The Hiding Place

The hidden room that “Mr. Smit” built into Casper ten Boom’s house in Haarlem was in Corrie’s bedroom, the highest one in the house.  It seemed that all the underground workers were known as “Mr Smit!”  Corrie described their work in this way:

Over the next few days he and his workmen were in and out of our house constantly.  They never knocked.  At each visit each man carried in something.  Tools in a folded newspaper.  A few bricks in a briefcase…After the wall was up, the plasterer came, then the carpenter, finally the painter.  Six days after he had begun, Mr. Smit called Father, Betsie, and me to see.  We stood in the doorway and gaped.  The smell of fresh paint was everywhere.  But surely nothing in this room was newly painted!  All four walls had that streaked and grimy look that old rooms got in coal-burning Haarlem.  The ancient molding ran unbroken around the ceiling, chipped and peeling here and there, obviously undisturbed for a hundred and fifty years.  Old water stains streaked the back wall, a wall that even I who had lived half a century in this room, could scarcely believe was not the original, but set back a precious two-and-a-half feet from the true wall of the building.  Built-in bookshelves ran along this false wall, old, sagging shelves whose blistered wood bore the same water stains as the wall behind them.  Down in the far lefthand corner, beneath the bottom shelf, a sliding panel, two feet high and two wide, opened into the secret room.  Mr. Smit stooped and silently pulled this panel up.  On hands and knees Betsie and I crawled into the narrow room behind it.  Once inside we could stand up, sit, or even stretch out one at a time on the single mattress.  A concealed vent, cunningly let into the real wall, allowed air to enter from outside.  — Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place, pg. 103

As you can see in the photos below, the hiding place now has a big hole cut out of the wall, so that visitors can see into the hidden space without having to crawl through the 2′ x 2′ space.  But some still choose to crawl though the original opening.  We did.

A photo on the wall showed an original drill with two Jewish women in 1943.

Once inside, there was room for 6-7 people to stand.

It was really an honor to stand in this very space and reflect on all that had occurred here, such as the quotes from Corrie below.

[Mr.] Leendert did the electrical work that weekend.  He installed a buzzer near the top of the stairs–loud enough to be heard all over the house but not outside.  Then he placed buttons to sound the buzzer at every vantage point where trouble might first be spotted…We were ready for our first trial run…the purpose of the drills was to see how rapidly people could reach the room at any hour of the day or night without prior notice.  A tall sallow-faced young man arrived from Pickwick one morning to teach me how to conduct the drills.  “Smit!”  Father exclaimed when the man introduced himself.  “Truly it’s most astonishing!  We’ve had one Smit after another here lately…”  [Mr. Smit] paused in a bedroom door.  “If the raid comes at night they must not only take their sheets and blankets but get the mattress turned.  That’s the S.D’s favorite trick–feeling for a warm spot on a bed…”  There were eleven of us at the table that day, including a Jewish lady who had arrived the night before and a Gentile woman and her small daughter, members of our underground…Mr. Smit leaned back in his chair and pushed the button below the window….People sprang to their feet, snatching up glasses and plates, scrambling for the stairs…Cries of “Faster!” “Not so loud!” and “You’re spilling it!” reached us as Father, Betsie, and I hastily rearranged table and chairs to look like a lunch for three in progress…At last we were seated again and silence reigned upstairs.  The whole process had taken four minutes.  A little later we were all gathered again around the dining room table.  Mr. Smit set out before him the incriminating evidence he had found:  two spoons and a piece of carrot on the stairs, pipe ashes in an “unoccupied” bedroom…The next night I sounded the alarm again and this time we shaved a minute thirty-three seconds off our run.  By our fifth trial we were down to two minutes.  –Ibid, pg. 120-122

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Haarlem

While in Amsterdam in 2015 Chris and I were eager to see Corrie ten Boom’s world in Haarlem.  It was a short train ride and we took our rented bikes with us.  It truly was amazing day, seeing this area and reliving the emotions I felt went I first read her book, The Hiding Place, years ago.  Her family helped many Jewish and Dutch underground people escape from the holocaust through an elaborate system of messengers, a hidden space, alarms and underground support for ration cards, relay stations and other supplies.  It’s truly remarkable.  Corrie often said, “You can’t love Jesus without loving the Jewish people.”

Here are some of the photos we took on our bike ride to the ten Boom watch shop.

