We lift our voices. We kneel in prayer. We fight the good fight. We fiercely protect. We cut paths where none were before. We are warriors.
We have stories of joy and inspiration, some beyond our imagining of what hard is. Still, roses bloom and hope is found within a woman’s soul.
Some of the women that have shaped and inspired me are strong Dutch women. Women who reflect my Daddy’s heritage, warriors: resilient and tenacious. Each has a strong influence in my life, two of whom I have never met, Betsie ten Boom, Corrie ten Boom, and my Oma (grandmother in Dutch).
Corrie and Betsie were daughters of a watchmaker. They, along with their family, housed, fed, and relocated Jews during WWII, and eventually were arrested. They were persecuted, abused, and some killed. Both women ministered God’s grace to others despite living in a concentration camp.
One of my favorite quotes was made by Betsie, “There is no pit so deep, that He is not deeper still.”
How does anyone find a way to say that, let alone believe it, especially under the conditions in which she said it?
This quote confronted me. It called me deeper in my faith – a call that would demand more and anchor me through the many storms that lay ahead for me.
Her faith brought her to a place within herself that it didn’t matter that she was in a concentration camp. It didn’t matter how it smelled, felt, or what it looked like; she knew God was deeper. It didn’t matter that this ungodly place would be her final resting place, she knew He was deeper than what was unbelievably unendurably surrounding her.
These words of faith ask, nearly beg us, to find a faith that rests in the dark and hard places life can dish out.
Unbelievably while in Germany just two years after her release, a former camp guard approached her saying he’d become a Christian and asked for her forgiveness.
The first time I encountered this story, my heart screamed, No! Wait! What?!
Corrie struggled to forgive. That’s the real, the raw, and the hard in applying and walking out forgiveness in the struggle. Yet she did forgive. She understood the gravity of the moment saying, “Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart.”
There have been enough seasons in my life that have required me to forgive and to be forgiven. As Corrie states in a Guidepost article, “Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were also able to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was as simple and as horrible as that.”
My Dad and his family are also from Holland. Not only did they survive the war, but my Oma and Opa hid Jews during the war. My Oma rode her bike in the dark to wherever she could get extra food to feed them. They were part of the brave many who chose to say no to injustice and risked all to save others.
By the time the war ended, some 110,000 Dutch Jews had been deported to concentration camps, along with many members of the Dutch Resistance. Three-quarters of these Jews never made it home, giving the Netherlands the second highest mortality rate among nations during the Holocaust. The ten Boom family Betsie, Corrie, and their father Casper are honored in Israel as The Righteous Among the Nations at Yad Vashem
It hadn’t been until I started writing this piece that I realized just how deeply I have been molded by each one of these women. And how each was uniquely connected through history and heritage to one another, and to a daughter each of their stories would mold.
I have always been proud of the heroic acts my Oma and Opa took during the war. They are part of the many unknown unacknowledged souls that silently did their part because it was the right thing to do.
So, I want to stop and acknowledge each of these women by saying, thank you for your legacy of faith, forgiveness, and bravery. Because of you, and who He is, your legacy has dug deep roots within me. And given me the ability to say with understanding, “There is no pit so deep, that He is not deeper still.”
For further reading: Spots of Light – To be a Woman in the Holocaust