Category Archives: Corrie ten Boom

“Safer Than a Known Way: Discover How Liberty in Christ Lies in Surrender”

Pamela Rosewell had three reasons to hesitate. The twenty-one-year-old from Hastings, England, worried that if she followed God completely, He would call her to great lengths in her newfound faith. She could not risk being called to 1) travel outside her native England, 2) speak in public, or 3) be single for the rest of her life.

Anything but that.

Unlikely Stories

When I first cracked the cover of The Hiding Place and finished its last page that same night, I was hooked. Since then I’ve been thrilled to find each new glimpse into the incredible story of the watch shop on the Barteljorisstraat and the unassuming family who lived upstairs.

After devouring several resources on the most exciting points of Corrie’s life, I read The Five Silent Years of Corrie ten Boom, learning for the first time in detail of the stroke-induced silence of Corrie’s last years. What a surprising ending to such a vibrant life. The Five Silent Years was written by Pam Rosewell, Corrie’s personal travel assistant and eventual caregiver, who later wrote a second book: Safer Than a Known Way.

Corrie’s story is an unlikely one of an ordinary family of middle-aged and elderly Christians simply trusting and obeying God—and spearheading Haarlem’s resistance to Nazi horrors. Pam’s story is of an ordinary young woman intent on leading a normal and easy Christian life—and finding excitement and joy in parting with what she thought she could never give up.

For both of them, their lives were much different than their expectations. For both of them, their God was faithful.

“There Were Changes Ahead That I Could Never Have Imagined”

It really started with Sylvia.

Pam’s eighteen-year-old sister Sylvia begged her to attend a Christian conference. At 21, Pam wasn’t interested in her sister’s religious enthusiasm. “I wanted to follow Christ from a distance,” she wrote later. “To follow closely might mean He would ask of me something I could never do.”

But she went anyway, determined to participate as little as possible.

It was a determination she would not be able to keep. Despite her strongest intentions, just a few hours into the event, Pam wholeheartedly surrendered every part of her life to God. “I knew that [my surrender] was real and that it would last…God had revealed His love to me and had moved into my life on this particular night, giving me grace to surrender.”

But this was only the beginning.

Always an Adventure

Pam’s first international trip was a year-long mission assignment in Africa. Soon after, she began working with Brother Andrew in Holland and eventually agreed to accompany Corrie ten Boom on her travels all over the world. Her earlier commitment to never leave England’s shores had given way to an exciting life full of new people and places—and Pam was surprised to find that, most of the time, she actually enjoyed it.

Years into her travels, churches began inviting her to speak about her experiences to their congregations. “Although I continued to be nervous,” Pam wrote, “public speaking had lost its terror. People listened and responded. I saw that God used me and this fulfilled me deeply.”

Pam had now faced two of her three fears. God had been with her in her fears, and He had used those experiences she had dreaded to enrich her life more than she could have expected.

Through all of these things, Pam was single. She spent years caring for a woman who had been single all her life, and, in light of all she had learned through facing her first two fears, lifelong singleness was very possible for Pam.

Once Tante Corrie (as many called her) asked Pam if she was content to be single. Pam realized she was. Whether or not her singleness would be lifelong (and you’ll have to read the book to find out!), “I had to believe that this difficult way that I was now taking was…His perfect way for me.”

Safer Than a Known Way

Why do we always give our surrenders with caveats? Why do we think we have any right to ask God to meet our stipulations?

Even when we think we have surrendered wholeheartedly, we usually haven’t. As soon as things start unraveling, we grumble and question and give our human reasons as to why we shouldn’t be in this situation.

This isn’t what I had in mind. This isn’t what I expected. This isn’t what I signed up for.

If we would only give it all away—all the doubts, all the questions, all the fears.

Pam did. Soon she found herself facing the very things she had vowed to never risk. But in that road, in that way, she found so much more than just a neat and comfortable little Christian life. This life was so much better.

“Yet God has fulfilled my life through the very things I feared…I would so much like to tell people that they have nothing to lose in trusting God with all their lives…Only the Lord sees the end of my story. It is not in my control. But I do know this: when I surrender to Him, I am safer than if I had chosen a known way.”

“The Five Silent Years of Corrie ten Boom”

silentyearsCome to think of it, I mused as we drove home, I have never seen Tante Corrie embarrassed. She always expected that people would take her just as she was­­. And now, after her stroke she still expects it. It was the result of a deep confidence that God accepted her just as she was and it had not been shaken now that she could not speak. She was accepted, and so she could accept people just as they were.”

Corrie ten Boom of the 1970s was a worldwide traveler and speaker, telling thousands of people from all walks of life about her World War II experiences and how God had sustained her through those years. Accompanying her was her personal assistant, a younger woman who could help with the rigors of travel and constantly being on the move. It could be a draining and demanding job, combining the exhaustion of travel with the uncertainty that came with accompanying a woman who followed God’s will wherever it led—however unexpected. Two women, Connie and Ellen, had already spent a few years with “Tante” (Aunt) Corrie before moving on to get married and begin their families, and now Corrie’s third—and final—assistant would be Pamela Moore, a young British woman who had lived in The Netherlands for several years.

Corrie ten Boom left concentration camp life when she was fifty-two years old. Her family’s experiences would inspire a book and a movie, and she would eventually write over twenty-five books and travel to over 60 countries sharing her story. Corrie died on April 15, 1983, her 91st birthday.

What many people don’t know is that a series of strokes halted Corrie’s public work and ministry several years before her death. For the last two-and-a-half years of her life, the woman who had endured so much and emerged victorious was not physically able to leave her room.