This bakery was fantastic!  We stopped here after spending the morning at the ten Boom house.

This is the Grote Markt, which is very close to the ten Boom house and watch shop.

While Holland was being invaded by the Nazis, Corrie had a dream that was, sadly, fulfilled in real life later.  This is how she described the moment, which happened with her sister, Betsie, nearby:

Betsie began to pray for the Germans, up there in the planes, caught in the fist of the giant evil loose in Germany.  I looked at my sister kneeling beside me in the light of burning Holland.  “Oh Lord,” I whispered, “listen to Betsie, not me, because I cannot pray for those men at all.”

And it was then that I had the dream.  It couldn’t have been a real dream because I was not asleep.  But a scene was suddenly and unreasonably in my mind.  I saw the Grote Markt, half a block away, as clearly as though I were standing there, saw the town hall and St. Bavo’s and the fish mart with its stair-stepped facade.

Then as I watched, a kind of odd, old farm wagon–old fashioned and out of place in the middle of a city–came lumbering across the square pulled by four enormous black horses.  To my surprise I saw that I myself was sitting in the wagon.  And Father too!  And Betsie!  There were may others, some strangers, some friends.  I recognized Pickwick and Toos, Willem and young Peter.  All together we were slowly being drawn across the square behind those horses.  We couldn’t get off the wagon, that was the terrible thing.  It was taking us away–far away, I felt–but we didn’t want to go…

“Betsie!” I cried, jumping up, pressing my hands to my eyes.  “Betsie, I’ve had such an awful dream!”

I felt her arm around my shoulder.  “We’ll go down to the kitchen where the light won’t show, and we’ll make a pot of coffee.”

The booming of the bombs was less frequent and farther away as Betsie put on the water.  Closer by was the wail of fire alarms and the beep of the hose trucks.  Over coffee, standing at the stove, I told Betsie what I had seen.

“Am I imagining things because I’m frightened?  But it wasn’t like that!  It was real.  Oh Betsie, was it a kind of vision?”

Betsie’s finger traced a pattern on the wooden sink worn smooth by generations of us ten Booms.  “I don’t know,” she said softly.  “But if God has shown us bad times ahead, it’s enough for me that He knows about them.  That’s why He sometimes shows us things, you know–to tell us that this too is in His hands.”  –Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place, pg. 79-80

Hanneli

I shared earlier about Anne Frank’s best friend, Hanneli (Hannah) Goslar.  Today’s quotes from Anne’s famous diary are regarding her friend, Hanneli.  She was concerned that Hannah had most likely been taken to a concentration camp, and very likely had died.  On the other hand, Anne and her family were safe in the secret annex.  Sadly, she was right, except it was the other way around; Hannah would survive and Anne would die.

Last night just as I was falling asleep, Hanneli suddenly appeared before me.  I saw her there, dressed in rags, her face thin and worn.  She looked at me with such sadness and reproach in her enormous eyes that I could read the message in them:  “Oh, Anne, why have you deserted me?  Help me, help me, rescue me from this hell!”

And I can’t help her.  I can only stand by and watch while other people suffer and die.  All I can do is pray to God to bring her back to us.  I saw Hanneli, and no one else, and I understood why.  I misjudged her, wasn’t mature enough to understand how difficult it was for her.  She was devoted to her girlfriend, and it must have seemed as though I were trying to take her away.  The poor thing, she must have felt awful!  I know, because I recognize the feeling in myself!  I had an occasional flash of understanding, but then got selfishly wrapped up again in my own problems and pleasures.

It was mean of me to treat her that way, and now she was looking at me, oh so helplessly, with her pale face and beseeching eyes.  If only I could help her!  Dear God, I have everything I could wish for, while fate has her in its deadly clutches.  She was as devout as I am, maybe even more so, and she too wanted to do what was right.  But then why have I been chosen to live, while she’s probably going to die?  What’s the difference between us? Why are we now so far apart?

To be honest, I hadn’t thought of her for months–no, for at least a year  I hadn’t forgotten her entirely, and yet it wasn’t until I saw her before me that I thought of all her suffering.  Oh, Hanneli, I hope that if you live to the end of the war and return to us, I’ll be able to take you in and make up for the wrong I’ve done to you.  But even if I were ever in a position to help, she wouldn’t need it more than she does now.  I wonder if she ever thinks of me, and what she’s feeling?  Merciful God, comfort her, so that at least she won’t be alone.  Oh, if only You could tell her I’m thinking of her with compassion and love, it might help her go on.

