Caravan Sonnet: Snowflakes in September- A Strange Place to Hope

4/16/14

Snowflakes in September- A Strange Place to Hope

This past Saturday I was feeling a little stronger (and very very stir crazy from being cooped up in bed) that my sweet mom suggested that we get out of the house for a drive. I was SO excited! (Yes, it really is the little things *smiles*). As we drove along we came across a garage sale that was almost finished. On a whim we stopped for a brief few minutes and I was excited to find a couple of books for $.10 (yes, 10 cents! yea!) I grabbed my "big purchases" and after spending a total of 40 cents (!) we continued our drive and headed home. One of the books that I picked up was a small book called: "Snowflakes in September: Stories about God's Mysterious Ways". As I have started to read (and cry) through this delightful collection of short stories from lots of different writers I find myself once again amazed at the faithfulness of our precious God. I have been so encouraged by this little book and wanted to share with y'all a story that touched my heart immensely. This story, entitled, "a strange place to hope" is by Corrie Ten Boom. I have read several of her books but this story resonated with me as I read and cried through it yesterday. I hope & pray that it will encourage you too today!

Snowflakes in September, A Strange Place to Hope
"Rank upon rank we stood that hot September morning in 1944, more than a thousand women lining the railroad siding, one unspoken thought among us: Not Germany! Beside me my sister Betsie swayed... These eight months in a concentration cam since we had been caught concealing Jews in our home had been harder on her. But prisoners though we were, at least till now we had remained in Holland. And now when liberation must come any day, where were they taking us?

Behind us guards were shouting, prodding us with their guns. Instinctively my hand went to the string around my neck. From it, hanging down my back between my shoulder blades, was the small cloth bag that held our Bible, that forbidden book which had not only sustained Betsie and me throughout these months, but given us strength to share with our fellow prisoners. So far we had kept it hidden. But if we should go to Germany... We had heard tales of the prison inspections there. A long line of empty boxcars was rolling slowly past. Now it changed to a halt and gaping freight door loomed in from of us. I helped Betsie over the steep side. The dark boxcar grew quickly crowded. We were pressed against the wall. It was a small European freight car, thirty or forty people jammed it. And still the guards drove women in, pushing, jabbing with their guns. It was only when eighty women were packed inside that the heavy door slid shut and we heard the iron bolts driven into place outside.

Women were sobbing and many fainted, although in the tight-wedged crowd they remained upright. The sun beat down on the motionless train, the temperatures in the packed car rose. It was hours before the train gave a sudden lurch and began to move. Almost at once it stopped again, then again crawled forward. The rest of that day and all night long it was the same, stopping, starting, slamming, jerking. Once through a slit in the side of the car I saw trainmen carrying a length of twisted rail. Maybe the tracks ahead were destroyed. Maybe we would be in Holland when liberation came.

But at dawn we rolled through the Dutch border town of Emmerich. We were in Germany. For two more incredible days and two more nights we were carried deeper and deeper into the land of our fears. Worse than the crush of the bodies and the filth was the thirst. Two or three times when the train stopped the door was slid open a few inches and a pail of water passed in. But we had become animals, incapable of planning. Those near the door got it all. At last, on the morning of the fourth day, the door was hauled open its full width. Only a few very young soldiers were there to order us out and march us off. No more were needed. We could scarcely walk, let alone resist. From the crest of a small hill we saw it, the end of our journey, a vast gray barracks city surrounded by double concrete walls.  "Ravensbrück!" Like a whispered curse, the word passed back through the line. This was the notorious women's death camp itself, the very symbol to Dutch hearts of all that was evil. As we stumbled down the hill, I felt the Bible bumping on my back. As long as we had that, I thought, we could face even hell itself. But how could we conceal it through the inspection I knew lay ahead?

It was the middle of the night when Betsie and I reached the processing barracks. And there under the harsh ceiling lights we saw a dismaying sight. As each woman reached the head of the line she had to strip off every scrap of clothes, throw them all onto a pile guarded by soldiers, and walk naked past the scrutiny of a dozen guards into the shower room. Coming out of the shower room, she wore only the thin regulation prison dress and a pair of shoes. Our Bible! How could we take it past so many watchful eyes? "Oh Betsie!" I began- and then stopped at the sight of her pain-whitened face. As a guard strode by I begged him in German to show us the toilets. He jerked his head in the direction of the shower room. "Use the drain holes!" he snapped. Timidly Betsie and I stepped out of line and walked forward to the huge room with its row on row of overhead spigots. It was empty, waiting for the next batch of fifty naked and shivering women. A few minutes later we would return here stripped of everything we possessed. And then we saw them, stacked in a corner, a pile of old wooden benches crawling with cockroaches, but to us the furniture of heaven itself. In an instant I had slipped the little bag over my head and stuffed it behind the benches. 

And so it was that when we were herded into the room ten minutes later, we were not poor, but rich. Rich in the care of Him who was God even of Ravensbrück. Of course when I put on the flimsy prison dress, the Bible bulged beneath it. But that was His business, not mine. At the exit guards were feeling every prisoner, front, and back and sides. The woman ahead of me was searched. Behind me, Betsie was searched. They did not touch or even look at me. Outside of the building was a second ordeal, another line of guards examining each prisoner again. I slowed down as I reached them, but the captain shoved me roughly by the shoulder. "Move along! You're holding up the line!" So Betsie and I came to our barracks at Ravensbrück. Before long we were holding clandestine Bible study groups for an ever-growing group of believers, and Barracks 28 became known throughout the camp as "the crazy place, where they hope". 

Yes, hoped, in spite of all that human madness could do. We had learned that a stronger power had the final word, even here." (Snowflakes in September, pages 39-41)

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