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Devotional Stories for Family Reading
By Joyce Brown
Moody PublishersCopyright © 2000 Joyce Vollmer Brown
All rights reserved.
CORRIE ten BOOM
Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, "Lord, how many times shall I for give my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?" Jesus answered, "I Tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times." (Matthew 18:21–22)
Corrie ten Boom was born in Holland in 1892, the youngest child in a loving Christian family whose hearts, hands, and home were always open to anyone in need. As she grew older, it was only natural that Corrie also reached out to those around her. In addition to working in her father's watch repair shop, she started Christian clubs for girls, worked with the mentally retarded, helped care for foster children, and taught Bible lessons in the schools.
After Germany invaded Holland in World War Two, helping the people who needed her aid became very dangerous. Germany's cruel dictator, Adolph Hitler, sent soldiers to Holland to round up all the Jewish people and take them to prison camps, where they were later killed by the millions. Anyone found helping the Jews could suffer the same fate.
But Corrie and her family could not turn their backs on people in need. They became part of the Dutch "underground" movement, which hid Jews and helped them escape to safer places.
The ten Booms built a secret room in their home with a hidden panel to open it. They put in an alarm system so that they could quickly buzz a warning throughout the house. They also had the Jews who stayed with them practice disappearing quickly into the secret room.
Corrie and her team of eighty workers helped hundreds of Jews escape before a fellow Dutchman turned them in to the Germans. On February 28,1944, German soldiers stormed into the ten Boom home. One of them asked Corrie where they were hiding the Jews. When she didn't answer, he slapped her again and again. She and her family were arrested and taken to different prison camps. Her father, who was quite old, died ten days later.
After three months, Corrie was moved to Ravensbruck, a well-known death camp for women. There she was reunited with her sister, Betsie. Ravensbruck was their worst nightmare come true: long hours of very hard work; crowded, rat-filled, unheated buildings; little food; and cruel guards. Before the war ended, 96,000 women died there.
A guard once hit Corrie in the neck with a whip when she was too sick to push a heavy cart. But the hardest thing for her was seeing Betsie mistreated. Betsie had never been healthy. In prison she became much worse. Still, she was forced to keep working and to stand at attention for hours at a time in bitterly cold weather.
Their strong faith in God helped them get through each terrible day. They lovingly reached out to the other women, encouraged them to trust God, and prayed together. Even in that awful place, they felt God's love. In fact, Betsie told Corrie that they would travel all over after they got out, telling people that no place on earth is so dark that God's love cannot shine into it. She also hoped to start homes in Holland and Germany where people broken by the war could heal.
Betsie never saw her dreams come true. She died in prison. But Corrie went on to carry out her sister's wishes. Corrie was set free because of a typing error—which she said was a miracle—shortly before the other women her age were killed.
After the war, she went to Germany. She spoke to large groups there, telling them about the hope God had given her and how Jesus can help us forgive our enemies and even love them.
One day after speaking, she stood at the door shaking hands with people. A man walked up to her and told her he had become a Christian after the war. Corrie recognized the man. He had been one of the cruelest guards at Ravensbruck. The man said he knew God had forgiven him for everything he had done in the past, but he wanted her forgiveness, too.
As he held out his hand, Corrie remembered the misery he had caused Betsie and thousands of others. She wrestled with her answer. She didn't think she could forgive him, but she knew God wanted her to. Silently she prayed, Lord, I can take his hand, but I can't change my feelings. Only You can do that.
She took his hand in hers, and a sudden feeling of warmth went through her arm and then her whole body, melting the bitter memories. With tears in her eyes, she told the man who had once tormented her, "I forgive you with all my heart."
What is the worst thing anyone ever did to you? Have you forgiven that person? What is the worst thing you've ever done to someone else? Have you asked that person to forgive you?CHAPTER 2
"A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.... But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him.
He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he ... took him to an inn and took care of him." (Luke 10:30, 33–34)
Trevor Ferrell was watching the evening news a few weeks before Christmas of 1983 when he first heard about the homeless people who lived on the streets. Trevor was eleven years old at the time. He couldn't believe there were really people who slept outside in the winter in his own city of Philadelphia.
After his parents told him the story was true, he bombarded them with questions: "You mean they have no place to sleep, no home? They're out there in the cold and snow right now? Where do they eat? How do they stay alive without a bed and a blanket?"
When his parents couldn't answer his questions, Trevor asked one more: "Well, can we go downtown and help them?"
