Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Hiding Place

by Corrie ten Boom

The Hiding Place is the true story of Corrie ten Boom and her family who lived in the small village of Haarlem, Holland, just a thirty minute train ride from Amsterdam. In this book we see an ordinary family thrown into extraordinary circumstances, resulting in remarkable acts of heroism while enhancing an already strong faith in God. They are a family who simply lived their faith without flaunting it or pushing it on others and that is what drew others to them. When God required them to stretch their faith and help others, knowing the risks inherent in their actions, they did so without hesitation.

When Holland became occupied by the Germans during World War II, changes occurred gradually and, at first, were barely noticed at all. The fact that some people simply disappeared, literally overnight, seemed to be merely a footnote in people’s lives. Those who were not Jewish felt they had little to worry about. But bit by bit rights were removed from all citizens: phones were disconnected, all radios had to be turned in, food rations became smaller and less healthy and filling. Seemingly without warning, the seeping effects of evil had spread to everyone.

The ten Boom family had a choice. They could deny what was happening and ignore it, they could play it safe and ally themselves with the Nazis, or they could risk their lives to help those the Nazis wanted to eradicate. Becoming part of the underground wasn’t even a conscious choice. When a frightened Jewish person showed up at their door one day begging for sanctuary, it was offered without a second thought and before they knew it, their home had become a hiding place and a brief stop for many waiting for an opening at another "safe house".

The family knew the consequences of aiding runaways but they could not turn away the needy. Eventually they were caught and that is when we are given a glimpse into the horrors of imprisonment in a concentration camp. Yet, it is in the midst of these horrors that their already strong faith is further nurtured and strengthened.

Betsie ten Boom, the older sister of Corrie made, this statement while incarcerated at Ravensbruck, Germany: "[We] ... must tell people what we have learned here. We must tell them that there is no pit so deep that He is not deeper still. They will listen to us, Corrie, because we have been there." Those words, full of hope, were spoken from a place that offered little hope. Those words exemplified her life and defined her character. She had always been physically weak but her spiritual strength was such that we should all aspire to. Even in the midst of the most terrifying and horrific moments in her life she found reasons to give thanks. Betsie encouraged Corrie to give thanks in all circumstances and she lived up to her words by giving thanks for overcrowding as many more would hear God’s word because of it. She even gave thanks for the fleas and the reader finds out later that even the infestation of fleas served a divine purpose.

It is not a book that one can read without feelings of disbelief and revulsion. It’s difficult for us to imagine that human beings could have been and can be so completely inhuman ... that it is so easy for the bystander to turn their head and pretend not to see what was and is happening. It is a book that removes the reader from their comfort zone and hopefully encourages us to see past ourselves to willingly serve God whatever the circumstances.

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