I’ve never been one to have a bucket list. But if I did, meeting Corrie ten Boom (or getting as close to that as I can) would be on it.
It all started with a book. “I should read that,” I thought, wondering how I graduated high school without reading Corrie’s classic, The Hiding Place. So one afternoon I started into the first chapter, and I would finish the last page that night while the rest of my family slept. The ten Boom story floored me, and I have revisited those chapters many times since. Their example of faithful work and love in a time of horror illustrates so well how Christians are to live in a world that opposes the very idea of God. As we face an increasingly hostile society today, we are encouraged by remembering the faithfulness of people like the ten Booms in harder times than these.
So I was thrilled to visit Corrie ten Boom’s house last spring.
One crisp June morning in Haarlem, The Netherlands, my brother and I entered the kitchen door right by the window with that telltale Alpina sign. I was seeing the family living room. Climbing that impossible staircase. Feeling the tweed fencing around the railing of the roof, built to hide illegal guests while they savored a few minutes of fresh air. There were space limitations in the cramped house, and we could only be in the house while on a guided tour, but I lingered as long as I could in each room, trying to be the last one to leave, taking one final look.
Our guide was Aty, an older Dutch woman who shared ten Boom stories I hadn’t read in any books. Over 800 people were saved through the work of the people in that unassuming little house. “This is a story about the family ten Boom, not about heroes,” Aty told us. “This is a story about God…who still works today like He did in the past.”
Poetic. Like she’d read the book.
It was something Corrie would have said, too—and she did, many times. The ten Booms filled their days with feeding guests, cooperating with other workers, and serving strangers. It was God who orchestrated the details and led them along the path they had no map for. And Corrie knew that. That’s the story she told.
The medicine bottle that didn’t empty. The world-renowned architect who quietly and without any recognition built their secret room. Fred the meterman and Rolf the policeman, who used their unique positions and skills to meet specific needs.
“That night Father and Betsie and I prayed long after the others had gone to bed. We knew that in spite of daily mounting risks we had no choice but to move forward. This was evil’s hour: we could not run away from it. Perhaps only when human effort had done its best and failed, would God’s power alone be free to work.”1
Nazis. Bombings. Hunted people. It was an epic time with epic problems and epic heartaches. But the struggles Corrie and the ten Boom family faced were not isolated to desperate times.
Forgiveness. Courage. Love. Service. Day after day after day. Through epic circumstances God was present in her life, working in her heart, writing a story we only know in part.
In my less-than-epic life the same is true. I am slighted by people who see things differently than I do. I meet people who base their life on things I know won’t last forever. I am surrounded by people who have hurts I may never know or realize. I’m faced with others’ needs when I feel I have enough of my own.
Forgiveness. Courage. Love. Service. And we’re called to do it all again the next day.
My brother and I sat in the living room not of a legend or hero of the past, but a child of the King. One who followed Him in the muck and mire of earth and now praises Him in glories unknown to me with others who have gone before us.
As Francis Schaeffer said, “there are no little people and no little places.”2 Not when God is there. And He is. Here. Working in and through us like He did (and does) through Corrie, the ten Booms, and Aty the tour guide. Whether or not our dreams are realized or bucket list completed, He still works. And that’s where the real story is.
“This is a story about God…who still works today like He did in the past.”
- The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom
- No Little People, Francis Schaeffer