I have written several blog posts now about Corrie Ten Boom. I just enjoy reading her works and reading about her life. I recently came across something that gave me a new perspective on a story that I thought I knew pretty well. I was reading through one of YouVersion’s devotional plans, “Life Lessons from Corrie Ten Boom”, a plan provided by the Corrie Ten Boom House organization, and I gained a deeper appreciation of how Corrie’s story began long before she was born.
In 1844, Corrie’s grandfather, Willem Ten Boom, began a very unique and specific prayer group. Willem’s prayer group was focused on praying for the well-being of the Jewish people and the peace of Jerusalem. Apparently, he was inspired after reading Psalm 122.
“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: May those who love you be secure.”Psalm 122:6 (NIV)
Willem took the Psalm as a command, and thus a prayer group was formed that would last the next 100 years, being continued by his son Casper and Casper’s children who included Corrie. He formed the group more than a hundred years before Israel would become an independent nation and during that time, the Ten Boom family prayed for the peace of Jerusalem and blessings for Jewish people living around the world.
In the meantime, the Ten Booms were living quiet, seemingly ordinary lives, working and walking through the daily routines of life. But through all the routine, there were extraordinary things happening that could be easy to miss. The Ten Boom house had a reputation of being a place where neighbors could come for prayers, advice, meals, and warm fellowship. Long before war came to their corner of the world, the Ten Boom house was known as a trustworthy place of help in times of need. The kind of simple kindnesses that the family offered up to neighbors around them could be easy to overlook in good times, but people remembered their faithful kindness and it became revolutionary during some of history’s darkest moments.
The part of the Ten Boom story that most of us are more familiar with picks up in 1941 when Corrie and her sister Betsie become involved in the underground resistance to help Holland’s Jews find safety and have basic needs met. Their involvement with the resistance came about naturally through their already well established reputation of hospitality and being a household that cared for and helped their neighbors as they could. Corrie didn’t think of herself as some rebellious resistance leader; she merely saw needs coming to her and she looked for ways to solve the problems before her to help her neighbors. During the occupation of Holland, the Ten Boom family helped to hide eighty people and eight hundred people were assisted with rations coupons for food and identification papers.
I guess I always read the story of The Hiding Place as a situation in which Godly people saw a need and took action, but really they were taking action long before the Nazis came along. The Ten Boom family had been guided by the Lord for a greater purpose than they could have ever known when a prayer group began in 1844, all because they were seeking His will through His word and striving to follow His commands. They remained faithful through their prayers for their fellow humans and when war came, their faith was tested beyond what any of them could have envisioned, but they were ready because the family had already been praying for almost a century for the people who they sought to help.
“Would you be willing to take a Jewish mother and her baby into your home?”
Color drained from the man’s face. He took a step back from me.
“Miss ten Boom! I do hope you’re not involved with any of this illegal concealment… It’s just not safe! Think of your father!”
I pulled the coverlet back from the baby’s face. The man bent forward, his hand in spite of himself reaching for the tiny fist curled round the blanket. For a moment I saw compassion and fear struggle in his face. Then he straightened.
“No. Definitely not. We could lose our lives for that Jewish child!”
Unseen by either of us, Father had appeared in the doorway.
“Give the child to me, Corrie,” he said.
Father held the baby close, his white beard brushing its cheek, looking into the little face with eyes as blue and innocent as the baby’s.
“You say we could lose our lives for this child. I would consider that the greatest honor that could come to my family.”
Casper ten Boom calmly faced a situation that would terrify most of us just as it did the man who they asked to help in hiding a family. But having the knowledge of the larger story of the Ten Boom family and the prayer group that his father started, I have to imagine that Casper’s response to the needs of his Jewish neighbors came pretty easily to him. He had been preparing his whole life to prayerfully consider the needs of his neighbors, and specifically his Jewish neighbors.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.Ephesians 2:10 NIV
It’s impossible to see how God may be working through His people when we are in the midst of our current circumstances. The Ten Booms certainly couldn’t have known in those quiet days of 1844 what the Lord could possibly be preparing their family for, particularly members of the family yet to come. Only through hindsight can we see that there did seem to be divine inspiration to begin a prayer group and guidance to live in a way that would prepare members of the family to have the courage to act when the time came. Even with hindsight, we still can’t know all the little ways that God was moving through the story and the extent of the lives touched through the Ten Booms’ resistance efforts or Corrie and Betsie’s time in prison in which they ministered to the women around them. But it’s ok; we don’t have to understand or fully see. The Creator can see and knows the plans He has and the work He has prepared in advance for His people.