Face to Face With Evil
By DANNY MINTON
Editor’s Note: This is the fourth 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” Click here to read the third, “Walking With Jesus”
The worst days for Darlene and the other missionary women lay ahead. They would begin the day Mr. Yamaji entered the camp.
“One morning, the camp was called to assemble before the Kampili headquarters office to meet Commander Yamaji. A short fat man with bowlegs, he paced back and forth before those lines of women and children and a few remaining men. His face was round and moonlike, and his dark eyes watched from behind large dark-rimmed glasses. His black hair was crew-cut, short, and spikey. When he issued commands, his parted lips revealed tobacco-stained teeth. He was dressed in a lightweight khaki uniform, short pants with knee socks, and a singlet under his lightweight shirt. We were to learn that when his temper was aroused, he was like a man who had gone berserk; he could be deathly ruthless.” (pg. 84)
It would not be long before Darlene would experience his temper firsthand. Mr. Yamaji ordered the boiling of water in large barrels to make it safe for drinking. Darlene saw a better way to get the job done and suggested it to him. In her excitement to be helping, she didn’t notice him raise his hand. He struck her full force across her back and neck, knocking her to the ground. “You talk too much!” he yelled and left. The next day her idea became a reality.
She watched as two other women were late when he called everyone together. Elsie, one of the women, tried to explain, but he swung his fist across her face knocking her to the ground. He then took his cane and struck her wrists full force as she shielded her face. A nun, Sister Remolda, nearby grabbed his arm as Yamaji started to strike again. Instead, he struck Sister Remolda with his cane. Elsie yelled, “You can’t hit her like that; she’s a nun.” In response, he began to kick Elsie with his large boots until he thought he may have killed her. Seeing her still alive, he barked, “Get this place cleaned up!” and left.
On another day, Yamaji thought one of the women had contacted a man on the outside. Yamaji brought him before the women, and one by one, he demanded the man identify the woman who had contacted him. The native refused to point out anyone. In anger, Yamaji beat the man with his cane and kicked him with his boots as the women watched in horror. Many closed their eyes as the native hero was beaten and kicked to death by the commander.
There would be other horror stories for Darlene and the women to face. Darlene, through various actions, gained the respect of the majority of women in the camp and was made head of her barracks. She made it a point not to do things that would set off the temper of Mr. Yamaji.
In November 1943, Darlene found out that Russell had died three months earlier. The afternoon that she heard, she was called to the office of Commander Yamaji. What happened next would change a man forever.
She walked into the office where Mr. Yamaji stood and began, “Njonja (Lady) Deibler, I want to talk with you.” He told her that this was war and what she had heard “today,” many women in Japan had heard. He surprisingly told her, “You are very young. Someday the war will be over, and you will go back to America. You can go dancing, go to the theater, marry again and forget these awful days. You have been a great help to the other women in camp. I ask of you, don’t lose your smile.” (pg. 111)
She responded, “Mr. Yamaji, may I have permission to talk to you?” With permission, she began, “Mr. Yamaji, I don’t sorrow like people who have no hope. I want to tell you about Someone of Whom you may never have heard.” Darlene then told him the story of Jesus and added, “He died for you, Mr. Yamaji, and He puts love in our hearts, even for those who are our enemies. That’s why I don’t hate you, Mr. Yamaji. Maybe God brought me to this place, and this time to tell you He loves you.” (pg. 111) Mr. Yamaji left the room with tears running down his face. She could hear him crying, but he did not reenter. She left the room, but the story of Mr. Yamaji would not be over.
How could Darlene love someone and a group of people who had killed her husband and treated them inhumanely? As I’ve read other stories of Jake Deshazer, Peggy Covell, Richard Wurmbrand, Ann Frank, Rebecca Nichols Alonzo, and others, this same story of love and redemption for enemies influences a change in lives.
This lesson was taught to us by Jesus as he hung on the cross. “Father, forgive them!” rings in our ears from someone who looked down at the very ones who had nailed Him to the cross. Jesus came “to seek and save the lost.” He loved everyone, no matter what they said about Him or how they treated Him. He tries to teach us to have the same feelings. We hear this when he tells us to pray for our enemies and do good to those that persecute us.
We have heard people say that they hoped someone who wronged them would “Rot in Hell” or tell people they hoped God would punish them for what they did. I have heard people tell others that God would never forgive them. However, Darlene’s lesson to us becomes the same one Jesus gave us. “God loves everyone.” Peter explains this in 2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (NIV2011)
To desire that people die and face punishment for sin or mistreating us is contrary to why Jesus came to this earth. Mark tells us, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45 (NIV2011) Luke records, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10 (NIV2011) Darlene Diebler, through the eyes of Jesus, did not see an enemy but someone Jesus loved. What do we see when we come face to face with evil?
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