The Steady Hand of a Watchmaker
Just days before Christmas 1970, December 16 in fact, Billy Graham sat down at his home in Montreat, North Carolina, opened a new leatherbound copy of the King James Bible, and wrote the following inscription:
To Corrie Ten Boom,
My friend — God’s Servant —
And an inspiration to millions of the Lord’s people on every continent —
A Blessed Christmas
He then signed his name, with “Psalms 16:11” below.
We don’t know when Reverend Graham actually gave this Bible to Corrie ten Boom. We do know that they met a couple of years earlier in Switzerland and that she spoke at the 1966 Congress on World Evangelism in Germany, an event co-sponsored by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. By 1970, Billy Graham had become friends with Corrie and his production company, World Wide Pictures, would produce the movie, The Hiding Place, based on her widely popular book by the same name.
We also know this Bible, far from becoming a treasured keepsake carefully locked away only to be shown on special occasions, became Corrie’s personal Bible until her death in 1983.
Looking at the Bible today, it shows the wear and tear of a Bible that accompanied Corrie on her many travels, sharing her story and her love of Christ to millions throughout the world. The notes she left in its pages are a witness to her study and meditation on its words. This was a beloved Bible.
A more careful look at these pages provides a window into this amazing witness and servant of Christ. This was a woman steeped in the Scriptures and who held tight to its promises. And what makes that so remarkable is she had every reason to question those promises given her experiences during World War II.
Prior to the outbreak of the war, Corrie ten Boom led a relatively quiet life with her family in the Netherlands. She showed an aptitude for and love of the family’s watchmaking business, even becoming the first licensed female watchmaker in her country, and was in charge of keeping the books, too.
So, it seemed Corrie would live out her life working in the family business, leading Bible studies, and helping with the youth club she established.
Corrie was well into her forties when the Germans invaded the Netherlands during World War II. The strong faith of the Ten Boom family led them to join others in sheltering and guiding Jews and other refugees to safety. In the Ten Boom home there was an actual “hiding place,” built behind Corrie’s bedroom for the Jews they were sheltering to secret themselves away during Gestapo raids.
On Monday, February 28, 1944, after two years of working to save the lives of nearly 800 Jews and other refugees, the entire Ten Boom family was arrested by the Gestapo. Several family members were immediately released, but Corrie’s father, her beloved sister Betsie, and Corrie remained imprisoned. Her father died 10 days later, and Corrie and Betsie eventually ended up at Ravensbrück concentration camp, where Betsie died of illness in December 1944.
Just 12 days after Betsie’s death, Corrie was released. She was later told her freedom actually resulted from a clerical error, saving her from the gas chambers that tragically awaited the fate of the others at Ravensbrück.
Amid this upheaval and loss, it would be understandable to assume that Corrie’s faith would slide into despair. She had, after all, lost so much for doing such heroic work. But, as Corrie herself said in a prayer before a Youth With A Mission talk, Christ’s love is the greatest reality. That alone sustained her in the concentration camp and through the loss of her family members.
Corrie’s faith in Christ’s love was nourished by her constant study and meditation on the Bible.
She was comforted by the Bible, and this same faith and devotion sustained her later in life. We can see this in the way she traced certain passages that were particularly important to her in the Bible that Billy Graham gave her. Think of this woman, an icon of Christian faith for so many, taking the time to carefully trace the letter of each word of a verse. Though we’ll never know, somehow one feels this was a meditative practice, a way of allowing the verse to sink into her heart. She showed the steady hand of a watchmaker in tracing each letter so precisely, so much so that you can still easily read the verses today. And perhaps it was as a watchmaker that she could truly appreciate passages like Ephesians 2:10 as she traced out each letter: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (KJV).
This Bible, one of her few possessions when she died, was willed to Jim Parker, who pastored a church in Virginia, and who became Corrie’s unofficially adopted grandson. The story goes Jim was visiting Corrie in Haarlem, in the Netherlands, and accompanied her one night as she invited neighbors to a Bible study she was leading that evening. They talked about why Corrie never married and the passing of Jim’s beloved grandmother. At one point during the conversation, Corrie stopped and turned to Jim with this offer: Would he adopt her as his grandmother if she could adopt him as her grandson. We don’t know if they shook on it, but the unofficial adoption led her to bequeath the Bible to Jim, whose wife, Anne, donated it to Museum of the Bible after his death.
Dr David Bruce, executive vice president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, stated Dr. Graham often included a Bible verse under his signature and Psalm 16:11 was one of his favorites. It seems particularly appropriate that he used that psalm when he signed his name for the Bible he gifted to Corrie ten Boom, for indeed she would have been comforted and she definitely lived the reality that “thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” (KJV).