“Everything had happened so fast and without the slightest warning. Russell had said, ‘He will never leave us nor forsake us.’ No? What about now, Lord? This was one of the times when I thought God had left me, that He had forsaken me.
I was to discover, however, that when I took my eyes off the circumstances that were overwhelming me, over which I had no control, and looked up, my Lord was there, standing on the parapet of heaven, looking down.
Deep in my heart He whispered, ‘I’m here. Even when you don’t see Me, I’m here. Never for a moment are you out of My sight.’” From Evidence Not Seen by Darlene Deibler Rose
As a young bride, Darlene Deibler accompanied her missionary husband to the Baliem Valley of New Guinea in hopes of ministering to the tribal people. Instead she ended up in a Japanese prison camp for the duration of World War II.
She relates the details of those eventful years in her poignant memoir, Evidence Not Seen. For the next several weeks, I’ll be posting episodes of Darlene’s inspiring true story on this blog. May her testimony touch your heart as it did mine!
1936: The First Meeting
Darlene McIntosh first saw Russell Deibler at a Young People’s Rally in Boone, Iowa. The tall young man was the main speaker and easily held the attention of the teenage crowd. His sincerity and passion for Christ impressed her. She sensed that his presentation challenged many hearts.
Darlene, who was in the midst of missionary training at St. Paul Bible School, had also been asked to share a testimony at the rally. After her speech, she hurried down the aisle to meet a male friend at the door when a woman waylayed her and insisted on introducing her to the Rev. Russell Deibler. It was the briefest of meetings. A few quick words and she was on her way. Rev. Deibler was older, established as a speaker, and soon to return to the mission field. Darlene barely thought of him again.
1937: A Second Chance for Russell
The following spring Darlene attended a series of special meetings to celebrate the Golden Anniversary of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. She saw that Rev. Deibler would again join the speakers for the evening. At the kick-off luncheon, Darlene noticed handsome Rev. Deibler going out of his way to notice her.
His brown eyes met hers often. He would nod and smile as if they were old friends. For some reason, this annoyed her terribly, and she did all she could to avoid him.
Just when she thought the coast was clear, another matchmaking mama insisted on re-introducing her to Russell. The matron then promptly disappeared, leaving Darlene with no polite recourse but to carry on the conversation. Russell began a lengthy story of his visit with a married pastor friend.
Fine, she thought. What does this have to do with me? Then Russell explained that on his first night in the other man’s home, he’d discovered a picture of Darlene displayed on the family piano. Russell had been delighted to discover the friend’s wife was Darlene’s sister.
Darlene was not impressed.
Russell, who could inspire a crowd with eloquent words, seemed at a loss when it came to attracting the attention of one lovely young woman. In his search for a topic to keep Darlene interested, he mentioned letters he’d been receiving from an anonymous girl.
Darlene assumed he was accusing her of impropriety. “Mr. Deibler, I have never written an anonymous letter in my life nor do I intend to,” she fumed and walked off while he was stammering an apology.
Of course, Russell Deibler sat right in front of her on the platform that night. And in spite of her annoyance with him, she had to admit he spoke fluently. Her heart responded to his message.
At the end of the meeting, Russell headed for Darlene. With a hmph of disgust, she whirled on her heels and lost herself in the crowd. He caught up with her at the college bus and gripped the hem of her coat to prevent her from boarding.
When she reluctantly turned to him, he gave her a determined look. “I want to take you to dinner tomorrow evening. I’ll meet you at the front door of the theater at 6:30.” Without waiting for a reply, he walked away.
That’s what you think, she sputtered to herself. First you insult me and then you want to take me to dinner. Anonymous letter, indeed!
She stewed all the way home. But for some reason, when 6:30 the next evening rolled around, she was there at the theater door.
Russell and Darlene sat in the hotel lobby and talked. He was enthusiastic about missionary service and sincere in his respect for her. And she couldn’t help but admire his dark brown eyes and thick, wavy hair and . . . his hands. There really is something special about his hands, she thought.
Darlene was beginning to understand why her girlfriends had drooled over Russell Deibler, exclaiming, “I’d give my right leg to go out with him!”
In the middle of the conversation Russell asked her, “Do you have any prospects of marriage?” . . . to be continued.