Heroines of the faith: Corrie ten Boom

“There is no pit so deep that God’s love is not deeper still,” were among the final words to her sister, Corrie, as Betsie ten Boom lay dying in a German death camp, a victim of starvation and torture.

Corrie ten Boom was a Dutch Christian who worked in her father’s watch repair shop in Haarlem, Holland. When the Germans invaded Holland in 1940, the whole family became involved in the Dutch resistance movement. They constructed a secret hidden chamber, thirty inches deep, in Corrie’s bedroom on the top floor of their home above the shop where they hid Jews and others from the Nazi SS troops. Throughout 1943 and 44 there were usually at least 6 people hiding in their home. Additional refugees were given temporary accommodation until other places could be found for them.

In February of 1944, an informant betrayed them. The entire family was arrested, although the Nazis didn’t find the Jews hidden in the secret room. They were rescued later by members of the Resistance. Their elderly father died 10 days later in prison. Other members of the family were released, but Corrie and her sister, Betsie, were sent to the notorious Ravensbruck concentration camp. There they endured unspeakable horrors, but held onto their faith. They were even able to conduct Bible studies using a contraband Bible.

Betsie died on December 16th 1944, and due to a clerical error, Corrie was released two weeks later, just one week before all women prisoners her age were executed.

After the war, Corrie set up rehabilitation centers for concentration camp survivors, and also for Dutch people who had collaborated with the Germans and were unable to get jobs. She spoke everywhere about the need for forgiveness.

In 1947, this was put to the test. She had just finished speaking at a meeting in Germany when a man in an overcoat and brown hat came up to her. She recognized him instantly as one of the guards who had abused her and Betsie.

“I was a guard in Ravensbruck, but since then, I’ve become a Christian. I know Christ has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there. Will you forgive me?” And he put out his hand.

This was the most difficult thing Corrie had ever been asked to do, but as she, by choice of will, gave him her hand, the love of Christ flooded her whole being, and she was able to say, “Yes, brother, I forgive you, with all of my heart!”

Sometimes there are books that have such an impact on your life that you can remember them decades later.  The Hiding Place  Corrie’s autobiography, became a best-seller that was later made into a movie.  I still remember its story and message.

Corrie traveled to over 60 nations, preaching the message of Christ’s forgiveness. Thousands became believers through her many books and her speaking.

Among her awards:

  • Israel honored her by giving her the title “Righteous Among the Nations.”
  • She was knighted by the Queen of the Netherlands for her work during the war.

Corrie died in 1983 on her 91st birthday.

(Information for this post came from here and here)

(Photo from Christianity.com)

Heroines of the faith: Amy Carmichael

Amy Carmichael was born in Ireland in 1867 to a well-to-do family. She decided to follow Jesus at the age of 13. At 18, her father died, leaving the family in a difficult financial situation. They moved to Belfast, where Amy became involved with the “shawlies,” mill girls who wore shawls rather than hats. She saw the appalling conditions in which they lived and worked. Starting as a small group class, the work grew until Amy needed a hall seating 500. Later she moved to Manchester, England, where she did the same.

A couple of interesting stories about Amy’s early life. She had brown eyes, but as a child always wished for blue ones. She was very disappointed when God didn’t answer her prayers for her eyes  to turn blue. But she was very grateful later on when God revealed his call on her life. Amy also suffered from neuralgia, a very painful neurological condition that often had her bedridden for weeks on end. An unlikely candidate for the mission field.

In 1887, at the Keswick Convention, Amy heard Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission, speak about the missionary life. Soon, she felt God’s call to go overseas as a missionary. Initially she went to Japan, but she never really felt at home there. From there she went to Sri Lanka. Then, after a year at home, she set sail for India in 1895, where she did her life’s work. She never returned home again, serving for 55 years without a furlough.

Amy did not fit into the missionary community in Bangalore–she hated the tea-drinking parties and gossip of the missionary wives. Soon she moved to join the Walker family on the very southern tip of India. Along with one of the Walker daughters and a few Indian Christian ladies, they began an itinerant ministry, speaking about Jesus throughout the surrounding villages. Their motto? “How much can I do without that I may have more to give?”

Amy adopted Indian dress and lifestyle, sometimes dying her skin with dark coffee.

In 1901, a young five year old girl named Preena was brought to Amy. She had been sold by her mother into temple prostitution, and was being taught all the degrading practices of the Hindu temple prostitutes. She had run away twice before, only to be found, taken back to the temple and beaten. But this time, the lady who found her, rather than taking her back to the temple, brought her to Amy. From that time onwards, Amy Carmichael set herself to rescue these young children from this terrible lifestyle.

This work was known as the Dohnavur Fellowship. They have rescued literally thousands of children, mainly girls, from the horrific lifestyle of the temple prostitute.

