- Religion and Philosophy
Corrie ten Boom : The Purpose-Driven Woman
Corrie ten Boom : The Purpose Driven Woman
There is one notable single woman in Christianity who lived a life of great purpose and mission. God blessed her with the vision of reaching out for the most hopeless people all over the world and introduce to them the love of God in Jesus Christ. And by faith without money nor riches she fulfilled this mission.
Corrie ten Boom born in a mediocre family on April 15, 1892 celebrated her blissful youth in Haarlem, Holland. After acquiring her diploma in childcare, needlework and other domestic skills from Normal School, Corrie left for Zandvoort to work as a nanny in a well-to-do family, but the death of an aunt made her leave the job. Upon returning to her hometown, she followed her father’s counsel to enroll in a Bible School. While studying in the Bible School, she gave Bible lessons to the students studying in the public school.
At 28 years old, Corrie helped her father in their watch-making business. She helped in the auditing system of the business. Soon Corrie became interested in actual watchmaking. So Corrie was trained by her father in watchmaking. With her father’s help , she became the first woman watchmaker licensed in Holland. While doing this, she did a ministry among children. She gave Bible lessons to children, adding a special class for the retarded.
Encouraged by a wealthy ladies’ club concerned about lack of activities for teenaged girls in Haarlem, Corrie and her sister Betsie , started taking a few girls for walks before Sunday service. Soon they and the girls were meeting on Wednesdays to walk to gardens in the wealthy suburb of Bloomendaal. Corrie took also this opportunity to minister the gospel to the girls.
Corrie’s club grew steadily until the members reached 300 and became quite a presence in Haarlem, Once a year, they rented the concert hall to show a thousand friends and relatives the skills they were learning in the clubs. Always right in the middle of the show Corrie offered the gospel in talks with catchy titles like “God’s telephone is never busy.” Her organization became officially the Haarlem Girl’s Club.
Suddenly in April of 1940, Hitler invaded Norway and Denmark. Then one day, they heard the radio said “Germans were bombing airports all over Holland.” Within two days the Dutch army surrendered to the NAZI forces. Corrie had to surrender her work with the girls’ clubs. The NAZIs were not about to allow any well-organized network of over 300 Dutch to exist in one town.
For a year and a half, the Ten Booms had tried to live their normal lives. Then came November 1941, the NAZIs GESTAPOS started arresting people. Corrie’s family started hiding Jews for the NAZIs sought after them. Corrie and her family provided their house as a hiding place for the Jews . Their operation expanded, Corrie became the command center and more and more Dutch joined Corrie.
Then one day, Corrie was surprised by voices coming from below, harsh and demanding . In German, “Schnell! Thumps. “ Wo sind die Juden?” They were the GESTAPOS. Thirty-five people had been arrested at the Beje, including Corrie, her sister Betsie and their father.
For seven weeks the prison had been like a tomb for Corrie. There was still no news of Papa. One week later a package for Corrie arrived. It was addressed by Nollie, her sister who was previously set free by the NAZIs. Enclosed with the package is a letter handwritten by Nollie informing the fate of their father. According to the letter their beloved Papa already died. He survived only nine days in prison and died of pneumonia. Corrie must be sorry only because he missed his wonderful presence. Papa said he would gladly die for the Jews. And he did.
Then until one morning after several months of helllike life at the NAZI prisons and concentration camps, at roll call the guard called out, “ Corrie Ten Boom, Fall out !”
It was finally the day of her release. She was transported back to Holland. On one February day, almost one year since the Gestapo handed her away from the Beje, she was back in Haarlem. There she tried to occupy herself with the watch shop. She took in a retarded child, she began speaking to clubs, to people in their homes, to anyone who would listen anywhere at anytime. It took only a few talks and she felt God had told her exactly what to say. She had to point out no pit was too deep for someone who was safe in Jesus. She described every degrading detail of imprisonment, so people would know how deep the pit was. She described Betsie’s vision which was to care for the poor people who were scarred by prisons and camps. The Dutch must give them a chance to find Jesus. The Lord would take care of their recovery. Her sister Betsie already died in the prison.
