By Mark Ellis
Corrie ten Boom and her family were Dutch Christians who risked their lives to save Jews from the Nazi Holocaust during World War II. Her bestselling book, “The Hiding Place,” describes the affliction they suffered and the power of forgiveness to heal wounds from the past.
Even though ten Boom lost her father and two siblings in the Nazi death camps, she often quoted sister Betsie, who died in the Ravensbruck camp: “There is no pit so deep that He (God) is not deeper still.”
After the war ten Boom visited a prison camp at Darmstadt, which housed some of the former Nazi female guards from Ravensbruck, where she had been imprisoned. Now the tables were turned. Ten Boom had her freedom, but these former guards were now the ones behind bars.
“I had come here to show these people the way to real freedom,” she noted in another of her books, “Amazing Love,” published by the Christian Literature Crusade. “I had come to speak of the love of God that surpasses all understanding – to tell about Jesus Christ, Who came into the world to make people happy under all circumstances.”
She made the visit knowing it would not be easy to reach the hearts of these women, who were hardened by war. “Their faces were glum,” she observed at first. “It seemed as if I was addressing a stone wall.”
Ten Boom prayed silently that the love of God would fill her and shine through her. But all she could see on the surface was aversion to her message, along with embittered hearts.
The women had Bibles with them, and seemed to be familiar with them, because they were able to quickly find the verses ten Boom cited. But after speaking twice to the women without any visible response, she went to the prison’s superintendent for advice.
“Can you tell me why I get no response at all?” she asked.
The superintendent laughed and said, “The women have said to me, ‘This Dutch woman speaks in such a simple way. We Germans are more highly cultivated, and so much more profound in our theology.’
“I’m afraid you won’t get along well together,” she said. “But why don’t you try once more.”
Ten Boom went back to her room and dropped to her knees in prayer. “Lord, won’t you please give me a message. I am not cultured enough, and not profound enough theologically for these ‘National Socialist’ women.”
Then the still small voice of the Lord spoke to her heart, with one simple word conveyed: chocolate.
At first the word seemed completely senseless. What kind of message is this? But suddenly a light went on in her mind. She had with her a box of chocolates, something unavailable anywhere in post-war Germany, to say nothing of the prison.
Ten Boom went back to speak to the former prison guards a third time. As she surveyed the faces of her audience she still saw “resistance and distance on every somber face,” she recounted in her book.
“This is my last visit with you, so I brought you a little treat, some chocolate,” she told them.
Suddenly every face in the room lit up. They hadn’t had chocolate for a long time! What an extravagance for these poor prisoners to have one small piece of chocolate. “All at once we were friends,” ten Boom noted in her book. Some even asked her later to write her name and address in their Bibles.
Ten Boom began her ‘chocolate sermon’ with a gentle reprimand, “No one has said anything to me about the chocolate.”
“Oh yes we did,” they replied quickly. “We thanked you.”
“Yes, of course, but no one questioned me about the chocolate. No one asked whether it had been manufactured in Holland or what quantities it contained of cocoa, sugar, milk, or vitamins. You have done exactly what I intended you to do; you have eaten and enjoyed it.”
Then ten Boom held up her Bible in front of them. “It is just the same with this Book. If I read about the Bible in a scientific, theological, or scholarly way, it does not make me happy. But if I read that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him, should not perish but have everlasting life, then I am really happy.”
“When I read in this Book that there are many mansions in my Father’s house, I know that He is also preparing a place for me.”
As she spoke, the Holy Spirit began to work in the women’s hearts. “Barriers fell away, and understanding and longing were born in their eyes before me, a hunger to hear more of that love that surpasses all understanding.” Many of the women found new life as a result of the ‘chocolate’ message.
Months later, ten Boom visited a large hospital in Germany. An emaciated patient not long for this world seemed to recognize her.
“Do you remember me?” she asked ten Boom.
Ten Boom had to admit she couldn’t, to her regret.
“Last year I was a prisoner in Darmstadt,” she said. “When you visited the camp, you preached on chocolate. That was the moment of my conversion,” she affirmed.
This story is contained in “Amazing Love” by Corrie ten Boom, published by Christian Literature Crusade. Special thanks to Aubrey Beauchamp and Hospital Christian Fellowship.
“Since then I have not read about the Bible but in it. Now I have to die, but I’m not afraid. I, too, have read in His Book that in my Father’s house are many mansions. And this I know; Jesus is also preparing one for me.”