We caught up with Woman of Legacy Ruth McKeaney as she shared Corrie ten Boom’s remarkable impact on her family.
How were you connected to Corrie ten Boom?
Corrie and my great-grandmother Jennie were what they called “soul sisters.” It was a deep and profound friendship. Corrie was committed to praying for Jennie, my grandparents, David and Helen, and all my aunts and uncles for decades. (She and Helen were also close.)
Because my great-grandparents, grandparents, and extended family were missionaries all over the world, they came to know Corrie from the late 1940s onwards. It seemed as though every missionary and evangelist during those days passed through my grandparents’ doors. In my grandpa’s early years, he was in a Bible study with Billy Graham, my great uncle Hubert Mitchell, Dick Hillis, Dawson Trotman, and Bob Pierce.
Do you have a favorite line of Corrie’s from The Hiding Place?
Growing up, I lived for a time with my grandparents. The house was always filled with old friends from the mission field, including Corrie. I’ll never forget sitting as a small child on the floor looking up into her bright eyes and hearing her tell the story of the train ticket repeated in The Hiding Place.
“Father sat down on the edge of the narrow bed. ‘Corrie,’ he began gently, ‘when you and I go to Amsterdam—when do I give you your ticket?’
I sniffed a few times, considering this.
‘Why, just before we get on the train.’
‘Exactly. And our wise Father in heaven knows when we're going to need things, too. Don't run out ahead of Him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us will have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need—just in time.’”
This quote means more to me than ever before in these days of uncertainty. I can rest knowing that when my time comes to face whatever trial is in front of me, God will give me what I need to face it with dignity and courage, just as he did for Corrie.
How has Corrie’s legacy impacted your family’s legacy, and, more personally, your own legacy?
Around the time that The Hiding Place was published, in the early 1970s, my grandparents’ family (Helen and David) began to fall apart. At the time, they were evangelists in Sumatra, Japan, and throughout China. Their eldest daughter was in a seriously rebellious phase, and it was causing the family intense stress, grief, and disunity. One of the first people Helen went to was Corrie, and immediately, Corrie began to intercede and pray.
Some time passed, and Corrie met up with my grandparents at a Maranatha Conference in Michigan, where my grandfather was speaking.
Immediately, Corrie asked after the children. The truth was, things were still rough. The breakthrough had not yet come. Corrie went back to her hotel room and spent several hours in prayer. When she came back out, she found my grandparents and said, “David, I do not see visions, but while I was praying today, I saw a vision of building materials coming from every direction, north, south, east, and west, building materials for a beautiful home.” When every log was in place, she saw a word stretched over the front door. The word was, “Together.”
“Corrie!” my grandfather exclaimed. “Did you know that ‘Together’ is our family motto?”
It was true. “Together” had been the family motto for years. In fact, my great-grandfather (Jennie’s husband and Helen’s father), a wonderful artist, made plaques for all the family members with “Together” written on them in his beautiful, distinctive script. That said, of late, the family motto seemed to have been shattered and the pieces buried. But that is not the way God saw it!
Even though their family had been tossed to and fro in the storm of life, God’s hand was still on them. While the enemy had tried to separate and undermine their relationship, the Lord had the last word. When He saw my grandparents and their children, He saw them together. They knew He would be faithful to them and their future generations. And He was faithful. Their daughter did come back to the Lord, and the family was reconciled.
However, nearly fifteen years after the trouble had calmed with their eldest, four of the six children openly walked away from following the Lord. (My dad, for example, took up living in a commune.)
One morning, Helen woke up deeply troubled and said, “We have to go see Corrie.” And then, to the Lord, she added, “I’ll do whatever she tells me to do.”
A few phone calls later, and my grandparents discovered that Corrie was at her home in Del Mar, California, and off they went to see her. After tea with Corrie and Corrie’s assistant, Ellen, Corrie said, “I see you trying to hold tightly to each one of your children.”
“Why shouldn’t I?” Hellen responded. “I’m their mother. It’s my job.”
Corrie continued to share that she had seen my grandmother hold her family very tightly, but the Lord wanted her to raise her arms up and release her family to Him. The visual of arms clinging tightly to circumstances beyond control, to arms held high in surrender and praise, was striking.
Corrie encouraged my grandparents that God would bring each one of their children back. They were to hold on to His promises in Scripture and the promises He’d given in the past.
It was a tough word to accept for Helen. She felt like Abraham being asked to offer up Isaac. But in the end, she did, and the result of her trust is still bearing fruit today.
Over the next several years, God did exactly what He said He would. My grandparents saw their family completely restored to each other and to God.
Today, Helen and David’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren (my brothers and sisters and cousins, and all of our children and our children’s children) all continue to serve the Lord and love one another. Over one hundred and fifty descendants still loving Jesus together!
Looking back, I am amazed how God wove our lives together with Corrie’s. The unique bonds of prayer formed between my great-grandmother Jennie and my grandmother Helen over the years cannot be minimized. God’s promises about generational blessings are real. “For the Lord is good; His steadfast love endures forever, and His faithfulness to all generations” (Psalm 100:5). Our family is a testimony to His faithfulness and steadfast love. It is also a testimony to the power of heart-felt prayers of saints like Corrie ten Boom, a woman who not only blessed my family with her courageous faith but also blessed the entire world.
We hope you'll join us January 23, 2021, for a Virtual Women of Legacy Event honoring the life of Corrie ten Boom. Please stay tuned for more details.