Tired and not sure it was safe for their young son to visit the homeless at night, they said no. But Trevor kept asking. As Christians, Mr. and Mrs. Ferrell had always tried to teach their children to care about others. This was a chance to help their son do just that. Finally they agreed and made a short trip that would change all of their lives.
Trevor saw a shoeless man sleeping on a metal grate. He got out of the car and politely offered the man a yellow blanket and the special pillow he had always slept with. The memory of the man's happy smile made him ask his parents to take him back a couple of nights later. This time he took along one of his mother's old coats and gave it to a woman who was shivering from the cold.
Soon the Ferrells were driving downtown night after night. On each trip, Trevor took gifts for the homeless—blankets, sweaters, coats, and food. As he gave his gifts, he always took time to talk and be friendly. Since the street people were usually ignored because of the way they looked, his friendship meant as much to them as his gifts. He became a symbol of hope and caring to the homeless. They called him "Little Buddy" and looked for him nightly.
Then people heard about what the Ferrells were doing and started bringing them coats, blankets, and food to pass on to the men and women on the street. After their story was told in the papers, on the news, and on many talk shows, their nightly visits grew into "Trevor's Campaign." As many as seventy families took turns feeding more than one hundred homeless people each night from a donated van. Later, an old hotel was donated, too. After repairs and remodeling, it became Trevor's Place, a home for the homeless. All because one boy cared enough to get involved.
It wasn't all smooth sailing for the Ferrells along the way. The publicity and the rapid growth of a ministry they hadn't planned on turned their lives upside down for a time. Other children at school made fun of Trevor by calling him "Mr. Superstar" and asking if he had a blanket for them.
Trevor also had a learning disability that made reading difficult. Normally he worked on schoolwork at night to keep up with his class. As he spent more and more time helping the homeless, Trevor got behind in school and had to repeat the sixth grade.
Trying to run Trevor's Campaign, organize volunteers, and collect and distribute donations while caring for their own family and business wore Mr. and Mrs. Ferrell out. But the more they got to know the homeless people, the more they understood their problems and the more they wanted to help them. So one day Trevor's father decided to trust God, close the television repair business he had owned for nineteen years, and run Trevor's Campaign full time.
Through all the difficulties, the joy of helping the needy kept them going—bringing help, hope, and friendship to the homeless of Philadelphia.
There are people in desperate need in faraway places, and we can help them only through our prayers or financial gifts. But there are also needy people nearby whom we can help personally, if we are willing to go out of our way as Trevor and the Good Samaritan did. Think of some people in your town, church, or neighborhood going through hard times. How could you help them?CHAPTER 3
Peter said to him, "we have left all we had to follow you!" "I tell you the truth," Jesus said to them, "no one who has left home or wife or Brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life." (Luke 18:28–30)
When Darlene McIntosh was ten years old, she was so touched by a missionary's speech that she told God she would go wherever He wanted her to. Little did she know just how much following Him would cost her.
Ten years later, she was on her way to New Guinea, an island north of Australia, with five trunks filled with lovely wedding gifts. Darlene and her new husband, Russell Diebler, then made a long, hard journey to the middle of the island to tell the Stone Age cannibals known as Kapaukus about Jesus Christ.
These small, dark-skinned natives had never seen a white woman before. But they liked Darlene instantly, and she loved them back. She and Russell lived in a small house made out of bamboo poles, made friends with the people, and told them about the Lord.
Their time with the Kapaukus was short, however. When World War Two spread and Japan invaded New Guinea, they were forced to move to a nearby island. They worked in a mission Bible school there until it became too dangerous to stay. Then Darlene and Russell had to escape to the mountains with the other missionaries. They were able to take along only a few belongings, and she sadly left behind all her beautiful wedding gifts.
However, the missionaries weren't safe in the mountains, either. Japanese soldiers soon came and took away all the men except Dr. Jaffrey an elderly man, to a prison camp.
For a year, Darlene and the others that remained were forced to stay where they were. They had little food. She drew strength during this time from Dr. Jaffrey's deep, quiet faith, and she loved him like a father. Then they were all taken to another prison camp that was run by a cruel commander who beat and kicked the women and girls for the smallest reasons. The prisoners worked hard, long days, even though they were fed a poor diet and were often ill.
When the Japanese moved Dr. Jaffrey to a different camp, Darlene wondered what more could be taken away from her. She missed him terribly, but she looked to God for comfort. Everyone in her crowded barracks became a close-knit group after she began leading them in Bible reading and prayer.