It was not the story anyone expected for the strong and persevering Corrie ten Boom. But Pam was there and, as Corrie’s final personal assistant, she chronicled those last years of Corrie’s earthly life. She also shared her own spiritual wrestling as she watched her friend and mentor endure the pain and frustration of her abilities slipping away. What was the point of this pain? How can God possibly find good in it?

In The Five Silent Years of Corrie ten Boom, Pam works through that age-old question: Why would a good and sovereign God allow His child to suffer?

“The days went slowly by. We heard the familiar whirring of the electric bed as we lowered it to change her position, the metallic clicking of the rails as we raised and lowered them to turn our patient, the ticking of the brown clock. Nine months passed. It was not easy for her or for us. It was very hard sometimes. There were days when the routine seemed endless and the hours seemed to last for days.”

It was in that suffering that Pam saw Him work. She saw lives touched and gained a front-row seat to Corrie’s own experiences through the ordeal. Could it be that God was using this, too? Just like He had used Corrie’s concentration camp experience? God had brought good from the horrors of Nazi cruelty. Could He – would He – bring good of this, too?

“Up until this time, in common with a large part of the western world, I had set great store by strength and achievement. A sense of satisfaction was gained by having a goal and employing all faculties, strength, and input from others in order to reach that goal. Particularly in America, I had found ‘self-image,’ or our view of ourselves, was related directly to what a person achieves. But what happens when a person becomes old, frail, brain-damaged, and in some eyes, apparently useless? How does God view that? How should society view that? I had been learning that our real selves can be discovered only in the Lord Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us that He died to save us from our sins, that we are ‘precious, holy, beloved, dear children, hidden in the hollow of His hand.’ And in that hand He also holds our times.”

People brought to her bedside were greeted with the same love and warmth (albeit quieter) that Corrie had shown to prisoners and audiences in her travels. Caretakers who spent hours with this incapacitated Corrie but had never met her before were impacted by her life—even as an invalid. Her consistent patience and kindness in the midst of suffering was not lost on the people around her.

The Five Silent Years of Corrie ten Boom tells the last chapter of Corrie’s life on earth, how a soldier for God endured her final battle. And it reminds us that no matter where life finds us right now, our times are in His hands, too.

“In My Father’s House: The Years Before ‘The Hiding Place'”

fathershouseI’ve found a book I love almost as much as The Hiding Place. Almost.

Which is saying a lot. I read The Hiding Place from cover to cover in just a few hours and have revisited its pages many times since. I jumped at the chance to tour the Corrie ten Boom house in the Netherlands last summer. It was an unforgettable hour in the Beje, but I would so love to have been able to visit when Father, Betsie, Corrie, and the rest of the family were there.

In My Father’s House lets us peek through the window at what it must have been like. The Ten Booms were examples of faithful obedience and unwavering faith in a time that seemed impossible. Corrie worked to save people hunted by the Nazis in a time of constant uncertainty, but her hope in God was just as real.

But World War II was not the beginning of her story. As Corrie points out, people don’t just come into existence at fifty years old, but instead are shaped from the very start into who they will become. In My Father’s House shares vignettes from Corrie’s childhood and younger adult life with little “teasers” tracing the connecting lines between her earlier life and her World War II experiences.

We hear more of Corrie’s family and their unmistakable personalities that sometimes didn’t seem to go together. Corrie shares about the growing tension before the Nazis actually invaded Holland and tells WWII stories not included in The Hiding Place. She writes of her work with teenage girls and the mentally handicapped.

“I remembered…what Father had often said to me. ‘Corrie, what you do among these people [the mentally handicapped] is of little importance in the eyes of men, but I’m sure in God’s eyes it’s the most valuable work of all.’”

Corrie’s rambling, motherly voice feels as if she is sitting right beside us and sharing her heart. The stories flow together into a patchwork piece of art, illustrating God’s leading in life that can often only be seen when looking back. She writes of learning English and German through family Bible study, when each family member would read the same verse in a different language.

“Father would begin by asking what John 3:16 was in English. I would answer from my English Bible, Mother from her Dutch Bible, and Betsie would reply in German. When I was so young, it didn’t seem possible that Betsie would ever have a chance to use a Bible verse in German. We didn’t know any Germans then! However, God uses such seemingly insignificant ways to prepare us for the plan He has for our lives. Over forty years later, in a concentration camp in Germany, Betsie was able to use that verse—and many more—to speak to the prisoners and the guards about God’s love.”

God orchestrated Corrie’s life at every moment, whether during a Nazi invasion or on a church trip with middle school girls. In My Father’s House reminds us that He does no less for us.

“[One of our foster daughters] was married by then and had two children, and another one on the way. Her husband was a teacher, and they lived in Rotterdam during that terrible bombardment. They fled to a small suburb of Rotterdam, where her third baby was born in a cellar. For a year they lived in that cellar, which formed a bomb shelter. [She] told me in later years that over and over again she repeated to her children, ‘Opa taught us, “When Jesus takes your hand, He keeps you tight. When Jesus keeps you tight, He leads you through your whole life. When Jesus leads you through your life, He brings you safely home.”’”

What Corrie Would Have Told Us

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The ten Boom family living room

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.

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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.

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The only picture I have of our tour guide, Aty (you can just barely see her on the other side of my brother). I so wish I had taken a better picture with her!

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.

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The visitor in front of me disappears into the hiding place through the secret entrance.
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The secret door from the inside of the hiding place.
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Six people hid here for over 47 hours.

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.”

  1. The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom
  2. No Little People, Francis Schaeffer

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