Corrie ten Boom (1892-1983) was a Dutch Christian who, with her family, helped many Jews escape the Nazis in the early 1940’s. She worked in her father’s watch-making business in Holland, and they hid Jews in their upstairs apartment until they could get out of the country. They were betrayed by a neighbor, arrested, and sent to the concentration camps. Corrie was the only family member who survived. Her autobiography The Hiding Place (1971) was made into a movie. This story is from her 1976 book In My Father’s House which was about the years before the war.
There were many ups and downs in the watch-making business, but Father seemed to have a keen understanding of the economic situation of our times. In his weekly paper he wrote information and suggestions for others in the business. Since he read all other papers about his trade in German, English, and French, he could adequately fill his paper with important news about trade and business.
However, when it came to making money in his own shop, it wasn’t always so simple. He loved his work, but he was not a moneymaker.
Once we were faced with a real financial crisis. A large bill had to be paid, and there simply wasn’t enough money. One day a very well-dressed gentleman came into the shop and was looking at some very expensive watches. I stayed in the workshop and prayed, with one ear tuned to the conversation in the front room.
“This is a fine watch, Mr. ten Boom,” the customer said, turning a very costly timepiece over in his hands. “This is just what I’ve been looking for.”
I held my breath as I saw the affluent customer reach into his inner pocket and pull out a thick wad of bills. Praise the Lord– cash! I saw myself paying the overdue bill, and being relieved of the burden I had been carrying for the past few weeks.
The blessed customer looked at the watch admiringly and commented, “I had a good watchmaker here in Haarlem his name was van Houten. Perhaps you knew him.” Father nodded his head. He knew almost everyone in Haarlem, especially colleagues.
“Van Houten died and his son took over the business. However, I bought a watch from him which didn’t run at all. I sent it back three times, but it was just a lemon. That’s why I decided to find another watchmaker.”
“Will you show me that watch, please,” Father said. The man took a large watch out of his vest and gave it to Father.
“Now, let me see,” Father said, opening the back of the watch. He adjusted something and turned it back to the customer. “There, that was a very little mistake. It will be fine now. Sir, I trust the young watchmaker. He will be just as good as his father. I think you can encourage him by buying the new watch from him.”
“But, ten Boom!” the customer objected.
“This young man has had a difficult time in the trade without his father. If you have a problem with one of his watches, come to me, I’ll help you out. Now, I shall give you back your money and you return my watch.” I was horrified. I saw Father take back the watch and give the money to the customer. Then he opened the door for him and bowed deeply in his old-fashioned way.
My heart was where my feet should be as I emerged from the shelter of the workshop. I said, “Papa! How could you?” I was so shocked by the enormity of what I had seen and heard, that I reverted my childhood name for my father.
“Corrie,” he said, “you know that I brought the Gospel at the burial of Mr. van Houten.”
Of course I remembered. It was Father’s job to speak at the burials of the watchmakers in Haarlem. He was greatly loved by all, and he welcomed the opportunity to talk about the Lord Jesus. Father often said that people were touched by eternity when they have seen someone dying. That is an opportunity we should use to tell about Him who is willing to give eternal life.
“Corrie, what do you think that young man would have said when he heard that one of his good customers had gone to Mr. ten Boom? Do you think that the name of the Lord would be honored? There is blessed money and cursed money. Trust the Lord. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills and He will take care of us.”
I felt ashamed and knew that Father was right. I wondered if I could ever have that kind of trust. I… had been unwilling to go the direction God wanted, only to follow my own stubborn path. Could I really trust Him with an unpaid bill?
“Yes, Father” I answered quietly. Who was I answering? My earthly father or my Father in heaven?
Psalm 50:10 — …Every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills.
Matthew 7:12 — (Jesus said), “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
I Peter 2:12 — Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
Lord, I am a countryman coming from my country to yours.
Teach me the laws of your country, its way of life and its spirit,
so that I may feel at home there. –William of St. Thierry
O Lord God, grant us always, whatever the world may say, to content ourselves with what you say, and to care only for your approval, which will outweigh all worlds; for Jesus Christ’s sake. Amen. –General Charles Gordon