I usually told this story on Thursday. It makes for a nice "closer" if you will, because I find it the most powerful. Every time I have told it, I have shed at least one eety, beety tear. At least one. Especially at the very end.
The events in this story are also taken from the Christian Heros: Then and Now series and some from the book "Tramp for the Lord" by Corrie ten Boom herself.
Corrie ten Boom's Example of Forgiveness
Betsie ten Boom's Example of Trusting God
Close your eyes and imagine this: Imagine that it’s a cold winter night. It’s late. You are sick in bed with the flu. You have guests staying in your house. They are in the room beside you. But, they are not just any guests. They are hiding guests. And if they are found, they will likely be killed. You have taken care of these guests for months and you have come to love them like your own family.
Imagine an intruder has barreled through the front door. Because you are so sick, you stay in bed rather than greet him. You must keep your guests a secret, because the intruder is here to find them. If they find the guests then they will be taken away and so will you. You pray hard that you and your guests will be safe.
The intruder comes up the stairs to your room. You can hear his heavy boots stomping on each step, almost as if he was trying to scare you. The intruder is now at your bedroom door, screaming for you to get out of bed. “Don’t come too close” you say weakly, “I am sick” and you cough. You cough louder to keep him away from you. You cannot move quickly, as he demands. But you finally get out of bed. You try to put on your shoes, but the intruder pushes you out of the room before you can even tie them. Your muscles ache and your head is swimming.
The intruder yells “WHERE ARE YOU HIDING THEM!!??” You cannot tell, so you keep silent, and try not to look in the direction of the secret room.
You reach the bottom of the stairs and find your family with more strange men. The intruder was not alone. There were more. One intruder said to the other “She’s the ring leader” and he points to you. “She knows where they are hiding. Take her to the back room and see what she knows.”
You are forced to another room where you are thrown against the wall and then onto a bench. “Tell me where you are hiding them!?” He demanded.
You pray to yourself that you will not make a mistake and then you hear and loud smack and feel a sting on your cheek. The intruder has struck you on the face and pushes you closer into the wall. More questions, more silence, more striking. You can feel your lip swollen from being hit on the mouth. You pray aloud, “Jesus, help me!”
The intruder stops and stares at you. “NEVER, EVER say that name in front of me again!”
You can hear the other intruders upstairs knocking out walls and destroying furniture. They are trying to find your guests. You pray again that God would protect them and keep them hidden as you are forced out of your home into the unknown.
Open your eyes.
As you were imagining all of that happening to you, did you feel scared? Did you feel like telling the secret and giving up, so that maybe the intruder would stop hitting you? Maybe you felt brave because you were protecting your friends. Maybe you were wondering what would happen to your friends if they were found? Maybe you were wondering what you happen to you and your family when you were forced out of your home?
Those feelings, thoughts, prayers and questions are all things Corrie ten Boom experienced the night the Beje, what her home in Holland was called, was raided by the German Nazi soldiers. The Jews were the people that she was helping to hide and if they were found, they would have been sent to a work camp, called a concentration camp, where they would work until they died. Some of them were killed even before they got to the concentration camp if they weren’t healthy or strong enough to work.
It was WWII and Germany was trying to take over several countries by invading them with war planes and bombs and troops. They were trying to become the strongest nation in the world. Hitler, who was the Chancellor/President of Germany promised the country that they would have a lot of jobs and food so that they would follow him.
Hitler had a group of Nazi soldiers called the “SS” and they carried out some of the most terrible crimes against anyone that was not Aryan (light skin, blue eyes, blonde hair & tall). Hitler believed that the Aryan race was superior/more important and that getting rid of anyone who was not Aryan would make him and the country he led more powerful. And the Jews were the most hunted.
Holland, where Corrie lived, is a neighboring country of Germany and the German soldiers easily took over the country of Holland. They were soon overwhelmed by bombings and raids.
Corrie and her sister Betsie were in bed asleep when they heard the first bombs screaming down from the planes in the sky, not far from the Beje. Corrie woke up to the sound of bombs colliding with buildings. She rushed to Betsie’s room and they both went downstairs to watch from the window.
