Evidence Not Seen

By DANNY MINTON

This week I sat down and read a book that made me realize the narrow limits of my faith. As I turned the pages and read the story, it touched my heart that someone could have such great faith in a world of adversity while I struggle in a relatively easy life. For my following few writings, I want to share a few lessons I learned from a book entitled “Evidence Not Seen.” It is the story of Darlene Deibler (Rose), and her journey and trials in the mission field during World War II. I will share stories of Russell, bananas, prison camp, Mr. Yamaji, and faith beyond measure.

She was born Darlene Mae McIntosh on May 10, 1917. At the age of 13, while attending a revival meeting by Dr. R.R. Brown, she decided that she wanted to be a missionary. For a young girl, barely in her teens, this would seem like a dream that would fade with age. However, Darlene’s desire to serve in the mission field only grew. During one of the missionary meetings, she met a young man, Russell Deibler. He was 12 years older than she, and at first, she ignored him, but their shared interests in mission work kept bringing them together. On August 18, 1937, despite their age difference, the two married.

Russell and Darlene Deibler

Married only six months, they traveled to Holland for language school. On their one-year anniversary, August 18, 1938, Russell and Darlene set off toward their missionary efforts in the islands of Indonesia, the Netherlands, and New Guinea. The prospect of thousands of natives in the islands peaked their excitement of sharing the Gospel to a people who had never heard of a man named Jesus. The next few years would bring roads of hardship, traveling to areas to share the Gospel, and lovingly caring for the region’s people.

Then, in December of 1941, the Japanese invaded Borneo and came closer to the area of Benteng Tinggi, where the Deiblers and other missionaries were living. Three months later, they would move into their village. The men were rounded up and told to pack and be prepared to be moved. On March 13, 1942, Russell Deibler, Ernie Presswood, and other men were loaded in a truck and moved to an internment camp. Watching Russell as the truck rolled down the road would be the last time Darlene would ever see her husband. She was only 24 years old, stranded in a land thousands of miles away from her home amid war. The last words Russell spoke to her were, “Remember one thing, dear. God said that He would never leave us nor forsake us.” 

Darlene thought how she truly believed in Romans 8:28, “All things work together for good.” But on that day, “At that moment I couldn’t.” Thus, she would begin her most remarkable journey of struggles, pain, doubt, and depression. However, the word of God would give her strength to carry on in the days to come. She would be beaten and imprisoned. Her faith would be tested in ways as a woman at home she could never have imagined. She would see her friends taken away. Women would be beaten and face starvation. They watched as Mr. Yamaji kicked a man to death, giving his life to save one of them. 

Not long after her husband was taken, Dr. Jaffray, the older of the missionaries who had been in ill health, learned he faced transportation to the internment camp. The same scenario met Darlene as she saw Dr. Jaffray loaded into the truck. As she said her goodbyes, “He leaned toward me and said, ‘Lassie, whatever you do, be a good soldier for Jesus Christ.’ The echo of these words was to sustain me through the awful days ahead.”

Dr. Jaffray

Darlene would survive the ordeals of sickness, torture, and war. She would live to tell how her faith in God gave her strength. She would leave behind a legacy of what it means to put Jesus in a prominent place in your life no matter the circumstances. Her story is evidence of what it means to live a life of faith and trust in God.

As I read this young woman’s story, it made me stop and think how we so easily give in and quit when life gets rough. Most of us live a life of relative comfort and peace. We do not face death from enemies daily. We complain about what we eat, our jobs, the government, how someone hurt our feelings, and several things that are only an inconvenience in our life of comfort. Our faith wavers when God doesn’t answer our prayers the way we think He should. We only serve Him if it’s convenient for us, and we can fit it into our personal lives. 

“Whatever you do, be a good soldier for Jesus Christ.” These words ring loud in my ears. Darlene cherished them, and they should be worthy for us to take to heart. Our lives may not involve a foreign mission field; however, we live in a mission field outside our doors. As Christians, we are encouraged to live for Jesus, no matter the situation. When people see us live a life of faith even in our darkest times, it conveys that there is something and someone more significant than this life.

This story is just the overall synopsis of Darlene’s story. This young woman in her mid-twenties would remember the words of Dr. Jaffray and her husband, Russell. Those words would keep her strong, not only for herself but also carry a note of strength for scores of other women around her.

“Lassie, whatever you do, be a good soldier for Jesus Christ.” Dr. Robert A. Jaffray (1873 –1945)

Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ

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