“Whenever we cannot love in the old, human way . . . God can give us the perfect way.”
― Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place: The Triumphant True Story of Corrie Ten Boom
Every now and then a story steals into our life and changes us forever.
I was about 16 when I first read 'The Hiding Place' by Corrie Ten Boom. It is an incredible story of faith love and hope amidst the horror of WWII. I have studied and read much about this terrible time of our world's history, and I appreciate all of that learning, however, I often came away from the study feeling totally disturbed and completely depressed. How could humanity sink so far? How is it possible that human beings have done such terrible thing to each other? It is a deep and bottomless heartbreak that seems to provide no answers.
'The Hiding Place' had a different impact on me. I came away feeling that there is always hope;
“There is no pit so deep, that God's love is not deeper still.”
― Corrie ten Boom
and I was truly inspired by the courage, humility and love of the Ten Boom family. I wanted to be like Corrie, who appealed to God to help her overcome her feelings of revenge and hurt, and managed to shake the hand of the man who had been her jailer;
“Even as the angry vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? Lord Jesus, I prayed, forgive me and help me to forgive him....Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me your forgiveness....And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world's healing hinges, but on His. When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives along with the command, the love itself.”
― Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place
I wanted to be like Betsie, who was grateful for everything, even the fleas. I wanted to be like Corrie's father, who loved everyone equally. I learned that simple and ordinary people become extraordinary when they put their trust in God, and that a life, no matter how filled with setbacks or trials, can be beautiful to behold.
It was a dream come true to take my family to see 'The hiding Place' in Haarlem. I approached the street with a giddy feeling of anticipation, I couldn't believe that I was actually going to see all of the places that I had only ever imagined in my mind. I was brimming with questions;
Would there still be a watch shop underneath the house?
How small would the hiding place be?
Would it make the story come alive in a meaningful way for my children?
And most importantly...would Bohan be a good little baby so that we could feel and enjoy this experience as a family??
As we rounded the corner I was delighted to discover that the Ten Boom watch shop that Corrie's father had worked in is still in operation. In fact, it is over 175 years old! Sadly it was closed the day we were there.
We had booked ahead to reserve our places. It was lucky that we did so as there was a line-up outside with people waiting to fill any vacant spots. We were ushered inside as I hoped and prayed that Bohan wouldn't cry!
The first part of the tour is a meeting in the family living room. The house has been kept in almost exactly the same condition that it had been in WWII. All of the original furniture is still there and the walls are lined with photographs of Corrie and her family.
The lady giving the tour began with a rather lengthy and heavily accented sermon about the Ten Boom family, Christianity, and how as Christians we should be supporting the return of the Jews to Israel. She was very emphatic about this point. I wasn't a huge fan of the pointed preaching, but I could tell that she was sincere and heartfelt in her convictions. My kids pretty much had no idea what was going on as her Dutch accent was strong and the room was crowded. I'm happy to say that the tour improved immensely after this and we truly loved every minute.
As we walked through that tall cramped narrow house, we were able to see interesting things on display and learn from our tour guide. What a special way for my kids to learn about WWII, I was full of joy!
It was wonderful to see what everything actually looked like! Dutch stairs are incredibly narrow and steep, and as I climbed them I remembered how the Ten Boom family had to run practice drills to prepare for any sudden raids.
The hiding place was located in Corrie's bedroom. This super cool 50 year old lady, although not Jewish, cared for all of God's children and risked her life to save others. She worked to distribute black market ration cards, help Jews escape, and took in the people that no one else would help.
A skilled architect from the Dutch underground crafted a secret cavity in Corrie's room. It is just big enough to fit 6 standing adults. The family had a secret alarm installed that alerted everyone in the house if a raid was to occur. They had to quickly make the house look as if only Corrie, her father and sister lived there, such as hiding extra dishes if they were in the middle of a meal, and then the Jews in hiding would quietly scramble upstairs and crawl into the small space through a secret trap door in the bottom of Corrie's closet.
Now there is a hole in the wall so that visitors can see the secret room. Although Corrie and her family were betrayed and taken toRavensbruck prison, the Nazis never found their secret hiding place and the Jews they were striving to protect lived!
What was so special about this experience was how 'hands-on' it was. We were reading Corrie's book 'The Hiding Place' together as a family, and my kids were able to crawl inside and ask questions and have the story truly come to life.
The tour guide was very kind and she let us linger and ask a million questions. We were able to see the wooden triangular Alpina sign that was the secret signal to the street that all was safe.
Corrie often quoted a beautiful poem about how she viewed life;
My life is but a weaving
Between my God and me.
I cannot choose the colors
He weaveth steadily.
Oft’ times He weaveth sorrow;
And I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper
And I the underside.
Not ’til the loom is silent
And the shuttles cease to fly
Will God unroll the canvas
And reveal the reason why.
The dark threads are as needful
In the weaver’s skillful hand
As the threads of gold and silver
In the pattern He has planned
He knows, He loves, He cares;
Nothing this truth can dim.
He gives the very best to those
Who leave the choice to Him.
Her embroidery that she used as an example of this was on display.
We were the last ones to leave. I am immensely grateful that Bo was quite content throughout the tour and that we were able to have this wonderful family learning experience. Corrie is one of my true heroes, and hopefully now she will live on the hearts of my children.
“Happiness isn't something that depends on our surroundings...It's something we make inside ourselves.”
― Corrie ten Boom