Betsie said to Corrie, “Let’s pray.” So, Corrie prayed. She prayed for her family, their safety, the safety of the other people who may be getting hurt or killed by the bombs. She also prayed for wisdom for the leaders of Holland.
When she was done, she waited for Betsie to pray. Betsie began “God, we bring before You the German pilots up in those planes dropping bombs on us right now. We pray their eyes will be opened to the evil ways of Hitler. God bless them, and let them know You are with them always.”
Corrie opened her eyes. How could her sister pray such a ridiculous prayer? She didn’t even say “Amen” to it.
Corrie and her family owned a clock shop, where they repaird broken watches and clocks. During the German Occupation (the time the Germans were in Holland), their business was booming! Many of the German soldiers would come into the shop looking for souveniers to send back home to their families. Even though the business was doing well, there were other things that were not. Since the Germans were now occupying Holland, there were rules. There was a curfew. People had to be in their homes by 10 pm. Also, any type of group meeting was forbidden. Corrie had started what was called the Triangle Club, where she would teach Dutch children and teenagers about the Bible. They were no longer able to meet. Also, everyone was given ration cards. These cards gave you permission to get a limited amount of food from the grocery store. Even radios were banned. No one was allowed to listen to or own a radio.
Corrie and her family had 2 radios in the home. A great big one and a smaller, more modern one. Corrie would have handed them both over to the Dutch police if her nephew, Peter had not spoken up.
“But, Tante Corrie!” Peter said, “You don’t have to get rid of them both. I’m sure there are a hundred places in this old house where you can hide it.”
And there were. Peter found a place beneath the floorboard of a step where it fit nice and snug. It was located right next to the piano, too. So, when they wanted to listen to the news of the war, they could play the piano to mask the sound of the radio. It was important to know what was said on the news about the war. The Germans only put out newspapers that said how wonderful it was to be a part of this new Aryan Empire. Without a radio, no one would know the truth.
Soon, guests were arriving at Corrie’s doorstep. Many of these guests were Jews or people who worked in what was called “The Underground,” A secret organization that was opposing the war and trying to help the Jews escape. The Jews that came to Corries house needed a safe place to hide. And like Peter found a place for the radio, so Corrie and a nameless Arcitect found a place to hide the Jews in case the Beje was raided.
Corrie, Betsie and their father did everything they could to help the Jews. They secretly got more ration cards because the German soldiers were keeping more and more food away from them. They were also holding secret meetings were they would talk about the Bible and pray for their country and family members who have already been taken to concentration camps.
One day, a man came to Corries house. She didn’t recognize him and he didn’t use any of the secret words to show that he was part of the underground. But he seemed like he was in need so she listened to his story. He told her that he and his wife were hiding a Jewish Girl and that their home was raided by the German police. They arrested his wife and he heard from the underground that the police were easy to bribe and if he had the money, he could free her.
Corrie wasn’t sure she could trust him, but she put herself in his shoes. If she needed help, she would hope someone would do so, so she agreed to help him and told him to come back for the money after 5 pm. He never came back, but the German police did.
That was the night the Beje was raided. There were about 8 Jews and they hid in the secret room while Corrie, Betsie and her father were taken to a prison cell where Corrie was kept in a small cell with little to eat or drink. While at the prison, Corrie received a letter that informed her of her fathers death. The letter was from a relative. It seemed odd to Corrie that the letter inside the envelope was written very carefully and straight, but the address on the front of the envelope was written at a deep slant, pointing toward the stamp. Corrie remembered that as a way she and The Underground would often send secret messages. So, she lifted up the stamp and found written in tiny letters that "The Clocks at the Beje are safe." Corrie cried with joy. The code she read meant that the Jews she and her family hid had escaped from the Beje safely and were alright. Corrie did grieve for her father's death, but she knew that he was willing to die and did so gladly so that their Jewish friends might be safe. Later that summer, Corrie and Betsie were taken to a concentration camp.
While they were at this camp, they were forced to do labor so difficult it made them weak, sick and tired. They didn’t have meals that would keep them strong. If they ate, it was a cup of bad coffee and a piece of bread. They had to sleep in crowded bunks with hundreds of other women who barely fit into the room. Corrie and Betsies contant companion was the Bible that they shared. They were not allowed to have a Bible in the camp, and if they were caught with it, they would probably be shot by one of the guards.
