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 Dieblers eagerly returned to the field 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 was the first white woman any of them had ever seen, and she grew to love these child-like primitive people.
WW II reached them in January 1942 after the Deiblers had served in New Guineafor 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. As no communication was allowed between the two camps, Darlene learned of her husband’s death three months after a fatal illness. When Darlene was informed of Russell’s death, God gave her a miraculous opportunity to witness freely to the Japanese commander of the prison camp
All types of abuses 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 head. Her Christian testimony was clear and unwavering in the face of many 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.
One day Darlene was able to hoist herself up to look through a small window in her prison cell. She saw an outsider sneak a few bananas through the fence to another prisoner. Starving after years of receiving only a tiny amount of spoiled rice as a daily ration Darlene longed for and dreamed about bananas. She pled with God to provide just one banana for her. In His mercy God laid it on the heart of the commander of her former prison to come and visit Darlene. Shocked by her spectre-like appearance, the commander left without speaking to her, composed himself, then returned a short while later and spoke kindly to her. When he asked what word she had for the other women prisoners, Darlene sent the message that she was still trusting the Lord. Soon after the commander left, a guard came to her cell and left her 92 bananas, a gift from the commander. She was absolutely humbled by God’s exceedingly abundant provision for her, and because of the provision her faith was strengthened.
In reading this book I was impressed by how frequently a memorized Scripture verse or stanza of a godly hymn came to Darlene’s mind as she suffered fear and abuse. We are reminded by Darlene’s experiences of God’s presence with believers even when we may not sense it. Difficulties in our lives may be part of a purifying process and not simply chastening for sin. This book challenges us to godly living in the midst of our circumstances.
Evidence Not Seen, a 1990 Harper Collins publication, is still in print and available in bookstores or online.