I’ve got to stop dwelling on this.  It won’t get me anywhere.  I keep seeing her enormous eyes, and they haunt me.  Does Hanneli really and truly believe in God, or has religion merely been forced upon her?  I don’t even know that.  I never took the trouble to ask.  Hanneli, Hanneli, if only I could take you away, if only I could share everything I have with you.  It’s too late.  I can’t help, or undo the wrong I’ve done.  But I’ll never forget her again and I’ll always pray for her!  –November 27, 1943

I was very sad again last night.  Grandma and Hanneli came to me once more.  Grandma, oh, my sweet Grandma.  How little we understood what she suffered, how kind she always was and what an interest she took in everything that concerned us.  And to think that all that time she was carefully guarding her terrible secret [Note:  Anne’s grandmother was terminally ill]…And Hanneli?  Is she still alive?  What’s she doing?  Dear God, watch over her and bring her back to us.  Hanneli, you’re a reminder of what my fate might have been.  I keep seeing myself in your place.  So why am I often miserable about what goes on here?  Shouldn’t I be happy, contented and glad, except when I’m thinking of Hanneli and those suffering along with her?  I’m selfish and cowardly.  Why do I always think and dream the most awful things and want to scream in terror?  Because, in spite of everything, I still don’t have enough faith in God.  He’s given me so much, which I don’t deserve, and yet each day I make so many mistakes!  Thinking about the suffering of those you hold dear can reduce you to tears; in fact, you could spend the whole day crying.  The most you can do is pray for God to perform a miracle and save at least some of them.  And I hope I’m doing enough of that!  –December 29, 1943

It’s funny, but I often have such vivid images in my dreams.  One night I saw Granny so clearly that I could even make out her skin of soft, crinkly velvet.  Another time Grandma appeared to me as a guardian angel.  After that it was Hanneli, who still symbolizes to me the suffering of my friends as well as that of Jews in general, so that when I’m praying for her, I’m also praying for all the Jews and all those in need.  –January 6, 1944

 

 

 

Outside

This week I’m sharing quotes from Anne Frank’s diary. Most people are familiar with the struggles she faced with the other inhabitants of the secret annex, so I will focus, instead, on other thoughts from her diary. Today we’ll see what she thought about the outside world.

Father, Mother and Margot still can’t get used to the chiming of the Westertoren clock, which tells us the time very quarter of an hour. Not me, I liked it from the start; it sounds so reassuring, especially at night. –July 11, 1942

Mr. Dussel has told us much about the outside world we’ve missed for so long. He had sad news. Countless friends and acquaintances have been taken off to a dreadful fate. Night after night, green and gray military vehicles cruise the streets. They knock on every door, asking whether any Jews live there. If so, the whole family is immediately taken away. If not, they proceed to the next house. It’s impossible to escape their clutches unless you go into hiding…In the evenings when it’s dark, I often see long lines of good, innocent people, accompanied by crying children, walking on and on, ordered about by a handful of men who bully and beat them until they nearly drop. No one is spared. The sick, the elderly, children, babies and pregnant women–all are marched to their death. We’re so fortunate here, away from the turmoil. We wouldn’t have to give a moment’s thought to all this suffering if it weren’t for the fact that we’re so worried about those we hold dear, whom we can no longer help. I feel wicked sleeping in a warm bed, while somewhere out there my dearest friends are dropping from exhaustion or being knocked to the ground. –November 19, 1942

The children in this neighborhood run around in thin shirts and wooden shoes. They have no coats, no socks, no caps and no one to help them. Gnawing on a carrot to still their hunger pangs, they walk from their cold houses through cold streets to an even colder classroom. Things have gotten so bad in Holland that hordes of children stop passersby in the streets to beg for a piece of bread. I could spend hours telling you about the suffering the war has brought, but I’d only make myself more miserable. All we can do is wait, as calmly as possible, for it to end. Jews and Christians alike are waiting, the whole world is waiting and many are waiting for death. –January 13, 1943

We’ve all been a little confused this past week because our dearly beloved Westertoren bells have been carted off to be melted down for the war, so we have no idea of the exact time, either night or day. I still have hopes that they’ll come up with a substitute, made of tin or copper or some such thing, to remind the neighborhood of the clock. –August 10, 1943

[Note: On the Anne Frank website, there’s an interesting photo of the bells being taken out by barge on the canal  click here.]