When they entered the camp, Corrie put the Bible on a string around her neck and tucked it into her uniform dress, which was a thin white piece of worn cotton. The guards were searching each woman as she walked into the camp. Corrie prayed that God would help her to somehow get through the line and not be searched. When she reached the front of the line, the guard reached right passed her and searched the woman behind her. She was never even searched.
Because she had her Bible with her, she and Betsie would read verses outloud to the other women in their barracks. Hundreds of women would gather around to hear the hope that was offered by God’s word. It was amazing that they never got caught. Their bunks were infested with lice and none of the guards would come near the door. God used lice to protect Corrie and Betsie!
One night, while they were lying on their bunk, Betsie, who was very sick whispered to Corrie, “I need to tell you something…”
“What is it?” asked Corrie.
“I think I know what God wants us to do when we get out of here.”
Corrie was baffled. How could someone be thinking about the future when there hardly seemed to be one. Betsie amazed Corrie.
Betsie continued. “After the war, we must give the Germans that which they now try to take away from us: our love for Jesus.”
Corrie was again, surprised by her sister, “You mean, if we live, we’ll have to come back to Germany?”
Betsie put her arm around her sister, “Oh, Corrie,” she said, “There is so much bitterness and anger and hatred. We must tell them that God can fill their hearts with love and forgiveness.”
Corrie shuddered. Go back to Germany? Could she really do that?
Betsy continued, “This concentration camp has been used to destroy many lives and there are many other camps like it in Germany. After the war, they will not have use for them anymore and I have prayed that the Lord would give us one in Germany, that we can use to build up lives again.”
Corrie thought to herself, “No, I will return to my peaceful job as a watchmaker in Holland. I will never again set my foot across the border.”
But, Betsie went on, as if she answered Corrie’s thoughts. “The Germans are the most wounded people in the world right now. Think of the young girl guard who swore in such filthy language yesterday. She is just 17 or 18, but did you see how she was beating that poor old woman with a whip? What a job there is to do after the war.”
Amazed again by her sister’s trust in God, Corrie thought, “Only God could see in such circumstances the possibility for ministry in the future – ministry to those who even now were preparing to kill us. Most of all, in a concentration camp, to see an opportunity to bless and build up the lives of our enemies.”
Then, she asked aloud, “Do we have to live with them in Germany?”
“For awhile,” Betsie answered, “Then we will go all over the world to bring the gospel to our friends as well as our enemies.”
“All over the world?” Corrie asked, “But that will take so much money!”
“God will provide.” said Betsie. “Our father owns a cattle on a thousand hills. If we need money, all we have to do is ask him to sell a couple of cows.”
Corrie was beginning to understand. “What a privilege…to travel the world and be used by God.”
But, Betsie was asleep by then. 3 days later, she died.
Corrie did just what Betsie had dreamed. She did go back to Germany after the war ended and she was able to use an old concentration camp as a place for Germans who were affected by the war. She shared Christ’s love with them through her ministry, but she specifically showed them the forgiveness that only God could offer.
At one of her speaking engagements, Corrie spoke on forgiveness. One of the men in the audience came up to her after she was done speaking. Corrie recognized him as one of the guards from the concentration camp, who had taunted, mocked and even physically hurt Corrie. Corrie became nervous as he approached.
He said to her, “A fine message! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins can be forgiven!”
He must not have recognized her, but then he went on.
“You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk. I was a guard there.”
No, she was sure he didn’t recognize her.
He continued to talk to her “But, since that time, I have become a Christian. I know God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well.” He did recognizer her. He reached his hand out. “Will you forgive me?”
It wasn’t long that Corrie stood there, without reaching out to shake his hand, but it seemed like hours. It was the most difficult thing she ever had to do. And she had to do it. It wasn’t just a commandment to God to love and forgive even your enemies, but it was a daily experience in her ministry to the Germans at the former concentration camp. Finally, she reached out her hand to his and said, “I forgive you, brother. With all my heart.”