Evidence Not Seen by Darlene Deibler Rose is the autobiographical work of a young missionary wife imprisoned during WWII. Darlene McIntosh was only 19 years old when she married Russell Deibler, a veteran missionary and a man twelve years her senior. After six months of church meetings in North America and six months of language study in Holland, the Deiblers eagerly returned to Russell’s pioneer missionary work in the interior of New Guinea. Darlene accompanied Russell into the jungle to establish a new mission station near a previously unevangelized tribe. Darlene, the first white woman any of them had ever seen, grew to deeply love these child-like primitive people she was ministering to.
WW II reached them in January 1942 after the Deiblers had served in New Guinea for three years. The Japanese took control of the area and herded all foreigners into prisoner of war camps, interring the men in one location and the women and children in another. No communication was allowed between the two camps and Darlene never saw Russell again, learning of her husband’s death three months after his fatal illness. As a result of Russell’s death God gave Darlene a miraculous opportunity to freely witness of God’s love and salvation to the Japanese commander of the prison camp
Abuse and atrocities were inflicted on the imprisoned women and children, and many of them died as a result. Despite being so young, Darlene was a recognized leader among the women and was soon appointed as barracks leader. Her Christian testimony was clear and unwavering in the face of continual privations and troubles.
Near the end of the war Darlene was accused of being a spy for the Americans against the Japanese. She was moved from a prisoner of war camp to a death prison where she was the only female inmate. Severe malnutrition, serious illness, and discouragement engulfed her as she was tortured, deprived and humiliated in that prison. She could not sense God’s presence and was despondent until God reminded her of a verse she had learned as a child, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1) Still in her twenties, her hair whitened, and so ill she was unable to stand on her feet, Darlene called out to God with renewed faith.
After years of receiving only starvation rations of spoiled rice, Darlene longed for bananas. She pled with God to provide just one banana for her. She constantly dreamed about, thought about, prayed for and wished for one single banana.
In His mercy God laid it on the heart of the commander of her previous woman’s prisoner of war camp to come and visit Darlene. Shocked by her spectre-like appearance the commander left without speaking to her. He composed himself, then returned and talked to her with kindness. When he asked what message she had for the other women prisoners, Darlene sent the message that she still trusted the Lord.
Soon after the commander left, a guard came to her cell and left her 92 bananas, a gift from the commander, who was unaware of her wish. She was absolutely humbled by God’s exceedingly abundant provision for her, and her faith was strengthened.
In reading this book I was impressed with how frequently a memorized Scripture verse or stanza of a godly hymn came to Darlene’s mind as she suffered discouraging fear and abuse. We are reminded by Darlene’s experiences of God’s presence with believers even when we may not sense it. God’s Word and God’s promised presence comfort and strengthen us in our times of discouragement.