Corrie ten Boom (1892-1983)
As commendable as The Hiding Place (1971) was, it created the impression Corrie was a middle-aged spinster suddenly thrust from a sheltered life into World War II. In fact Corrie was a risk-taker and a superb organizer. The first thing the Nazis did after invading Holland was to shut down her large organization of girls' clubs so that it could not be used by the Dutch underground. From 1923 to 1940 Corrie had built it from a simple diversion for girls after church to her network of well-rounded, spiritually-grounded Triangle Clubs. Her girls wore uniforms, learned crafts, studied the Bible, even camped. Each year they rented a concert hall to perform for friends and relatives. In the middle of the show Corrie, a fearless public speaker, gave a peppy talk with a title like 'God's telephone is never busy!'.
But her weekly meetings with the girls were the joy of her life. The clubs had various classes, one of which offered physical exercises. This class voted on a slogan. Corrie was high-hipped with pigeon toes, but shorts required for the class revealed another feature: knock knees. One girl, gawking at Corrie's legs, suggested the slogan: WE MAKE STRAIGHT WHAT IS CROOKED! Corrie laughed louder than anyone. She knew teasing was one way some girls expressed friendship. She was not too proud to take a joke either, even though her girls often pushed her to the limit. Every summer they camped out. On the last evening of their campout Corrie would sneak into the woods after lights-out and sing a warm good-bye song. One year a horrible din drowned out her song. She was sure she battled the devil himself. But she didn't stop singing. Next morning her girls insisted she never sang more beautifully. 'Noise?' they asked in mock surprise, 'What noise?'
Dealing with her 40 or so club leaders took patience too. One leader was so bizarre she was a legend. The girls nicknamed her 'Kipslang', Dutch for 'chicken-snake', because she told them the snake in the Garden of Eden had legs like a chicken. One of her meetings broke up with girls hurling chairs at each other. Corrie had ten clubs that had formed from girls who were first attracted to Kipslang's outrageous club, then fled it! But feisty Kipslang stayed. Corrie was too kind to ask any leader to quit.
Over nearly 20 years many of her thousands of girls had to deal with death in their families. Corrie consoled in every way she could. Occasionally death took one of the girls. One day Corrie had to rush to the hospital. Pietje - a petite girl with severe physical problems - was dying! The tiny face grimaced from pain. Corrie said, "It is such a comfort to know Jesus will be our Judge. Oh, how he loves you, Pietje!" Corrie stroked her forehead. She prayed aloud for the Good Shepherd to take his lamb to his Father's house with many mansions. Pietje's face relaxed. She smiled as if she was seeing Jesus. As Corrie said, "Amen," Pietje died.
[sources: In My Father's House by Corrie ten Boom with Carole C. Carlson, 1976, and Corrie ten Boom: Her Life, Her Faith by Carole C. Carlson, 1983]
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