17: Corrie ten Boom

2020 marks the 50th anniversary of the ordination of women in the ELCA, the 40th anniversary of women of color, and the 10th anniversary of LGBTQ+ siblings.

It’s an incredibly important marker for the ELCA, though it is only the beginning for the Church, as women are still denied ordination across the denominations and hold less than 15% of the leadership positions in the worldwide church! Therefore, in 2020, we in the Oregon Synod will highlight one woman from Christian history every week. Some you may know, others you may not, but all worthy of our respect and gratitude.

#17 Corrie ten Boom

When the Nazis invaded Holland, Corrie ten Boom, the first woman licensed as a watchmaker in Holland, and her family began hiding Jewish people in their home. The façade of the watch shop made the house an ideal front for these activities. A secret room, no larger than a small wardrobe closet, was built into Corrie’s bedroom behind a false wall. The space could hold up to six people, all of whom had to stand quiet and still. A crude ventilation system was installed to provide air for the occupants. When security sweeps came through the neighborhood, a buzzer in the house would signal danger, allowing the refugees a little over a minute to seek sanctuary in the hiding place. Before the ten Boom family was turned into Nazi authorities, they saved nearly 800 people from death camps. Corrie was the only member of her family who survived her time in a concentration camp. A clerical error allowed her to be released one week before all women prisoners her age were executed. “God does not have problems. Only plans,” she proclaimed. Corrie told her story in a book entitled The Hiding Place, inspiring many to see God at work through the darkest of life’s circumstances. Her experiences led to a worldwide ministry through more than 60 countries where she preached about forgiveness and Christ’s love. She died on her 91st birthday, April 15, 1983. Her passing on this date evokes the Jewish traditional belief that states that only specially blessed people are granted the privilege of dying on the date they were born.