By DANNY MINTON
Russell and Darlene Deibler planned from before their marriage that they wanted to be missionaries, carrying the Gospel to the natives of New Guinea. They studied maps and surveys until they knew the island and its intricate details. Their dream began to develop into reality in November of 1938. At a missions field conference, the attendees appointed the Deiblers to the Wissel Lakes in the Eastern portion of Papua on the island of New Guinea.
In August of 1938, they arrived in Java with the first expedition to the Wissel Lakes set for later in the year. The expedition would be rugged, and they decided that Darlene would stay behind with Dr. Jaffray and his family while Russell and Walter Post made the trip. Walter and his wife Viola received their appointment at the conference with the Deiblers to the mission in Wissel Lakes. Dr. Jaffray was a doctor of theology who had spent time with his wife, Margaret, in China and wrote for a Chinese magazine.
In early December of 1938, Russell and Walter set out to the Lakes. Darlene remained behind, learning the language, teaching Sunday School, and later teaching church history in the local school. She was anxious to see Russell again and continued with the strong desire for her turn to move into actual mission work among the natives of the island.
In February of 1939, after a rugged, challenging journey, Russell returned home. Darlene waited excitedly at the dock for Russell’s ship to return. She stood at the front of those watching passengers disembark when she saw Walter Post. Near him was a “gaunt, wasted stranger” walking beside him. She couldn’t believe it, thinking to herself, “where is the man I married?” A journey of 18 days and a few months on meager rations in the field took a toll on his health. Losing sixty pounds, he walked with extreme pain, with Darlene discovering that jungle rot infected his feet.
Dr. Jaffray obtained a physician who instructed Darlene on caring for Russell’s feet. The young twenty-two-year-old bride would be the nurse to her husband’s terrible condition. She received an ointment with the directions that she was to take tweezers and remove all the dead skin from Russell’s feet every day. Then, as painful as it was, she was to spread the ointment over the raw skin. She would care for his feet every day, then, along with the others, listen to the story of the people of Wissel Lakes.
One day as she was treating his feet, Dr. Jaffray walked in and, seeing what she was doing, became nauseated and left. He didn’t come to lunch that day and later came down and laid an essay before Darlene. The first part read, “This morning I looked at the bleeding feet of a missionary, saw his wife tending them, saw the blood and pus running from them and thought to myself, ‘What a nauseating sight that is! But, as I walked from the room, the Lord kept saying to me, ‘Oh, but to Me, they are beautiful feet.'” (Evidence Not Seen pg. 16)
Darlene read the words with tears swelling up into her eyes. “From that day on, although hurting at the pain Russell was experiencing when I dressed his feet, I thrilled to think my Lord was looking at them, saying, ‘To Me, they are beautiful feet!’ It served to increase my desire to join him when he returned to Wissel Lakes. I was impatient. Dr. Jaffray had shared his vision for the day when it would be over. I just wanted it to start! When Lord, when?” (Evidence Not Seen pg. 17)
The words of life we find in the Gospel are the most important words that we can share with the lost of the world. However, we often find that words go unheard or ignored, and people can only see the true impact of the words of Christ in our feet.
Sometimes, before they listen closely to our words, they watch our feet to see if we live what we preach. Do they see us being Jesus? Practicing what we proclaim to others is the most important and sincere way to reach others with the words of Christ.
Paul wrote the Corinthians a similar thought in his first letter. “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” 1 Corinthians 13:1 (NASB) It’s our actions that show the world the way of Christ. The people to whom we share the Word of God closely watch our feet.
Dr. Jaffray added the thoughts of Isaiah, “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” Isaiah 52:7 (NIV2011)
The question we should be asking ourselves is a simple one. “How beautiful are our feet?”
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