In 1931 Amy was crippled by a fall that left her bedridden for the nearly 20 remaining years of her life. She wrote many books during this time. Wheeled in a wheelchair onto the veranda outside her bedroom, the children would come and sing songs to her in the evenings.

The impact of Amy Carmichael”s life and writing continue to have an impact, more than 50 years after her death–for example, her vision of Christians making daisy chains.

Information for this post came from here and here. There is an interesting short video about her life here.

 

Photo taken from the website http://www.amycarmichael.org

Heroines of the faith: Gladys Aylward

Gladys Aylward, born of working class parents in London, England, in 1902, became a domestic servant at the age of 14. From the time she attended a revival meeting at which the message was about dedicating one’s life to the service of God, her heart was in missions. She longed to go overseas as a missionary to China. However, when she applied to the China Inland Mission, she was turned down because of her inadequate education–she failed the mission’s entry exam. They also thought at the age of 28 she was too old to learn Chinese.

Undeterred, by 1932 she had saved up her money and eventually spent her life savings on a one way train ticket to China, via Russia. She couldn’t afford the boat fare. She had been invited to work with Jeannie Lawson, an older missionary who was looking for someone to take over her work.

The two of them decided that the best way to reach out in their city, which was an overnight stop for mule trains carrying consumer goods, was to open an inn. So they founded the “Inn of the Eight Happinesses.” (A movie, “The Inn of the Sixth Happiness” starring Ingrid Bergman was based on this work.) After the first few months when they had to be coerced to stop, the mule drivers willingly stayed there because the food was good, the beds were warm and the innkeepers provided free entertainment in the evenings. They were storytellers, telling tales of a man named Jesus.

Gladys learned Mandarin from them, and adopted Chinese dress and culture.

After Jeannie’s death following an accident, Gladys Aylward served as a “foot inspector” for the Chinese government, traveling around the countryside enforcing the ban against the cruel practice of footbinding in which an infant girls feet were tightly bound with cloth to make their feet tiny–thought to be a sign of beauty, but crippling the girls in the process. It enabled her to get into many situations where she could tell the good news of Jesus. She also gained great favor when she stopped a prison riot.

Gladys took in orphans, adopting several herself. When the Japanese invaded her region of China in 1938, and with a price on her own head, she led 100 orphans to safety over the mountains. It was a twelve day journey with some nights spent unprotected on the mountainside, but eventually she delivered all the children to the safety of an orphanage in Sian. She promptly collapsed with typhus.

After 10 years back in Britain, she was denied re-entry to China by the Communist government, so settled instead in Taiwan where she became a friend of Tony (my husband’s) family. Again, she founded an orphanage. She died in 1970.

A book about her life by Alan Burgess, The Small Woman, was published in 1957.

Picture taken from Google images http://www.christianity.com

Information for this story was primarily obtained here and here.

Heroines of the faith: Aimee Semple McPherson

An extraordinary and controversial woman, Aimee Semple McPherson was like a movie star in the 1920s. But hundreds of thousands were converted under her ministry, thousands claimed healing, and her social ministries helped vast numbers during the Great Depression.

Here’s a documentary about her early life:

The second and third parts of the documentary can be seen here and here.

Aimee Semple McPherson was founder of the Foursquare Denomination, which is based on the fourfold foundation of Jesus Christ as Savior, Spirit-baptizer, healer and coming King. Attendance in these churches in this country is 257,000 with 7.9 million attending around the world.

The top three reasons it’s important to include women

Women are often undervalued and sidelined in the church, especially when it somes to strategic thinking and planning. Leadership equals servanthood (Matthew 20:25-28), and  we, the church, are supposed to be listening to our head, Jesus, and following what he says. Since women are used to serving, and they often hear him more clearly, it therefore seems very short-sighted not to include them. (If you have questions about the theology of this, check out a series of posts starting here.)

But there are more important reasons to include women. Here are the top three:


Photo Credit: Gerry Dincher via Compfight cc

 1.  The Harvest: When women co-labor alongside men, the workforce for the harvest potentially doubles.

2.  The Harvest: Psalm 68:11 (NASB) says this–The Lord gives the command; The women who proclaim the good tidings are a great host.

3.  The Harvest: Wherever we see a massive harvest going on around the world, women are often in the forefront. For example, in China, especially during the revival in the 1980’s and 90’s, female pastors and evangelists outnumbered males 3:1. In India, women apostles are responsible for thousands of churches. Women can often get into the places where men cannot go with the good news of the Kingdom. As Dr. Yonggi Cho once told us, “If you want to see a move of God, use your women.”

Guest post by Bruce: One line conversation starters with not-yet-believers

I have a job in a very busy, very intense human services setting. I often do not have more than 10-15 seconds to talk to a person. I always have a brief ‘teaser’ line that might elicit interest, and a quick follow up line that gives more info that can lead to a conversation.

