A Tribute to Darlene Deibler Rose

The unfailing promises of God 

Worms in her rice porridge, torture from her captors, separation from her husband – these are only a few of the things that Darlene Deibler Rose endured in the jungles of the Dutch East Indies. But as I learned more of her story, I also saw the grace God gave her for every hardship. During the darkest nights, she clung to her faith and the hope the cross of Jesus brings. Reading her memoir, Evidence Not Seen, challenged me to believe in the unfailing promises of God no matter the circumstances.

“I’m home! I’m home!” 

At the age of nineteen, Darlene left her childhood home in the United States and married a veteran missionary, Russell Deibler. A year after they were married, they landed in the Netherlands East Indies to bring the gospel to the interior of New Guinea, which until then had not been visited by Westerners. [1] When meeting the Kapauku tribe for the first time, she said, “I raised my hands, waving to the people… I started running down the mountainside, singing at the top of my lungs, ‘I’m home! I’m home!’”[2] God had called her to these people, and out of her love for them, she chose to overlook the difficulties of where they lived. In 1940, only a short time after moving inland, the Deibler’s were forced to evacuate from the interior to one of the main islands because of the beginning rumbles of WW2.[3] This was only the beginning of their difficulties.

“He would never leave us nor forsake us”

Two years later, after placing the Deiblers and other missionaries under house arrest, Japanese soldiers took the missionary men away to a prison camp. Darlene recalls what her husband spoke to her during those last moments: “Russell leaned over the tailgate and very quietly said, ‘Remember one thing, dear: God said that He would never leave us nor forsake us’”[4] Even in this heartbreaking moment, she chose not to look at the circumstances but instead at her true Refuge. She said, “Deep in my heart, He whispered, ‘I’m here.’”[5] Over the years, she would hold to these words even when they were the opposite of what she was feeling. One of those times would be when she heard the words that her husband had died in the prison camp. “It was one of those moments when I felt that the Lord had left me: He had forsaken me…. In my anguish of soul, I looked up. My Lord was there, and I cried out, ‘But God…!’ Immediately He answered, ‘My child, did I not say that when thou passest through the water I would be with thee…?’”[6] Her close communion with God was the source of her strength and was her lifeline through moments of grief and uncertainty. Our human tendency is to give in to fear or anger. But this amazing woman immediately went to the only One who could strengthen her during her sorrow.

“My grace is sufficient for thee”

During her imprisonment by the Japanese, her captors accused her of being a spy and forced her into solitary confinement on death row until she would confess. After hours of being tortured, she would come back to her cell and cry out to God, asking Him to spare her from another interrogation. She wrote of one those times, saying, “When there were no more tears to cry, I would hear Him whisper, ‘But my child, my grace is sufficient for thee. Not was nor shall be, but it is sufficient.’ Oh, the eternal, ever-present, undiminished supply of God’s glorious grace!”[7]

“My faith rested not on feelings”

During this time of solitary confinement, Darlene once felt a loss of communion with God. She began to search in her life for hidden sin and ask the Holy Spirit to forgive her. Yet that emptiness remained. It was then that she began to realize what faith means – “the evidence of things not seen,” as Hebrews 11:1 says. “I was assured that my faith rested not on feelings, not on moments of ecstasy, but on the Person of my matchless, changeless Savior, in Whom is no shadow caused by turning.”[8] She chose to believe that He was still there with her in that prison cell, even when she could not feel His love surrounding her. 

“Who of our loved ones would be left?” 

After WW2 was over, she and the other women were freed by the Allies and brought back to the States. They had spent almost four years in “total isolation from the rest of the world, wondering how that world had changed, and who of our loved ones would be left.”[9] For Darlene, it had been eight long years since she had heard from her family, and she didn’t know whether her parents were alive or dead. When she did arrive in California, she was finally reunited with her family, still alive and well. What a joyous reunion!

A legacy worthy to follow

Reading Darlene’s story strengthened my resolve to follow Christ. She could have avoided all of her pain and suffering had she just chosen to stay in suburban Iowa where she grew up. But her love for the Lord took her to South Asia and through the fires of refinement. She chose not to allow bitterness to rule her life and later remarried and went back to Dutch New Guinea where she would spend almost thirty years ministering to inland tribes, one of which was the Kapauku.[10] She died in 2004, but not before leaving a legacy worthy of being followed.

“What makes a true missionary statesman” 

In summary, I offer her words from Evidence Not Seen: “I [Darlene] realized how little I knew of what makes a true missionary statesman; of a faith that never staggers at the promise of God, no matter how incredible to the natural man its fulfillment seems; of a trust in the Unchanging One, Who keeps the heart at rest and unperturbed in a changing world; of a burning love that counts not life dear unto itself, but is expendable for God; and of a vision that is never dimmed.” [11] I believe this is a worthy summary of her life and testimony.

Darlene’s autobiography, Evidence Not Seen, was the inspiration for this article as well as the source of my information. I highly recommend this book. Not only is it well-written and captivating, but it also contains many more stories about her life, including her miraculous release from death row. Another fascinating resource I found was Darlene telling her own story on Dr. Dobson’s Family Talk podcast. I was moved by the emotion of this amazing lady as she told her story. If you want to learn more about Darlene Deibler Rose, I suggest looking up these two resources.

Family Talk: “I Will Never Leave Thee.” Parts 1-3 Family Talk Broadcast

Rose, Darlene Deibler. Evidence Not Seen. Harper & Row (HarperCollins), 1991.

Kristen Yoder currently lives in Elmhurst, Queens, NYC, one of the most ethnically diverse places on the earth. She is often involved in church activities and squeezes in college in her spare time, thanks to Lumerit Education. She enjoys reading mystery novels and missionary biographies and enthusiastically joins conversations about theology, cross-cultural missions, and personality types, to name a few.

  1. Rose, Darlene Deibler. Evidence Not Seen. Harper & Row (HarperCollins), 1991, 1.
  2. Ibid., 28.
  3. Ibid., 30.
  4. Ibid., 45.
  5. Ibid., 46.
  6. Ibid., 109.
  7. Ibid., 141.
  8. Ibid., 156.
  9. Ibid., 187.
  10. Ibid., 223.
  11. Ibid., 57.

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