Walking With Jesus
Editor’s Note: This is the third installment of articles about missionaries Russell and Darlene Deibler. Click here to read the first article, “Evidence Not Seen” Click here to read the second, “Beautiful Feet”
By DANNY MINTON
By March of 1939, Russell Deibler’s feet had healed, and plans began for a return trip to the Wissel Lakes. Arrangements with a new group of guides would make the journey easier. As Russell left, Darlene knew their separation would be for some time. How long? She told herself, as always, “Only the Lord knows.”
In September, Darlene and her small group heard that England and France had declared war on Germany. That seemed far away and of little danger to them; however, the government informed them to be prepared to abandon camp and move to the coastal region. Russell continued to preach to the people of the uncharted regions of New Guinea about Jesus and how he had died for them. The people argued that Jesus may have died for him but not for them. After all, he was a “spirit people.” Since he didn’t have a wife, they did not consider him of human origin. He assured them he was married, but they needed proof. Finally believing, they decided that she was weak since a faithful wife could make the journey to them just like their wives could carry their loads.
After reading a letter from Russell, Darlene prayed, “Lord, if those people are ever to believe and understand about You, women will have to go there.” After her prayer, she said she felt assurance and, throwing the letter into the air, shouted, “I’m going to New Guinea!” This decision would begin the longest, most challenging journey of her ministry to the Lord.
Darlene loved the work and quickly fit in with the natives. One morning a young Kapauku boy came to light their fire. His name was Imopai. Imopai informed her that his mother had died and that he would be her boy. Her mission work had begun.
Holland fell to Germany and the missionary families were told to prepare to leave the islands for their safety. They moved back to Benteng Tinggi, leaving Imopai with his people. She would not see him for four years. On December 8, 1941 (December 7 in the United States), they heard that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor, and on January 2, 1942, Indonesia fell to the Japanese. With war closer, the opportunity to leave became available. Dr. Jaffray asked each person to privately make the decision to leave or stay. The following day everyone decided to stay. It would be a decision that would cost many of them their lives and others years of suffering and survival.
Darlene’s faith grew one night after the Japanese transported the men to a different camp. Bandits invaded the homes in the area, and the missionaries took precautions to defend themselves if necessary. One evening they heard someone around the house who didn’t enter. For several nights they heard people outside, but they never entered the house. Darlene suspected the Jaffray’s gardener, so she boldly inquired of him why they had never entered the house. He answered, “Because of those people you had there; those people in white who stood about your house.” “The Lord had put angels around us. He had delivered.” Her faith remained strong from day to day.
When was the last time you found yourself excited for Jesus? I mean, really excited, so excited that you couldn’t wait to get up and witness. Many of us start our Christian life with the zeal to be like Christ and share him with others, but once the initial desires fade, we become less and less zealous to serve. Our walk in this life is not always easy, especially when we try to make it on our own. There are times when we all find ourselves wanting to give up. Our struggles can often be full of disappointments, failures, and doubts. We may find ourselves asking, “Where is God?” We can feel lost and abandoned if we move through life alone.
However, when we walk with Jesus by our side, we light the fire to follow and serve. Darlene had that fire. Her desire to serve grew even though she saw the struggles her husband had experienced. His desire had overcome his pains. Her desire to follow him never wavered. She possessed a strengthened heart with the knowledge that God would help her through the heaviness of her journey to serve him no matter where she was or what she was doing. The coming days, months, and years would test her faith to the most inconceivable extremes. Her biggest challenge lay ahead by the name of Mr. Yamaji.
In our journey through life, we have a choice. We can try and go through it alone, or we can hold our savior’s hand. Alone we find ourselves collapsing under the burdens we face. With Jesus, there will be times he takes our load and carries us through.
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