The commander saw how the other prisoners loved and respected Darlene, and he put her in charge of her building. Then came the news that Russell had died. By this time, the commander cared about her and tried to comfort her. She told him that she was very sad, but she had hope because she knew Jesus. She told him Jesus had died for him too and that she didn't hate him or any other Japanese people. By the time she finished, the hardhearted commander had tears running down his cheeks.
Still, things got worse. The secret police accused Darlene of being a spy. They took her to an awful prison where she was beaten and allowed to eat only one cup of rice a day. She became so ill that all of her hair turned white. Finally she was sentenced to die, but her old camp commander convinced higher officials that she was innocent. Just as a guard drew his sword to kill her, some officers drove up to take her back to the old camp.
Once Darlene was back, the commander put her in charge of all the other prisoners. But the prisoners' lives became harder there too. Bombings often forced the women to spend nights in ditches. Their barracks burned, and they had to stay in huts in the jungle. The little they had was gone. Food became even scarcer.
Finally, after Darlene had been in the camp three years, Japan surrendered. She was down to eighty pounds by this time and had to wear borrowed clothes when she was set free.
As she boarded the ship to leave, she vowed never to come back to the islands that had taken so much from her. Only twenty-eight years old, she had lost her husband, her health, and everything she owned. But when she saw the Christian natives running to the shore to say good-bye, she knew she would return someday.
Back home in the United States, Darlene was asked to tell her story in a church. As she finished, she said, "It cost me everything to serve the Lord. For Jesus' sake, I'd do it again."
List as many things as you can think of that you have given up or lost for the Lord's sake. What are some things you think He might still want you to give up? Are there any things you would not be willing to lose for Him?CHAPTER 4
But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press ON toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13–14)
Some of Dave Dravecky's happiest childhood memories are of playing Little League baseball with his dad coaching. His whole family loved baseball, so it came as no surprise that Dave dreamed of pitching in the Major Leagues when he grew up.
He played baseball all through high school and college. After graduation, he was drafted into the Minor Leagues—one of the last players picked, because the scouts didn't expect much from him. While he was in the Minors, both he and his wife, Jan, accepted Christ as their personal Savior and found the strength and peace they'd desperately need in the future.
Several coaches told Dave he didn't have enough talent for the big leagues, but his hard work and determination paid off. After five years, he was called up to play for the San Diego Padres as a relief pitcher. Later he made the All–Star team and pitched in the playoffs and the World Series.
In the fall of 1987, Dave noticed a lump on his arm the size of a quarter. The team trainer didn't think it was anything to worry about, and it didn't hurt, so Dave put it out of his mind. By then he was the starting pitcher for the San Francisco Giants, and the National League championship series was about to start.
Dave played the best game of his life during the Giants' second game. With 55,000 fans watching, he gave up only two hits and no runs and put himself in the record books. Afterward, he told reporters that the reason he tried so hard was because he wanted to glorify God.
During the off-season, Dave had tests done on the lump on his arm. The tests didn't reveal any problems, so his doctor told him just to have it checked in another six months.
His pitching was again excellent during the first game of the 1988 season. The Giants won 5 to 1. In the next game, though, his shoulder started hurting whenever he threw hard, and he was put on the disabled list. Surgery on his shoulder didn't seem to help.
By now the lump on his arm had gotten as big as a golf ball, so he had it checked again. Tests this time showed that the lump was a cancerous tumor that would have to be removed. During a thirteen-hour operation, a surgeon cut out half of Dave's deltoid muscle (the one he used to lift his arm and throw) and froze his bone to kill all the cancer attached to it.
When his doctor told him he would never play professional baseball again, Dave said he believed in a God of miracles. If God wanted him to pitch again, he would. If not, He'd have something else for him to do.
No one had ever tried to throw baseballs ninety miles an hour with half a deltoid muscle or after having his bone frozen. But Dave did everything he could to come back and play. He went through months of rough physical therapy before starting grueling workouts with the trainer. Finally, he amazed everyone by pitching again.
During his first game back, the 34,000 fans in the stadium stood and cheered for him twelve times. When he met with reporters after the game, he made clear that God deserved the praise for his amazing comeback.
Dave wasn't able to finish the next game. His arm broke during a pitch, and it broke again two months later. During a checkup, doctors discovered that the cancer was back. He had a second operation to remove the new cancer. Then he was treated with radiation to kill any cancer cells that might still be left.
Excerpted from Courageous Christians by Joyce Brown. Copyright © 2000 Joyce Vollmer Brown. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
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