Darlene and Russell during the happy days of language study in Holland
A continuation of Evidence Not Seen, the memoir of Darlene Deibler Rose.
Following Pearl Harbor and the sinking of two British warships, the Japanese attacked, invaded, and occupied island after island—Guam, Wake Island, Hong Kong. They surged onto the mainland through China, Korea, and French Indochina. They conquered the Philippines, Thailand, Burma, and the Malay Peninsula. Then they began work on the Netherlands East Indies. Russell and Darlene Deibler occupied a guestroom at the mission headquarters and waited to see what would happen next.
Darlene writes of her first meeting with the Japanese: “On March 5, while working in the garden, I was attracted by a noise in the yard and looked up to see a Japanese soldier wearing black tennis shoes rounding the corner of our house. The soldier pointed his gun, with fixed bayonet, at me, motioning me toward the house. As I was being propelled reluctantly forward, Russell, the Jaffrays, and more soldiers joined me and my escort.”
“We were herded into the living room. While we stood at attention (a soldier with a gun pointed at your back tends to make you do that), the commanding officer announced that we were prisoners of the Imperial Japanese Army.
Russell was standing in his customary way, with his hands in front of him, the palm of one
Soldiers taking prisoners
hand resting on the back of the other. It would have been impossible for him to be holding anything in his hands, but the posture nevertheless infuriated one of the officers, who snapped a brisk command in Japanese.
A soldier strode forward, raised his sheathed bayonet, and began to beat Russell’s hands again and again. Russell dared not resist. I was appalled. Finally, another missionary said, ‘Russell, they want you to put your hands down at your sides.”
“I was helpless with anger . . . This senseless maliciousness had its desired effect; we were greatly subdued.”
“Finally, making preparations to go, they impressed upon us that we were to have contact with no one outside the premises, nor were we to leave the conference grounds. If we did we would be shot!”
Those men were just the harbingers. Eventually, the Japanese troops completely overran the island, and the city officially surrendered. At first, the folks at the missionary headquarters seemed safe enough. They spent their days cooking, eating, studying the Bible, praying, gardening, and walking the perimeter of the property. But soon the day came when the trucks arrived to take the men.
Vehicles of war
When Darlene heard the neighbor men being herded into the trucks, she ran to her room for a pillowcase. Into it she put Russell’s Bible, a notebook, a pen, shaving gear, clothes, and a few other items. Once finished, she dashed into the yard searching for Russell. Then she saw him—already in the truck with the other POWs.
She felt terrified for him and feared he would be executed. Darlene said, “All the other separations we had endured gladly, for those had entailed the cause of Christ’s kingdom. But this—this was different. The thought of this separation was excruciating.”
She writes: “I handed Russell the pillowcase and looked into the face that had become so dear to me. A cry of protest, of fear, strangled itself in my throat. I swallowed hard and clenched my fists.”
She decided she would not give the soldiers the satisfaction of seeing her cry. Russell leaned over the tailgate and very quietly said, “Remember one thing, dear: God said that He would never leave us nor forsake us.”
The truck started with a jerk and disappeared down the road.
It was Friday, March 13, 1942.
Darlene remembers: “When the sun set and the night came on, the full import of my loss hit me again. Russell was gone.
Mounting the steps into God’s presence, I prayed and He came to me with the gift of remembrance of a little girl saying, ‘Lord, I’d go anywhere with You, no matter what it cost.’
Was that just an expression of childish enthusiasm resulting from an emotion-packed presentation of the mission field?
‘I meant it then, my Lord, to the level of my understanding. With greater understanding I confirm to You tonight, it is still anywhere—I leave the costing to You.’
He took my hand, and together we walked into a future yet unknown. But from that moment, the sting was gone from the wound.”
Soon after the surrender of the city, the soldiers forced entry into the main house and
Trying to survive in the ruined city
stockrooms to take what they wished, leaving no food supplies behind. Darlene’s trunks of wedding presents were also dragged into the yard and the locks forced. Whatever the soldiers didn’t want, they scattered about the drive.
Darlene testifies: “Bit by bit treasured keepsakes and souvenirs were being wrested from me. I was being taught to live so that my most treasured mementos took the form of beautiful memories stored in the file of my heart, where moth and rust—and soldiers—could not corrupt or destroy.”
The remaining occupants of the mission, several women and one older man the Japanese left behind, entered a period of privation. The soldiers gave them no rations, but the people they had led to the Lord risked their lives to bring them food (sometimes flying ants fried in coconut oil!) and, as often as possible, news of Russell and the other men.
Being on their own in the midst of a conquered city, took its toll in other ways. One night Darlene hopped out of bed, thinking to kill a rat which had found its way into the house, and came face to face with a Boegis bandit. With one fluid movement, the bandit extricated his knife from his belt and held it in striking position.
Surprisingly, Darlene rushed at him! And even more surprising, he turned and fled, down the hall, across the porch, and over the mountainside with Darlene in hot pursuit. Until she saw his comrades emerge from the jungle. She stopped dead. He yelled something at his companions, and they all ran away together.
Darlene recalls: “From that night on we slept with clubs at the foot of our beds and small milk-can squawkers under our pillows, but we never had to use them. We heard bandits return several nights after that, but they never again entered our house. It wasn’t until after the war that I learned why. I had suspected the gardener, who was Boegis and knew the layout of the house.
When I asked him why they had never entered the house again, he answered incredulously, ‘Because of those people you had there—those people in white who stood about the house.’”
“The Lord had put His angels around us. He had delivered.”
The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him and rescues them. Psalm 34:7
If you’re new to this series, follow this link to read part 1 of Darlene’s story. (Part 1 will then lead you to succeeding episodes.)