Going underground or into hiding has become as routine as the proverbial pipe and slippers that used to await the man of the house after a long day at work. There are many resistance groups, such as Free Netherlands, that forge identity cards, provide financial support to those in hiding, organize hiding places and find work for young Christians who go underground. It’s amazing how much these generous and unselfish people do, risking their own lives to help and save ours.

The best example of this is our own helpers, who have managed to pull us through so far and will hopefully bring us safely to shore, because otherwise they’ll find themselves sharing the fate of those they’re trying to protect. Never have they uttered a single word about the burden we must be, never have they complained that we’re too much trouble. They come upstairs every day and talk to the men about business and politics, to the women about food and wartime difficulties and to the children about books and newspapers. They put on their most cheerful expressions, always ready to do what they can. That’s something we should never forget; while others display their heroism in battle or against the Germans, our helpers prove theirs every day by their good spirits and affection. –January 28, 1944

A huge commotion in the Annex! Is this really the beginning of the long-awaited liberation? The liberation we’ve all talked so much about, which still seems too good, too much of a fairy tale ever to come true! Will this year, 1944, bring us victory? We don’t know yet. But where there’s hope, there’s life. It fills us with fresh courage and makes us strong again. We’ll need to be brave to endure the many fears and hardships and the suffering yet to come. It’s now a matter of remaining calm and steadfast, of gritting our teeth and keeping a stiff upper lip! France, Russia, Italy, and even Germany, can cry out in agony, but we don’t yet have that right! Oh, Kitty, the best part about the invasion is that I have the feeling that friends are on the way. Those terrible Germans have oppressed and threatened us for so long that the thought of friends and salvation means everything to us! Now it’s not just the Jews, but Holland and all of occupied Europe. Maybe, Margot says, I can even go back to school in September or October. –June 6, 1944

Is it because I haven’t been outdoors for so long that I’ve become so smitten with nature? I remember a time when a magnificent blue sky, chirping birds, moonlight and budding blossoms wouldn’t have captivated me. Things have changed since I came here. One night during the Pentecost holiday, for instance, when it was so hot, I struggled to keep my eyes open until eleven-thirty so I could get a good look at the moon, all on my own for once. Alas, my sacrifice was in vain, since there was too much glare and I couldn’t risk opening a window. Another time, several months ago, I happened to be upstairs one night when the window was open. I didn’t go back down until it had to be closed again. The dark, rainy evening, the wind, the racing clouds, had me spellbound; it was the first time in a year and a half that I’d seen the night face-t0-face. After that evening my longing to see it again was even greater than my fear of burglars, a dark rat-infested house or police raids. I went downstairs all by myself and looked out the windows in the kitchen and private office. Many people think nature is beautiful, many people sleep from time to time under the starry sky, and many people in hospitals and prisons long for the day when they’ll be free to enjoy what nature has to offer. But few are as isolated and cut off as we are from the joys of nature, which can be shared by rich and poor alike. It’s not just my imagination–looking at the sky, the clouds, the moon and the stars really does make me feel calm and hopeful. It’s much better medicine than valerian or bromide. Nature makes me feel humble and ready to face every blow with courage! As luck would have it, I’m only able–except for a few rare occasions–to view nature through dusty curtains tacked over dirt-caked windows; it takes the pleasure out of looking. Nature is the one thing for which there is no substitute! –June 13, 1944

How do these thoughts from a young girl affect you today?  How will it cause you to think about life differently?  If you had lived in Amsterdam at the time of this diary, what part would you have played?  I don’t think I would’ve been brave enough to be a part of the resistance, but surely we would’ve sheltered friends in need, especially if asked, and if God was leading that way in scripture.  I guess that would’ve been the bottom line for me–what was God saying to me?  I would want to follow His lead without fear.  But would I, in dangerous circumstances like this?  It’s something to think about.

Great Compassion Links

Today I have some great links for you to explore from Compassion.  Don’t miss these compelling stories!

When Home is Not Safe

Child and Sponsor Meet–14 Years in Coming

New Updates to the Compassion App

Where Do Children Keep Their Letters From You?

