Cornelia ten Boom was born on April 15, 1892, and died on her ninety-first birthday, April 15, 1983. Corrie was from a remarkable family of pious Dutch Christians who constructed a secret room in their home and housed a number of Jews there, hidden from the Nazis. When their secret activities were discovered, the whole family was arrested and imprisoned, first in Scheveningen (where Corrie’s elderly father died just days after the arrest) and ultimately in the Ravensbrück concentration camp.
Corrie told the story in the best-selling book The Hiding Place, which was made into a movie by Billy Graham’s film company. I grew up with the comic book version, which manages to convey the basic story well, and even catches some excellent details like the “Jesus Is Victor” wall plaque that the Ten Booms displayed in their home (a quotation from a then-famous experience of spiritual warfare by a pastor Blumhardt).
From her experiences during the war, Corrie Ten Boom had a powerful message about forgiveness of stark evil, and submission to God’s will. She wrote a lot of books and travelled widely in ministry. She was eloquent and she had credibility with a wide range of audiences. Corrie Ten Boom spoke and acted like somebody whose life was a gift and a message from God, first to herself, and then through her to the world.
People who remember her primarily for The Hiding Place may not realize that she was very involved in the charismatic movement, networking internationally with Christian groups who were pursuing miraculous healing, speaking in tongues, and prophetic words. She was very committed to that charismatic expression of her Christian faith. But during those decades when, at least in America, the extremely charismatic people were building their own separate relational networks, getting odd television shows, emphasizing what set them apart from everybody else, and often embarrassing their non-charismatic brothers and sisters, Corrie Ten Boom projected a calm, centered kind of evangelical Christianity. She was a kind of itinerant elder statesman for the charismatics, and made the rest of us feel that after all, if Corrie Ten Boom was one of them, they must not be as weird as their television representatives made them seem.