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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The ten Boom Home and the Hiding Place

The next important stop on my bucket list tour of the Netherlands was Haarlem.
Having grown up hearing the story of Corrie ten Boom, it has long been something I wanted to experience. The ten Boom family lived in Haarlem where Caspar, her father, was a watch maker.
When the oppression against the Jews started, as a family they decided that they wanted to be part of the resistance movement and made a decision to hid Jews in their home.
The ten Boom family was known for hosting people and for their great hospitality so it was a natural step for them to open their homes to other resistors along with the Jewish people themselves. Their story is chronicled in the book, The Hiding Place and I highly recommend it. I am eager to re-read it now.
The house in Haarlem where the hiding place was is now a living museum and it was quite a thrill to see the actual place where this well known history unfolded.
The hiding place itself is very small.
It is hard to imagine that 6 people were there for 2 straight days once.
Access behind the wall was through the bottom shelf of the linen cabinet.
No plumbing. Only a bucket for waste.
Limited resources of food and water and of course, totally dark. An alarm system was set up in the house and the family and their guests had frequent drills to ensure that those in danger could get hidden in a timely manner. When the alarm sounded and it was the Nazis, everyone somehow knew that this was not a drill. 
The home itself was a warm and inviting place.
One could imagine the joyful gatherings that took place around the piano and in heartfelt conversation. Family photos dotted the house. An air of warmth and closeness permeated these surroundings.
It was pretty moving to imagine what life must've been like during this awful period of history. Many people hid Jews and worked for the resistance and paid a high price for it. Corrie ten Boom took the opportunity she was given through being a survivor to write and share her story.
She has some of the best theology about forgiveness that I've ever read and I do often quote her in my preaching. She was a strong woman of faith and committed to putting the love and grace of Jesus Christ ahead of any desire to seek revenge or harbor bitterness. It's a key lesson for all of to learn and when it comes from someone who suffered as much as Corrie ten Boom did, well, it can put our own grievances into perspective. In the linen cabinet a hand stitched message sat on the shelf, Maranatha, Come Lord Jesus. I can only imagine that that was often their prayer during those dark days.

A surprise for me was seeing the folder from her funeral.
For some reason I had forgotten that she was buried in Southern California, not very far from where I grew up. I knew of one of the pastors who officiated at her service. It was really a thrill for me to visit this house and hear again of this incredible story of faith and courage.
The town of Haarlem is beautiful in its own right.
A gorgeous square with a towering church and other stately buildings greets you as do many Dutch towns.
I really liked wandering around the streets and taking in the atmosphere of the town, trying to imagine what it was like when the Nazis invaded and took control of people. 
This visit inspired me to remember to do the right thing in difficult circumstances, to allow forgiveness to lead my life and not revenge or bitterness, and to consider the ways in which my own faith gets lived out in real and tangible ways for the betterment of humanity. I am so thankful for this visit to the hiding place.