Sometimes I say that I am a writer, and that my materials help people understand God a little better. I have a short booklet that I wrote about Jesus that I keep copies of to give out, and people are often interested in something that I wrote myself.

I often get prophetic words for co-workers, and that itself leads to conversations. Or I tell them that a lot of my time is spent helping people get closer to God. Or that I pray for a lot of people, and see God doing exciting things. I offer to pray for anyone, for anything.

My rule of thumb is to have a handful of very short ‘one liners’ and a matching follow up line that an interested person can follow up on later. This has worked well for me.

Sales people are trained to give their ‘elevator speech’.  We should be trained to give, not necessarily the gospel in 15 or 30 seconds (though that has its uses) but a 5 second comment that can give us an indication of who might well be approached later for more specific questions or comments, as a possible person of peace.

My teaser line is a way for almost anyone (even one as naturally timid as me) to ‘safely’ feel out the territory without being (or feeling) overtly or blatantly ‘religious’. The follow up might be a more definite comment or a question about spiritual beliefs.

Long ago, a friend from the South, when asked “How are you?” would often say, quietly and sweetly, “I’m blessed.”  That line, never heard in the region where I live, usually raises an eyebrow when I use it, and can give an indication of interest.I usually save that one for people that i suspect of a spiritual interest.

David Watson once blogged that he would say something like, “I feel like God may have spoken to me in a dream last night.”  or, “I recently realized something really powerful, that i never saw before.” and just let it sit, without another comment. If the other person didn’t say a word, he would not follow up with another word about it.But if they did, he gently followed up with comments to the level of the person’s interest, but never beyond it.

Just saying “God bless you” when finishing a brief conversation and watching reactions can also show who to follow up on.

Offering prayer about a personal situation shared in the workplace often leads to grateful responses, and lots of openings to share the goodness of God later on.

Bruce teaches church planting principles, working in many countries where security is an issue.

Photo Credit: procsilas (Creative Commons)

 

Bringing our faith into our working lives

When we worked and ministered in the UK, our lives were very blessed. Everything we touched seemed to “turn to gold”–in the spiritual rather than physical sense. Tony, my husband, was leading a ministry that worked among doctors and others in the caring professions and extraordinary things were going on all over the country. The ministry taught these professional how to bring their faith into their working lives in a sensitive and relevant way. We ran conferences that showcased examples of doctors who were doing something meaningful. As others professionals saw what was going on, their response was often, “I could do that in my practice.”

For example, I remember one family doctor giving a report on what he had seen the previous year. He had kept a record of every patient he had communicated the good news about Jesus to over the course of that year–about 150 people. Of those, around 50 had become followers of Jesus the first time he spoke with them, and another 50 had become believers some time during that year. The remaining 50 were an ongoing story. All over the country, doctors were seeking to communicate the Gospel in effective ways to their patients.

When Tony was practicing medicine, he probably saw several hundred of his patients find the Lord. In the UK, in part because of socialized medicine, the family doctor handled far more than the typical medical problems. If someone had a kid who was using drugs or had marital difficulties or any other social need, the GP was usually the first person they went to for help. Often, when his patients came to him with needs that were not really medical in nature, Tony would say to them, “You know, I don’t have a pill I can prescribe that will sort this out, but have you ever thought of praying about this situation?” The most common response was, “Doctor, I’ve prayed about it, but I don’t know if anyone is listening.” That was an open door for a spiritual conversation. During one memorable six week period, a person became a follower of Christ every day his office was open.

Other doctors moved into the very poor and socially deprived area of London where we lived and worked and had our church. One day, we did the math. In our (more traditional) church, there were 14 family doctors.  Our area had around 120,000 people living in it. Between the doctors in the church and their partners, anyone becoming sick in our area had a one in three chance of sitting down next to a Spirit-filled doctor who was looking for an opportunity to share about Jesus.

Other doctors around the country were running Bible studies in their offices, or referring the social needs of their patients to their churches. In fact, the impact was such that even the medical authorities were beginning to take notice. We heard one day that a family doctor, in his final oral exam in front of the licensing board was asked this question: “What would you do if you found yourself in a practice with doctors who were evangelical Christians who took every opportunity to speak to their patients about their faith?”

Our conferences were attended by around 5,000 people per year. I remember a particular conference we ran for consultants. At one stage, this group of 50 or so eminent consultants were asked to stand on their chairs and praise God at the tops of their voices. If these distinguished professionals were willing to humble themselves before God in this way at a weekend conference, it was easy for them to speak to their patients about the Lord during the following week.

So when in 1987, the Lord spoke to us that we were to move to the USA, we assumed, naively, that God wanted us to do the same kind of ministry among professionals here. Were we in for a shock!

Have you found effective ways to communicate your faith through your working life? I’d love to hear the story.