Grateful for a flea?

I hope you’ve all been thinking about the lives that inspire you. Thank you to those who took the time and effort to share yours. Some truly inspirational examples there!

And here’s another one enjoy – and read to the bottom to find out how you could win a free book…


Once upon a time, there were two middle-aged spinsters living with their elderly father above the family shop. They sometimes felt that life had passed them by, or at the very least that any excitements it had to offer were behind them. They were wrong.

The year was 1937, the little shop and the oddly-shaped home perched above and behind it were in the Dutch town of Haarlem, and war was threatening. The spinsters’ names were Betsie and Corrie ten Boom, and they were on the brink of the adventure of their lives.

The Hiding Place

Their story opens, in the classic autobiography The Hiding Place, with a day of memories. It is the 100th anniversary of the opening of the ten Boom watch shop, and the house is filled with people and reminiscences of days gone by. And yet,

“Adventure and anguish, horror and heaven were just around the corner, and we did not know.”

The ten Boom family spent World War II hiding Jews from the Nazis, saving them from the Concentration camps. They helped hundreds upon hundreds escape to safe houses all over Europe before being caught and sent to the camps themselves.

There was excitement and adventure. At times Corrie sounds almost exhilarated by the risks she took and the narrow escapes she had, but there was also pain, suffering and deep sadness. Not all the characters we grow to love through the book lived to tell the tale for themselves.

“If I had known, [Corrie wonders,] would I have gone ahead? Could I have done the things I did?”

As her  father once told her, though, “our wise Father in heaven knows when we’re going to need things. When the time comes…you will look into your heart and find the strength you need – just in time.”

The Hiding Place is both a story of incredible courage, love and generosity, and a teaching manual for how to bring up your children to live lives of such godly virtues. Time and time again Corrie finds herself drawing on the lessons of patience, love, and above all trust in God to enable her to respond to the situations facing her.

She would be the first to admit, though, that Betsie was the more naturally Godly of the sisters. She loved with God’s heart and saw with God’s eyes. Whenever Corrie cried out over the pain of a wounded prisoner, she would hear Betsie’s gasp of compassion, too, and only later realise that her sister had been crying – and praying – for the guard inflicting the wound. Corrie saw the physical pain and humiliation – and was rightly concerned. Betsie saw in addition the pain of a broken life, of someone so filled with hatred, anger and prejudice that they could inflict such pain on their fellow human beings.

Betsie even knew what it meant to ‘Give thanks in all circumstances.’ When the sisters were moved to a crowded, stinking, flea-ridden barracks, Betsie encouraged Corrie to give thanks – that they were together, that the crowded conditions meant that more women would be able to hear the Bible readings the pair conducted every evening, for the fleas…

The fleas! This was too much. “Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.”

“‘Give thanks in all circumstances'” she quoted. “It doesn’t say ‘in pleasant circumstances.’ Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.”

And so we stood between piers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong.

Was she wrong? Don’t ask me – find out for yourself if God can use the fleas in a concentration camp to further his work: I recently re-read this amazing, moving true-life adventure story. I’d read it in my teens, but I learned so much more from it this time around, that I decided I wanted to share the blessing – so I went on ebay and bought three copies, and this is your chance to win one of them!

Just post a comment, or tweet about it (mention @missjenniep or #hpcomp so I know you’ve done it), or add a comment to the post on Facebook… or all three. Every comment or tweet gets an entry, and there are three books to be won. I’ll draw them at random on Monday evening (British Summer Time) and contact the winners shortly thereafter.

Please note – the books are second hand (used) copies – partly because they’re cheaper, and partly because I like the sense of a story like this being passed from hand to hand to hand. Read it, love it, and pass it on!

Good luck…

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