Heroines for Today

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Debra Oaks Coe (c) all rights reserved

A heroine is a woman of great courage and noble qualities; she is a role model or ideal for others to look to and emulate. Heroines can be good women of all circumstances -- older, younger, married or single. Some may play seemingly minor rolls, yet women who help preserve Godly values and virtues, protect the home, and take the noble calling of motherhood seriously are heroines. It is important to remember that motherhood is a calling, rather than just a head count of children. It is a responsibility of loving, caring, nurturing, and teaching those around you. While there are many heroines, including several women from our own ward, I thought I would share a little of Corrie ten Boom's life as it recounted in The Hiding Place.

In the too often forgotten background of many great people are found great mothers and Corrie's mother was no exception. Prayer, scripture study and service were a regular and major part of their home. Her mother took baskets of food to others, made things for others, took in and cared for extended family, etc. Corrie described her as a woman who loved everyone and showed her love in everything she did. She brought peace to all who knew her. Even after she was paralyzed and no longer able to even speak, she still enlisted her daughters' help so that she could continue to bring cheer to the neighborhood.

Corrie and her sister Betsie continued their mother's service in the community, including taking in foster children and working with the mentally handicapped. This love and concern for others eventually caused them to willing risk their own lives to help save Jews during the Nazi occupation of Holland.

They did save many, but they were also captured and ended up in a concentration camp. After months of incarceration, they arrived at their final barracks. Here is Corrie's description: "Betsie and I followed a prisoner-guide through the door at the right. Because of the broken windows the vast room was in semi-twilight. Our noses told us, first, that the place was filthy: somewhere plumbing had backed up, the bedding was soiled and rancid. Then as our eyes adjusted to the gloom we saw that there were no individual beds at all, but great square piers stacked three high, and wedged side by side and end to end with only an occasional narrow aisle slicing through.

"We followed our guide single file--the aisle was not wide enough for two--fighting back the claustrophobia of these platforms rising everywhere above us. The tremendous room was nearly empty of people; they must have been out on various work crews. At last she pointed to a second tier in the center of a large block. To reach it we had to stand on the bottom level, haul ourselves up, and then crawl across three other straw-covered platforms to reach the one that we would share with--how many? The deck above us was too close to let us sit up. We lay back, struggling against the nausea that swept over us from the reeking straw. [Within a few minutes they discovered that the straw was swarming with fleas.]

"Barracks 28 was designed to hold four hundred, but now fourteen hundred were quartered here with more arriving each week. Eight acrid and overflowing toilets served the entire room; to reach them we had to crawl not only over our own bedmates but over those on the other platforms between us and the closest aisle, always at the risk of adding too much weight to the already sagging slats and crashing down on the people beneath. It happened several times, that first night.... Even when the slats held, the least movement on the upper platforms sent a shower of dust and straw over the sleepers below--followed by a volley of curses.... Here there was not even a common language and among exhausted, ill-fed people quarrels erupted constantly.... Brawls were starting all up and down... we heard scuffling, slaps, sobs." Anger penetrated the air; Corrie wondered how they could even survive in such a place. Together Betsie and Corrie prayed for help. (Ten Boom, The Hiding Place, New York: Bantam Books 1974 p. 197- 199)

By nothing short of several miracles on their behalf, they had been able to keep a Bible. With scriptures and prayer as their strength and guide, they found help not only for themselves, but help for those around them.

The teachings of their youth played an important role. They had seen peace and love in their home, they had witnessed their own mother continue in a life of love and giving even in a body with great physical pain and handicaps. Like their mother, they could not change many of their physical circumstances, but they could control their own emotions and how they influenced others. They chose to lift rather than be contributors of more hate and anger. They were led by their faith, not pulled by their emotions.

It is natural to react to cruelty with anger and hate. Hunger, physical exhaustion and great physical discomfort have natural negative emotions that accompany them. These two women did not let these natural feelings take over. Instead they chose to have feelings of love and compassion. They allowed the spirit of God to be with them and leaned on His spirit and their faith in His teachings. By using these, they found that Jesus Christ is truly the Prince of Peace. They looked for ways to bring others to Christ so that as many as possible would have peace in midst of such abomination.

Although the world in the concentration camp was a literal hell on earth that continued to worsen by becoming increasingly cruel and cold, and their physical conditions got worse -- the atmosphere inside Barracks 28 slowly changed to a heaven on earth. Each night they held worship "services" with hymns, Bible reading and prayer. Soon so many wanted to join them that they held a second service after evening roll call. During the services, the Bible was read in Dutch, but translations were passed on in German, French, Polish, Russian, Czech, etc. After a while, the yelling, slapping, crying, and words of anger changed to "Sorry!", "Excuse me," and "No harm done."

They changed the atmosphere by inviting others to join them in scripture reading and prayer, then they set the example of peace and love. Others saw the great positive difference Christ made in the lives of these two women and desired to join them. Eventually all the women living in this crowded room were feasting on the word of God together and entering His presence through prayer.

The physical conditions did not change: the guards were still cruel, the fleas still bit, the straw was still rancid, and the hunger pains and exhaustion continued; yet peace and harmony prevailed and the very crowded conditions were now seen as a blessing because so many were able to join them in coming unto Christ.

In praying to our Heavenly Father, Jesus said, "I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. . . .Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me." (John 17:15-17, 20-21)

To bring such peace and harmony to our homes, to have such a positive influence on those around us, to be able to be in the worst of circumstances and still choose to have joy and peace is the result of putting God above all else. This is what makes the greatest of all heroines. This is what saves souls, the most precious of all God's possessions.

No matter what our circumstances, we can all serve others in a similar fashion. This is especially important for those of us with children still at home. If these children are to weather their future storms of life, they must see our examples of turning to God for strength and putting His word first in our lives.

May we all be women of great faith. Although we live in this world, I hope we will all keep ourselves from the evils of our day and partake instead of the wonderful fruit God so willingly offers us.

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