Monday, May 13, 2013

"The Hiding Place" Book Review (It's a MUST read!)

What. a. powerful. story.

I highly recommend that you read it. You need to read it.

It's a true story told by Corrie Ten Boom who offered her life to help the Jewish people during World War II. In fact, when her country was invaded by Nazi Germany she came to the realization that the Jews needed help, and so she prayed this prayer:
"Lord Jesus, I offer myself for your people. In any way. Any place. Anytime." (p.74)
She became a leader for the underground Jewish hiding operation in Holland. When the operation was discovered, Corrie and her family were arrested and sent to prison. As her horrific experiences unfolded I was baffled by one persons astronomical faith: her sister Betsie. Over and over again, as each horrific event lept from the page, my prayer was this: "Lord help me to be like Betsie!"

I struggled to pick an event to tell without giving the book away. Every single time I turned the page I got goosebumps. Wow. Wow. Wow. Here is one example:

Corrie and Betsie were sent to the heart of Germany in a concentration camp called Ravensbruck. They were starved, over worked, and were forced to live in awful conditions. Oh my, the things they saw and endured.

One was their living quarters:
"... the aisle was not wide enough for two - fighting back the claustrophobia of these platforms rising everywhere above us. The tremendous room was nearly empty of people; they must have been out on various work crews. At last she [their guide] pointed to a second tier in the center of a large block. To reach it we had to stand on the bottom level, haul ourselves up, and then crawl across three other straw-covered platforms to reach the one that we would share with - how many? The deck above us was too close to let us sit up. We lay back, struggling against the nausea that swept over us from the reeking straw. We could hear the women who had arrived with us finding their places. Suddenly I sat up, striking my head on the cross slats above. Something had pinched my leg. "Fleas!" I cried. "Betsie, the place is swarming with them!" We scrambled across the intervening platforms, heads low to avoid another bump, dropped down to the aisle, and edged our way to a patch of light. "Here! And here another one!" I wailed. "Betsie, how can we live in such a place!" "Show us. Show us how." It was said so matter of factly it took me a second to realize she was praying. More and more the distinction between prayer and the rest of life seemed to be vanishing for Betsie. "Corrie!" she said excitedly. "He's given us the answer! Before we asked, as He always does! In the Bible this morning. Where was it? Read that part again!" I glanced down the long dim aisle to make sure no guard was in sight, then drew the Bible from its pouch. "It was in First Thessalonians," I said. We were on our third complete reading of the New Testament since living Scheveningen. In the feeble light I turned the pages, "Here it is: 'Comfort the frightened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all...." It seemed written expressly to Ravensbruck. "Go on," said Betsie. "That wasn't all."
"Oh yes: '... to one another and to all. Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus - "
"That's it Corrie! That's His answer. 'Give thanks in all circumstances!' That's what we can do. We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!" I stared at her, then around me at the dark, foul-aired room. "Such as?" I said. "Such as being assigned here together." I bit my lip. "Oh yes, Lord Jesus!"
"Such as what you're holding in your hands." I looked down at the Bible. "Yes! Thank You, dear Lord, that there was no inspection when we entered here! Thank you for all the women, here in this room, who will meet You in these pages."
"Yes," said Betsie. "Thank You for the very crowding here. Since we're packed so close, that many more will hear!" She looked at me expectantly. "Corrie!" she prodded. "Oh, all right. Thank You for the jammed, crammed, stuffed, packed, suffocating crowds."
"Thank You," Betsie went on serenely, "for the fleas and for -" The fleas! This was too much. "Betsie, there's no way even God can make me grateful for a flea."
"Give thanks in all circumstances,' " she quoted. "It doesn't say, 'in pleasant circumstances.' Fleas are part of this place where God has put us." And so we stood between piers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong. (p. 197-199)
Fleas? I immediately agreed with Corrie. Why on earth would Betsie be thankful for fleas? But she's right, be thankful in all circumstances. God does not promise an easy life. As I read Betsie's thankful list I immediately thought of the thankful journals my sisters and I do on a regular basis. For the last week I've neglected in mine and after reading that part I had a conviction of spirit to resume my daily thankfuls in all circumstances. My life is cake, it's beautiful and I'm overwhelmingly blessed. This book has inspired me in more ways than I can possibly count.

God still performs miracles was an overwhelming theme. And as the days unfolded this crowded barrack went from a brawling, fighting, raging mess to a calm, forgiving, uplifting place. The women were horrible to each other as they each endured hell. Betsie prayed aloud,
"Lord Jesus, send your peace into this room. There has been too little praying here. The very walls know it. But where You come, Lord, the spirit of strife cannot exist...." (p.200)
And the quarreling went to compromise, the screaming to chuckles, the rage to calm. And day after day they held prayer meetings and read the Bible. These women became family, trusting in the hope of salvation through Jesus Christ because of the message Corrie and her sister Betsie taught through the Bible. They endured tragedy after tragedy together and trusting in God's sovereignty.

For the life of them they did not understand why their barracks was the only barracks in the camp where the guards did not patrol. They wouldn't even step foot in this room, allowing them to host prayer meetings and read the Bible every single day.

Here's the goosebumpy part of the story....
"You know we've never understood why we had so much freedom in the big room," she said. "Well - I've found out." That afternoon, she [Betsie] said, there'd been confusion in her knitting group about sock sizes and they'd asked the supervisor to come and settle it. "But she wouldn't. She wouldn't step through the door and neither would the guards. And you know why?" Betsie could not keep the triumph from her voice: "Because of the fleas! That's what she said, 'That place is crawling with fleas!' " My mind rushed back to our first hour in this place. I remembered Betsie's bowed head, remembered her thanks to God for creatures I could see no use for. (p.209)
And this is only one goosebumpy part. There are literally hundreds! It's the one I chose to tell to inspire you to read it! The story of the Holocaust comes alive in this book, "The Hiding Place" as Corrie Ten Boom relates detail after horrific detail of how her and her family gave up their own lives to save others. You cannot read this book without being changed, inspired, and motivated to live out your life half as courageously as these individuals did inspite of tragedy that we in today's America will never understand.

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