Photos of Compassion Centers from our Partner Countries

 

 

 

 

My Word

Today I’m sharing quotes from my “Word of the Year” journal; my word this year is “Joy!”

Sing a new song of praise to Him; play skillfully on the harp, and sing with joy.  For the word of the Lord holds true, and we can trust everything He does.  –Psalm 33:3-4 [NLT]

Sometime in our future there’s a party to end all parties.  The Lamb of God will invite us to a bash that rings out the old life forever and rings in a new unity with Him.  Hatred, fear, and pride will go suddenly stale, as we feast on love, joy, and praise.  What a day that will be!  Hallelujah!  —One Year Book of Psalms, 12/31

I’m not on top of the peak calling you to climb up where I am.  Rather I’m standing with you as we both look to the summit of this great mountain called the fear of God.  It’s a challenging climb upward, but also a joyous climb.  My prayer is that this book will help us both on our journey.  –Jerry Bridges, The Joy of Fearing God, pg. ix

In contrast to servile fear, filial fear is the loving fear of a child toward his father.  Ferguson describes it as “that indefinable mixture of reverence, fear, pleasure, joy and awe which fills our hearts when we realize who God is and what He has done for us.”  –Jerry Bridges, The Joy of Fearing God, pg. 27

God does not give us overcoming life; He gives us life as we overcome.  The strain is the strength.  If there is no strain there is no strength.  Are you asking God to give you life and liberty and joy?  He cannot, unless you will accept the strain.  Immediately you face the strain, you will get the strength. –Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, 8/2

Sobering Words

I’m taking a short break from the photos of our trip to Amsterdam.  There are many outstanding quotes from my journals that I’d like to share this week.  First, insightful words from Compassion’s Vice President of the Latin America and Caribbean Region.  I met Edouard Lassegue and his wife years ago when I was in Haiti for the first time; at the time he was the President of Compassion Haiti.

Now he very capably administers, counsels and directs a much larger region.  This man is kind, warm, humble, caring, energetic and especially passionate about helping children in need.  This is his recent update:

I want to thank you for your faithfulness in praying for and supporting Compassion’s work in Latin America and the Caribbean.  Your unwavering commitment in uplifting this region to God’s care is an affirmation of the power and solidarity of the global Church, which I believe is the main reason for the gains the region continues to experience.

Over the past decade, the Latin America and Caribbean Region has seen ongoing progress in many socioeconomic areas.  In fact, today, many economists attest that the majority of the countries in this region have been experiencing modest, but steady annual growth rates.  What’s more, these countries are also seeing declining extreme poverty rates with citizens generally becoming healthier and better educated.

These are encouraging highlights, but regrettably, they represent only half of the present situation.  Today, this region remains the most violent in the world, with one of the highest homicide rates ever.  Most of the clashes involve drug and gang activities, resulting in ruthless and barbaric murders.

Our region also faces natural disasters of all kinds, including flooding, hurricanes and earthquakes.  Haiti, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic continue their recovery efforts from hurricanes and tropical storms, while Mexico focuses on reconstruction from earthquake devastation.  Heavy rainfall in Colombia and Peru have brought about flooding and higher incidents of mosquito-borne illnesses.

But, in the midst of it all, I am so inspired by the dedication and courage of our church partners.  They do not complain; they do not back down.  That is why we count it a distinct privilege to walk alongside them in this vital ministry of releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name.

So please don’t stoop praying for the Latin America and Caribbean Region.  Pray that the Church stays firm in the midst of the violence that surrounds them, serving as an example of Christ’s truth and love.  Pray for the safety of families and children–many of whom face the threat of violence every day in their normal day-to-day activities.  Pray for governments and local branches of authority, that they will “step up” and care for the people they profess to serve.

The troubles of the Latin America and Caribbean Region will not fade by just good intentions.  Real progress and peace will only come through a change of heart and mindset, and as followers of Christ, we know that is the work of the Holy Spirit.

Thank you, again, for your prayerful support.  And may you be encouraged that all things are possible through God — and that includes a transformation in Latin America and the Caribbean.

In the spirit of the triune God, Edouard Lassegue, Vice President of the Latin America and Caribbean Region, Compassion International

Here is the link for my second visit with Josue, and with his younger brother that I also sponsored later.  If you would like to sponsor a child, click here and you can search a child from Latin America or the Caribbean!