly an act of grace. Corrie sought for them through prayers; also, forgave them, cared for them, provided, and loved them.
It was a part of God’s plan. Corrie started traveling to the USA and around the world with only 50 dollars in her pocket. God provided her entire journey. She wrote best-selling books and even produced films like The Hiding Place together with the help of prominent evangelist Billy Graham. On her ninety-first birthday, she died peacefully.
One time, she was asked in her interview; what was your motivation? Where did you get your strength? Then she answered, “I prayed every day, and got my strength from the gospels.” Surely, nothing—not even death—can separate us from God’s love.
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