One day, a woman approached Corrie . The woman is Mrs. Bierens de Haan. According to her she lived in a very large house in Bloomendaal but now she was a widow and all her sons are grown. Her son Jan was taken to Germany. She made a vow to God that if God would return her son to her, she would have to give up her house for Betsie’s vision.Later Corrie received a note from Mrs. De Haan informing her that her son Jan came home. So her home now belongs to Corrie.
Corrie opened the home for those poor unfortunate minds mangled by the prison and concentration camps. One of the first arrivals of the fifty-six room mansion in Bloomendaal was Mrs. Kan, the wife of a watchmaker. Mr. Kan had died while in hiding and Mrs. Kan was very old and infirm. Soon the great mansion was full of patients and volunteers. Corrie still went out speaking her message, once again the organizers finding volunteers and raising money, is time for the rehabilitation center. Corrie moved ahead and prepared herself to go to America.
“I’m going to America,” said Corrie
“But they say it is impossible to get to America. Everyone wants to go. The waiting list for a passenger ship is a year at least. And you need a lot of money to go to America . Corrie,” Corrie’s sister Nollie said.
Corrie replied, “ I have fifty dollars. If God does not want me to go, the gate will be closed for me. But if he does want me to go, the gate will be opened.”
And in a time when it was possible only for people with money and influence to find passage to America , Corrie found herself on a freighter just a few days later steaming for America. She didn’t worry about her lack of money she trusted God completely. In New York City she got a room at the YWCA and every morning she went out, bought her own meal of the day: coffee, orange juice and a donut, then trudged all day long through the long canyons of Manhattan knocking on every church door. She had to move out of the YWCA and drift from room to room. But a woman who had survived the NAZI concentration camps didn’t quit but prayed harder.
She struggled . She was operating on nickels and dimes. Some Americans treated her like a beggar. Some told her no one wanted to talk about the war anymore. Corrie began to get a few invitations to speak. She began to meet a few movers and shakers in the American churches. She met a few publishers of Christian books and magazines. She told them she had hundred of stories to tell, she prayed she radiated the love of Jesus.
By the year end her first foray into America was complete. She had made some friends she felt she could always rely on, because she intended to come again. Now it was time to move on. Corrie was going to Germany. Betsie said they had to go back to Germany and paint the prison barracks bright colors. They had to help the poor sick guards, the tiny nasty cogs in the insane NAZI machine to find new lives through Jesus.
Corrie went to Darmstadt, southeast of Frankfurt to help a church organization renovate a concentration camp. It was a small but a vibrant beginning. The brightly painted barracks held one hundred-sixty Germans. Many were women with children. Germany had lost almost four million soldiers in the war. Twenty million Russian and seven million Germans had died. The dead on all sides of the insane war totaled fifty-five million.
Corrie knew millions of surviving German carried the guilt. No one needed Jesus more.Once after Corrie talked in a church the people go up silently, as they always did in Germany, and filed out. But working against the flow was a man coming towards Corrie. He looked familiar. No ! She wanted to scream . The man stopped in front of her smiling, “ What a fine message, Frau Ten Boom. I’m glad to hear that our sins are forgiven.” This very man was at Ravensbruck ! He was one of the guards who watched coldly as Corrie and Betsie filed past naked and degraded. The man said, “You mentioned you were at Ravensbruck . You won’t believe this but I was a guard at Ravensbruck. However, after the war I became a Christian. God forgave me. Will you forgive me ?” He extended his weathered hairy hand.
Oh how hard it was to be a Christian at times like this, thought Corrie. She had a thousand reason to hate this evil man. Forgiveness was not an emotion one indulged. It was the will of God. She extended her hand, “ I forgive you. “
The world did forgive the Germans, as Corrie had. Help poured in to rehabilitate them. Corrie left Germany to continue her odyssey. For years she traveled alone, brazenly intruding on lives, preaching the gospel in Cuba, South Africa, Japan, Bermuda, New Zealand, Australia, Spain, England, Denmark, Taiwan, Israel and many others. She continued on traveling around the world until in her eighties, driven by only one passion, the love of JesusChrist.
Corrie passed away on April 15, 1983, on her ninety-first birthday. She lived life to the fullest driven with only one great purpose that the gospel of Christ be preached, for her this is the only Hope of mankind. Indeed it is the only hope of the dying world.
This story is an excerpt from Sam Wellman’s Corrie ten Boom : Heroine of Haarlem.
Published by Barbour and Company, Inc.