Rick VandenDolder was the planned speaker at semi-programmed meeting for worship on August 11, 2013.
Corrie ten Boom belonged to a family of Dutch watchmakers. She was the first licensed woman watchmaker in the Netherlands. Her family members were devout Christians, known in their city of Haarlem for doing charitable work.
When World War II came and the Nazis overran Holland, the ten Boom family hid Jewish refugees and members of the Dutch resistance inside their home. After some time they were betrayed and the entire family was arrested. Three of them died while imprisoned by the Nazis.
Corrie and her sister Betsie were sent to several prison camps and eventually to the Ravensbruck extermination camp for women. There they were subjected to beatings, starvation, cold and wet, and disease. Corrie refers often to her sister, Betsie, who would consistently pray for their enemies. She promoted hope and love among their fellow prisoners. Betsie said they had to tell all that “There is no pit so deep that God is not deeper still.” Betsie died in Ravensbruck in December 1944. Shortly thereafter Corrie and several other women were released due to a clerical error. One week later all the women she had lived among were sent to the gas chamber.
After the war Corrie established rehabilitation centers for concentration camp survivors , those traumatized by war experiences, and also for the hated Dutch collaborators. She spoke, throughout the world, of hope, reconciliation and forgiveness.
I must admit I often have trouble with a lot of the messages I hear connected with Jesus. But the witness of Corrie ten Boom was life long. Actions speak louder than words. Or, as Jesus himself said, “By their fruits you will know them.”
I want to share a passage from the writing of Corrie that I have found challenging and compelling over many years.
I continued to speak, partly because the (rehabilitation) home in Bloemendaal ran on contributions, partly because the hunger for Betsie’s story (of love and forgiveness) seemed to increase with time. I travelled all over Holland, to other parts of Europe, to the United States.
But the place where the hunger was greatest was Germany. Germany was a land in ruins, cities of ashes and rubble, but more terrifying still, minds and hearts of ashes. Just to cross the border was to feel the great weight that hung over that land.
It was at a church service in Munich that I saw him, the former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center at Ravensbruck. He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time. And suddenly it was all there – the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsie’s pain-blanched face.
He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing. “How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein.” He said. “To think that, as you say, He has washed my sins away!” His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendaal the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.
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.
I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me your forgiveness.
As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.
And so I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness anymore 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.