Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsie
Corrie ten Boom was born on April 15, 1892 in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, the youngest of four children. Her father was a well-liked watch repairman. Corrie followed in his footsteps and began training as a watchmaker in 1920 and in 1922 became the first female watchmaker licensed in the Netherlands. Their home was always an “open house” for anyone in need.
In 1940, the Nazis invaded the Netherlands. By 1942, Corrie and her family had become very active in the Dutch underground, hiding refugees. They rescued many Jews from certain death at the hands of the Nazi SS. They helped Jews because of their veneration for God’s Chosen People and even provided Kosher food and honored the Sabbath. They were betrayed and the Germans arrested the entire Ten Boom family on February 28, 1944. They were sent first to Scheveningen prison (where her father died ten days after his capture. He was 84 years old), then to the Vught political concentration camp (both in the Netherlands), and finally to the notorious Ravensbrück concentration camp in Germany. It was in the concentration camp where espesially Betsie’s faith began to shine.
Corrie sometimes was very tempted to hate all the cruel men around her, particularly the guard who made life extra hard for them. Betsy constantly told her, “No hate, Corrie. Don’t look at it. You know you can only give it to Jesus.” Oftentimes, Corrie would hear her sister say “I feel so sorry for them,” or “May God forgive them.” It only took a moment to realize that Betsie was referring to their enemies. At first, Corrie didn’t understand this compassion for the very people that were mistreating them. But, as time went on, faith took the place of fear and Corrie understood. Life in the camp was almost unbearable, but Corrie and Betsie spent their time sharing Jesus’ love with their fellow prisoners. Many women became Christians because of Corrie and Betsie’s witness to them.
Betsie saw a vision and described it to Corrie. In it was a concentration camp – not the one where they were, but another – becoming a place of refuge for all who had endured as they had, that they might be free. She also described an elaborate house, much bigger than the one she and Corrie grew up in, that would be used for the same purpose. And she saw in the vision that both of them would be free before the New Year. Betsie told Corrie of her plans to start a camp for people to find healing from the scars caused by the concentration camp. Corrie listened and planned to make this dream come true…knowing that Betsie would be by her side.
Betsie died (aged 59) in the hospital before the New Year. Three days after Betsie’s death, Corrie heard her name read out over the loudspeaker; and she was told to stand to one side. She was also released before the New Year. She found out that just one week after her release, all the women her age were taken to the gas chambers.
Four of the Ten Boom’s lives were lost due to their commitment, but Corrie came home from the death camp. She realized her life was a gift from God, and she needed to share what she and Betsy had learned in Ravensbruck: “There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still” and “God will give us the love to be able to forgive our enemies.” After the war, Corrie returned to the Netherlands to set up rehabilitation centers. She returned to Germany in 1946 to help the German people.
She became a missionary, traveling the world, living out of a suitcase until she was 85 years old. She visited more than 60 countries telling people of God’s love and forgiveness.
She died on April 15, 1983, her 91st birthday. She was said to have been happy about dying on her birthday because she could “celebrate it with the Lord”.
What Corrie did for me. She had a childlike faith is God. She is an example how far God’s love and forgiveness goes. A good storyteller. I think what impressed me the most was her age. She experienced the horror of concentration camp aged 53. She is always direct about God’s love. When I look at her , I see someone like a child, faithful following God. She showed me God in all circumstances. She gave me a chance to visit the world through her eyes. She put me in touch with the worldwide church. She made my world larger. The whole Ten Boom family showed me that I cannot sit back when evil comes into people’s lives. I’ve often asked God why Betsie died in the camp. She was the one with the “stronger” faith and love. To me it seemed “wrong”. Betsie’s life however is a testimony that the love in our hearts can, in effect, outlive us. Her love was so real that she never “left” Corrie and she changed people’s lives for the better long after she died. And she did it, only by loving Jesus. Will the same be said of me? Only time will tell.
“We must go everywhere, and tell everyone.” There is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still.” Betsie stared into her sister, Corrie’s eyes, with the pure love that she was.