In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. Upon arriving, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, O highly favored daughter! The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women.” She was deeply troubled by his word, and wondered what his greeting meant. The angel went on to say to her: “Do not fear, Mary, you have found favor with God.” Luke 1:26-30
Blessed Mary lived in an obscure Galilean village, and yet God chose her to change history for all time. It had been more than four hundred years since the last of the Old Testament prophets, and some people wondered if they would ever hear the loving promises of God again. But Mary never doubted that God was nearby. When she heard his voice through the angel, she listened. Though not understanding all that would unfold in her life, Mary trusted. We know she acted courageously in saying yes to God’s call.
Many years later, another woman listened to God every day and acted courageously. While not called to be the Mother of Jesus, Corrie ten Boom – like all of us – was called to give witness to God’s love and give birth to Jesus in the hearts of many.
Born in Haarlem, Netherlands, in 1892, Corrie was the youngest of four children born to a watchmaker. She took care of the house while her elder sister Betsie worked alongside her father in the shop below their home. When Betsie became ill for a time, Corrie was sent to work in the shop. Corrie loved learning the trade and was gifted with financial organizational abilities. So, when Betsie recovered, Corrie was asked to continue working in the shop while Betsie did the housework. This arrangement pleased both Betsie and Corrie.
In the ten Boom Dutch Christian home, Corrie and Betsie listened to their father’s daily reading of Scripture and took it to heart. The family actively served their community, helping those in need and bringing up many foster children. They had a special love for those who were disabled in any way. This prepared them for a time when even greater courage would be required, a faithfulness that required total trust in God.
World War II broke out, and the Nazis invaded the Netherlands in 1940. Gradually, the Gestapo (or its Dutch counterpart) rounded up the Jewish people, sending them to concentration camps where they were put to death. Corrie, Betsie and their father managed to get ration cards for their Jewish brothers and sisters since food was scarce. At the same time, they began to hide Jews in their home. In 1943-1944, the ten Booms usually had a half dozen Jews in their home on their way to safe houses provided by the Dutch Underground. The ten Booms probably saved around 800 Jews from death during this time.
The home was raided in February,1944, and the ten Booms imprisoned. Mr. ten Boom died soon afterward, but Corrie and Betsie were sent to Ravensbruck Camp in Germany. A Bible they had smuggled in was a source of comfort to them. They prayed with their fellow prisoners, bringing many to Jesus through their kindness and compassion. Betsie died of illness and starvation in May. Due to a clerical error, Corrie was released less than two weeks after Betsie’s death.
Corrie spent the rest of her life telling people of God’s forgiving love and practicing it until she died in 1983. That was not always easy. After giving a talk in a church basement about God’s forgiving love, she saw a former guard from Ravensbruck. Her blood seemed to freeze, she said, and she could see the prison room with this guard’s crop swinging from his belt. He had been cruel. Then he reached out his hand and told her he had become a Christian and believed God had forgiven him but wanted to hear Corrie say it to him. She asked Jesus to help her move her hand to take his; she asked Jesus to supply the feeling she did not have at that moment. Then it came, and she cried out as she took his hand in hers, “Brother, I forgive you!”
Corrie ten Boom is today’s Ornament of Grace.
OBSERVING THE BEAUTIFUL ORNAMENTS
How could Corrie ten Boom offer love and true forgiveness in spite of all the loss she had experienced?
How does daily prayer help you practice daily acts of selflessness while preparing you for any future trials?