Environment #4–Transforming an Environment

Environments, even bad ones, can be transformed by people with ideals and drive.  Many of you have probably heard the story of Corrie Ten Boom.  Corrie and her sister Betsie were incarcerated in a prison camp during World War II because the family was caught hiding Jewish refugees.  In the camp barracks, conditions were dirty, crowded and cold.  The women were ill fed and forced to work long hours.  Most became angry and quarrelsome.  Corrie and Betsie had managed to smuggle their Bible and a bottle of vitamins into the camp when they arrived.  They started a Bible Study which attracted more and more prisoners.  They shared their vitamins with the sick and weak –miraculously that bottle of drops never ran out!   Betsie, particularly, prayed constantly.  She even gave thanks for the crowded conditions which helped them reach more women with the good news of Christ’s love, and for their suffering, because it gave them a greater appreciation of the hardships Jesus endured for our sakes.  The terrible conditions didn’t change, but the attitude of the women did.  They became gentle and helpful with one another.  The conflicts gradually ended.

Most of us will never find ourselves in prison, but we can still take the following steps to change our environments for the better.

  1. Know the environment. You must know the people, circumstances and nature of your surroundings in order to influence them.
  2. Study the spirit of the environment. What is the ideal or motivating force?  How do the traditions, organization, and structure of the group play in?
  3. Study the individuals.  In every environment you will find several types of people.  There are followers.  They are satisfied with imitating others.  There are the impulsive.  These folks are wish-washy and lacking real conviction.  Finally there are leaders.  These are the people who can be agents of change.

The leaders are the people you need to be most concerned about.  These people will use their abilities to achieve what they believe is worthwhile  Once you determine who the leaders are, get to know them in order to understand their ideal.  Is it power, accumulating possessions, or something else?  Can you influence them and lead them closer to Christ?

More about transformation coming up on my next post ……

Corrie Ten Boom on How to Travel Light

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A Story of Forgiveness

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The story of Corrie ten Boom has been told countless times through the years.  Yet, even today, it remains one of the most beloved stories of forgiveness this world has ever known.  During World War II, she and her family saved Jews from being sent off to concentration camps by hiding them in a room at the top of their home.  When Nazi officers learned what was going on, the house was raided and Corrie was sent to a prison, political concentration camp, and finally a death camp.  But, miraculously, she survived.

As you can imagine, there were many moments of hardship that Corrie had to overcome even after the war ended.  One such moment was at a church where she saw a former SS man who guarded her in the concentration camp. As the man approached her to shake her hand, everything in her reminded her of the horrid pain this man had brought upon her. And even though Corrie often spoke of the need to forgive others, she knew she couldn’t forgive this man in her own strength. God had to do it through her. Corrie writes, “When He tells us to love our enemies, He gives, along with the command, the love itself.” God gave Corrie the strength to forgive and love the man when she could not.

Perhaps you’ve never had to deal with such heavy forgiveness in your life as Corrie ten Boom has, but there are many times in life when we will have to both forgive and be forgiven.  Below are four things to keep in mind when you forgive someone.

1. Realize everyone has to be forgiven.  It will save you a lot of trouble to understand early on that we all will make mistakes and need forgiveness at some point.

2. Forgiveness isn’t earned.  Grace is undeserved favor that no one can earn.  Therefore, forgiveness should be given with no expectations in return and no strings attached.

3. Don’t bring it up again.  Sometimes people forgive like they’re burying the hatchet but keeping the handle uncovered in case they need to use it again.  This only prolongs the conflict.

4. Make the decision and your heart will catch up.  If you wait to “feel ready” to forgive, it’s never going to happen.  Rather, you must make the decision to forgive and soon enough your heart will catch up.

Is there someone you need forgive right now?  Take courage from Corrie ten Boom:  “Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the door of resentment and the handcuffs of hatred.  It is a power that breaks the chains of bitterness and the shackles of selfishness.”

Read more about Corrie’s life in her books: The Hiding Place and Tramp for the Lord.  The Hiding Place was also made into a movie.

A Quote From Corrie ten Boom

The measure of a life, after all, is not its duration but its donation.

Jesus had a short life, by our standards, but the his donation to us was unmeasurable.  How should we live in view of that amazing gift?

Books on Sacrficial Living

The Hiding Place & Tramp for the Lord by Corrie Ten Boom

Corrie ten Boom was a Dutch Christian who along with her father and other family members, helped many Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust during World War II.  She was imprisoned for her activities.  Her first book, The Hiding Place, tells about this ordeal.  Tramp For the Lord is the sequel.

The Duty of Delight:  The Diaries of Dorothy Day

Dorothy Day was an American journalist, social activist, and devout Catholic convert.  She tirelessly served the poor by creating a community dedicated to direct aid for the homeless. 

Love Mercy by Lisa Samson and Ty Samson

This is the story of a family’s journey from living in a five-thousand square foot house in suburban Baltimore to caring about justice, mercy and the kingdom of God breaking into our suffering world.  They eventually sold their home to purchase a run down Victorian which they call a “hospitality house,” open to those who need a place to heal, be safe, or just relax for a while.  Lisa and daughter, Ty, eventually travel to Africa to chronicle the AIDS crisis.

The Diary of Elisabeth Koren (1853-1855)

This diary takes us on a journey across the Atlantic to the frontier of the Middle West with her young husband who served many Lutheran congregations.  Travel is primitive;  her husband is gone for weeks at a time, and Elisabeth lives with other families in a crowded Iowa log cabin until the first parsonage is finally built.

These women can be mentors for us in trying to be a “living sacrifice.  Have you read any of these books?  Will you?  Do you have others to suggest?  Let us know.