Sunshine and shadows dance on the boxes overflowing with fragrant red and green apples in our sun porch. They need to be peeled and stored away for winter pies, but I need to pick up again with our travel stories. The apples will have to wait a while...
Our trip to the Netherlands and England had always been about more than seeing the sights in the two countries we visited.
The art galleries; museums; music; theatre--they moved me deeply, and I celebrated sharing their soul shaping beauty with our three young granddaughters. But there was also a history that shaped my parents, and their histories shaped me, just as the whole generation of children born to parents just after World War 11 was shaped by its shadow. Being in the Netherlands I wanted to share that history in a redemptive way and weave threads of hope and faith into Tippy's, Tori's and Katherine's hearts.
And so before we left for Europe, the process began by watching DVD's about two important people. One was a Jewish girl, who died when she was younger than our girls are now--Anne Frank; and the other was a Christian Dutch woman, Corrie Ten Boom, whose faith led her on a journey of risk, courage and forgiveness, and whose story continues to speak to people today.
Early on an August Saturday morning, we set out from Amsterdam Centraal Train Station, bound for Haarlem, Corrie's home town, a 15 minute train ride away.
I had left it too late to make reservations on-line, so we hoped that we would get in on one of the four English tours of 20 people.
We stepped off the train into the historic town of Haarlem and began by asking the way to Corrie Ten Boom's house.
The town was quaint with beautiful architecture, cobblestone streets and cosy cafes and shops. We spotted a pancake house along the way and made mental note of it for lunch later on.
Then we found ourselves standing in front of a very ordinary Dutch house with a jewelry shop in the front: . In the small alley, a line had already been started by a multi-generation family of eight from Michigan. With us that made a total of thirteen people waiting for the 11.30 tour. We chatted with the first family and felt sorry for the crowd that began to gather and obviously exceeded the twenty person limit per tour.
Shortly before 11.30 the door outside which we were waiting, opened. A woman whose eyes at once looked keenly observant and ready for humour; peered down the line. Her russet coloured hair was swept into a loose French roll from which tendrils escaped. She seemed to be of late middle age and her softly lined face had a vital glow. She wore a green shot silk Indian tunic and pants, with purple trim; and sandals on her bare feet.
She began counting the people in the line, by saying, "I always count flexibly, and never count children." In that sentence she summed up the ethos of the Ten Boom family, which took in and hid Jewish people during the war, always making room for more. The whole story can be read in Corrie's book, The Hiding Place. In the end this cost many of Corrie's family their lives when they were betrayed by a Dutch Nazi collaborator. They were arrested, and deported to a concentration camp. She never saw her elderly father again as he became ill and died, shortly after arrest, and her beloved sister Betsie died while imprisoned in the concentration camp, along with other family members.
Corrie was set free due to a clerical error and survived into old age. After the war she opened places of respite and restoration, not only for people traumatized and displaced by the war, but for Dutch citizens who had collaborated with the Nazis and were despised. Later she traveled the world telling the story of God's love, the hiding place, and how he had enabled her to forgive even the guard who had treated her sister with extreme cruelty--a grace that only God could give.
I can't know what threads of hope and faith were woven into our granddaughters' hearts and souls that day; that remains between them and God; but the opportunity to expose them to heroes whose faith meant action--that was even more wonderful than I had hoped.
We made our way to the pancake house we'd spotted that morning-A Crepe Affaire. It was whimsical and funny, and the crepes were delicious!
Food for body and soul.