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The Hiding Place

Title: The Hiding Place

Author: Corrie Ten Boom with John & Elizabeth Sherrill

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

“In darkness God’s truth shines most clear.”

A hiding place is where we all want to go when things are bad - whether that’s because of the strain of ‘lockdown’ during a pandemic or in a concentration camp in Nazi Germany.  For Corrie ten Boom, Jesus was this place, the ‘Rock cleft for me’.

Corrie ten Boom’s extraordinary memoir has been an inspiration to millions of readers; it is considered one of the greatest Christian testimonies of our time.  I must admit that I felt very late to the party when it came to reading ‘The Hiding Place’.  I’ve known for a very long time that this was a book rich in faith, love and witness, but it wasn’t until last year, during our first lockdown that I actually tracked down a copy (thank you Alice!) and got round to reading it.

‘The Hiding Place’ is about Corrie’s life from the first day of school, life with her siblings, falling in love, illnesses, the death of loved ones and ending with the start of a worldwide ministry of comfort and counsel.

The book starts with the 100th birthday of the family’s watch making shop in Haarlem, Holland - a real point in history.  Corrie is in her 50’s and described as ‘broad of frame and sensible shoe, with a face that radiated love, peace, joy’.  Not necessarily your obvious leading lady - but read on.  Her tale is absolutely captivating.  Heart wrenching at times (you will need a box of tissues) - but enthralling to the end.

As Nazi madness swept across Europe, this quiet watchmaker’s family risked everything for the sake of others, and for the love of Christ.  Despite danger and threat of discovery, they offered shelter to persecuted Jews.  Then a trap brought the family’s arrest.  They were all separated and had no contact.  But that wasn’t God’s plan and eventually Corrie and her sister, Betsie, were reunited… on their way to an Holocaust concentration camp.  Here Betsie encourages Corrie to remain hopeful that God will rescue them from the brutalities they experience:  “The centre of His will is our only safety.”

With little food and constant work, the sisters suffer constantly and witnessing their love for God seems to be the only thing that keeps them going. And they grabbed every opportunity, even with ‘the enemy’.  “I saw a gray uniform and visored hat.  Betsie saw a wounded human being.”  Their inner strength and assurance of God’s love and grace is astounding… and humbling.

At each turn in Ravensbruck (their final place of captivity), when the sisters should have been separated, or their Bible ‘discovered’, God’s intervention strikes again and again.  He clearly wanted them to spread His word - teaching, encouraging, leading others to Him.  In the dark, cold, filthy, cramped dormitory “our Bible was the centre of an ever widening circle of help and hope.  Like waifs clustered around a blazing fire, we gathered about it, holding out our hearts to its warmth and light. The blacker the night around us grew, the brighter and truer and more beautiful burned the word of God.”

“Side by side... Betsie and I ministered the word of God to all in the room.  We sat by deathbeds that became doorways of heaven.  We watched women who had lost everything grow rich in hope.”

Corrie’s story is a life lesson in so many things - forgiveness; how God uses weakness; facing death; how to love your enemies and much, much more.  Astonishing examples on every page.  A human life story but with God at the very centre.  And intertwined with this, giving an historical structure, there were also fascinating details of the Underground work in Holland.  The architecture of building ‘secret’ rooms, the drills required for the hiding of fugitives at speed, as well as the meticulous thought in ensuring no ‘evidence’ of their existence is left.  Such factual insights!

It’s a history book.  A book of survival.  A woman’s journey.  But ultimately, it’s a love story.  A real life story about how the love of God can get you through the worst human life can throw at you.

“There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still.”

Rich with quotes, inspiration and God centred thoughts and actions.  I would encourage anyone to read this story - it’s full of trust, heart and hope.

Review by Emily Dadson

Emily has been a member of St Margaret's church for over 18 years.  She serves in the Women Together Team and is frequently involved in any church drama or puppetry! She works for local charity, Children on the Edge and is married to Mike. Their two children are both at University.