Monday, March 1, 2010

"Love Is Larger"

This last summer we traveled to Haarlem in Holland with Uncle Jake and Aunt Kathy. While there, we visited the Beje (pronounced bay-yay), home of Corrie ten Boom. From the moment we entered through the alley doorway and were led into the family dining room I was a wreck. A blessed wreck.

If I had to describe the experience in one word, I think I'd use love. Our tour guide, Betsie, was as kind, gentle, and soft-spoken as I imagined Betsie ten Boom was. Lovingly, patiently, she told the story of the family and their work with the underground during the German occupation of Holland. She described each family member and told stories about the ways they worked together to help those in need -- and the ways they supported one another, always extending grace, believing the best. With expert skill, Betsie took us back to the time of The Hiding Place, during WWII.

My children crawling into the Secret Room

We stood around the table where Father, "Papa ten Boom", read the Bible aloud every day. We followed Betsie up the narrow, winding staircase -- but not before she showed us the secret hiding place where they kept extra ration cards. We visited each tiny bedroom, barely large enough for a narrow twin bed (European-standard twin; smaller than in the States), some of the rooms with two or more people sleeping in the same space.

The children stand in the same place that hid six Jews from the Gestapo.

As we entered Corrie's room, Betsie described the events of that day on February 28, 1944 when the Gestapo raided their home. The moment when Corrie lay sick in bed, while in a

"fevered dream a buzzer kept ringing. On and on it went. Why wouldn't it stop? Feet were running, voices whispering. 'Hurry! Hurry!'

I sat bolt upright. People were running past my bed. I turned just in time to see Thea's heels disappear through the low door. Meta was behind her, then Henk.

...Five, six. Yes, that was right with Leendert away."1

Aunt Kathy... looking out over the neighbor's rooftops. (How many attics and secret rooms hid Jews?)

We explored each nook and cranny -- even the rooftop where "the ten Boom's would sit in the sunshine and peel potatoes."

This painting says, "This is a monument in camp Westerbork. All the Jews from the Netherlands were collected in this camp. Every Tuesday a train arrived. And this train went from Westerbork to the various camps in Europe, full with people. Now you see rails bent up as a monument that there will never arrive a train again in Westerbork."

The Star of David, sewn on clothing, to identify them as a Jew.

We stood in a room full of mementos from the War. Food Ration Cards, lists of names, newspaper clippings, a Nazi flag...

Zae, Eli, and Uncle-Grandpa...

I continuously blinked back tears as we walked from room to room, but once we got to the room that Tante Jans once occupied -- the large parlor where Willem later conducted Bible Studies and worship services -- well, I sobbed my ridiculous eyes out.

Zeke and LeRoy...
Here, Betsie shared the gospel with those who were on the tour of the house. She told us "that love is larger than the walls which shut it in."2 I knew the ten Boom story. How that the family was arrested for political crimes, (hiding Jews), and about Betsie and Corrie going to Ravensbruck Concentration Camp where Betsie died and Corrie was later released. But sitting there listening to the Gospel -- taking in what Jesus did for me, knowing how this family LIVED out the Gospel in their everyday lives -- with the precious, powerful presence of the Holy Spirit filling that room... well, it made me want to come to Jesus all over again. (Oh drat, as I write this, I can't seem to contain the tears!)

Later, Israel went over to the Family Bible that laid open on the reading desk. She fingered the tattered pages as Betsie came over and lovingly helped her turn a few pages while explaining how dear God's Word was to the ten Boom Family.

Tante Jans's Room and later the parlor where Willem held Wednesday Bible Studies.

Me, sitting in the Family Dining Room on the main level.

As we were leaving, I turned to take one more look down the alley and saw LeRoy, Jake, and Kathy standing at the doorway and I thought this is exactly what so many, many people did as they came to this house to receive help!

Front view of the Watch Shop and Beje

Looking toward Grote Markt on Barteljorisstraat

Our family with our gracious tour guide, Betsie, (whom we also discovered is friends with mutual friends of ours in Spokane!)

St. Bavo's Cathedral where the ten Boom Family attended church; where Mozart once played on the "great golden organ"
After visiting Corrie's house we walked around the Grote Markt, wanting to know more about this beautiful city she called home.

We played. Must. Always. Play!




Bought gelato ice cream cones...

And walked in one another's embrace

I'm looking forward to discussing The Hiding Place at Book Club tonight!!
"Always pray first. Then do something practical." ~ Casper ten Boom
1. The Hiding Place, Chapter 9
2. The Hiding Place, Chapter 4


  1. Ok, now I'm all a mess of tears too. Absolutely beautiful. Beautiful.

  2. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, for taking me to a place I've thought about so much and wondered about, and longed to see. It's so wonderful to see it through your heart.
    What a legacy!

  3. Count me in to the tear fest as well. Thanks for taking me along - that book is so special to me and I hope to take that same tour someday. I'm always inspired by how she forgave, just as Christ forgives us. What a gift to teach your kids about her in such a personal way! :)

  4. I can so relate to the tears that flowed uncontrollably. I once had to leave a store while sobbing (and I mean "the ugly cry")over a picture I had seen and the story behind it. And what powerful emotions that place would evoke.

    Thank you so much for the beautiful photos and "visit" to this sacred place.

  5. I really like it, your adventure :)
    we had gelatio - the ice cream - in australia too! everytime we went to Coolangata.