To Hell and Back

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TO HELL AND BACK
July 13, 2014
Mike Cunningham

As we saw last week, God had given Darlene Deibler Rose and her fellow missionary’s who were P.O.W.’s of the Japanese in the South Pacific during World War 2 enough strength to sustain them in each of their horrendous divinely ordained trials such as when:

“Rabid dogs became an enemy more insidious than the Japanese. We took to the ditches armed with homemade spears and knives for protection. By day or by night, they intruded into camp. Just a nip on the elbow from a mad dog, and a little boy from Barracks 7 died a violent, painful death. I learned that when the stars were our only source of light, I could distinguish anything moving over the ground by standing in a trench with my eyes at ground level. My spear had a knife lashed to the end of it. Some of the boys from our barracks had fashioned it for me. Only God knows how many nights I watched and reminded Him of the Psalm that says, “Thou shalt not be afraid of the terror by night.”

As you continue reading this sermon it will become obvious that Darlene was well versed in the Bible. For many years previously she had stored up the Scriptures in her heart like the treasured possession that they are. It behooves you and me to do likewise. We will be blessed greatly with the courage and strength to persevere and glorify God whenever we are experiencing very painful physical and or emotional suffering. Returning to Darlene, she says that,

“True character surfaces when people are faced with danger and deprivation. We had base characters among us-some who surprised us with their selfishness and greed-but they were in the minority. They were far outnumbered by those of great moral fiber; noble characters whose courage, fortitude, and valor were an inspiration to all.

Such a one was Toos Hoogeveen, a beautiful young woman, the married daughter of the former governor of Bali. Mrs. Hoogeveen worked at the piggery. One night when the air-raid alert was sounded, she and some of the other workers took shelter in a nearby trench. They became aware of the approach of a dog and tried to ward it off with sticks, but it refused to go away. Realizing that the dog was rabid and many would die horrible deaths if it got into the trench, Mrs. Hoogeveen wrestled the struggling animal to the ground and held it until another girl killed it with a knife. In attacking the animal with her bare hands, she was bitten and scratched repeatedly. The Japanese responded t the urgent plea for help by sending some antirabies serum, but for some reason it was not effective. The hopeless desperation of the doctors was like a disease that infected the rest of the camp. What was to be done for her? Understanding that the serum had not effected a cure, she asked and needed to be isolated. The door of the hut was closed; the key was turned in the lock-and there she awaited death. (A) Pages 114-116

That godly woman gave her life so that others may live, just as Jesus, her Lord and Savior had done a little more that 2,000 years ago. I can’t begin to imagine the indescribable joy she experienced the moment she left this world and entered Heaven. I encourage you folks to think about Heaven regardless of your age or health. Our life in this world is a split second compared to eternity.
There was another time when Darlene was suddenly awakened out of a sound sleep one night and saw that, “He was wearing a black sarong that he swooped up over his shoulder to free his machete. With one fluid movement, the knife was extracted from his belt and held up in striking position. I’m really quite a coward, and why I rushed at him, I have no idea. Perhaps it was the element of surprise, but he was a bigger coward than I, for he turned and fled down the hall, through the bathroom, across the porch, and down over the mountainside with me hot on his heals-until I saw others emerge from the jungle. He yelled something in their language, and together they fled. I stopped dead. “Lord,” I whispered, “what a stupid thing for me to do!”

Immediately He answered, “The angel of the Lord encamps around them that fear Him, and delivered them.”

I went back to the house and reached to shut the door that was standing wide open. There was no doorknob, no lock or key; instead, I pulled the door toward me to find a porthole carved in the door by the intruder with his long knife.

Dr. and Mrs. Jaffray were now awake and had joined Margaret. “What happened?” Dr. Jaffrey asked, much shaken by the noise and sight of the damaged door.

“We had bandits! They must have been here for hours. I thought they were rats!” A tour of inspection proved that tablecloths and other linens were missing, books had been pulled from the shelves and searched, probably by someone expecting to find money hidden in them-and I had thought they were rats! They cautiously had taken panes out of Dr. Jaffray’s bedroom windows and laid them carefully on the porch so that we might replace them. None of the noise had awakened Dr. Jaffray. I found a board and nailed the door shut.

From that night on, we slept with a club at the foot of our bed and a small milk can-squawker under our pillow, but we never had to use them. We heard bandits return several nights after that, but they never entered the house. It wasn’t until after the war that I learned why. I had suspected the Jaffray’s gardener; he was Boegis, and he 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 that stood around the house.” The Lord had put His angles around us. He had delivered. (B) Pages 50-51

I’m sure by now you folks have noticed that Darlene had cultivated an intimidate relationship with God. They were constantly talking with each other through God’s Word, circumstances, spiritual songs and God’s faithfulness in never giving her a burden that was greater than she could handle. She tells us later that,

“There was a time when the mention of shock troops sent the adrenaline racing through my veins. However, after our arrival in Kampili, hearing another name totally eclipsed any feeling of fear I had for the shock troops-that of the Kempeitai! Even the sight of the sleek, black limousine appropriated by the secret police was ominous and sent a hush over the camp. “For whom are they coming now?” was the question always in our minds when we saw the “death wagon” approaching.

Following closely on the reign of terror perpetrated by the shock troops, the operation of the Kempeitai in Macassar early and officially quelled resistance. Friends, both Dutch and Indonesian, were among the innocents who died cruel deaths. A whispered recounting of those days by one who had had the dubious privilege of observing the modus operandi of the secret police confirmed that they were an indomitable foe. They emulated the German Gestapo, specializing in silencing political opposition. Of the woman taken by them from our camp, some returned; others were not seen again.” (B) Page 121

“Two days after my birthday, on May 12, we had another visit from the Kempeitai. Instantly we were alert, straining to see if Margaret and Philoma were being returned to camp. The secret police stepped out of their car and went to the camp commander’s office. The back seat of the car was empty and I knew in my heart those men had come for me. I stood frozen, watching them, as though drawn by a magnet. I started to walk toward the office. Sweet Seventeen met me halfway. My dread premonition was confirmed; I was summoned to Yamaji’s office.

They must have heard the thud of my heart. I tried to stand tall and put on a bold front, ignoring their looks and laughing comments punctuated with “America, America.” Ceasing to circle me, one began to a staccato rhythm on the tabletop. His black eyes probed my face for the slightest betrayal of knowledge of Morse code. Then he laid a paper in front on which my name had been handwritten-Darlene Deibler. “Are you Darlene Deibler?” he demanded.

Yes, sir,” I responded, “I’m Darlene Deibler, but I didn’t write that.”

“I know you didn’t write it,” he spat back. “How well do you know Morse code?” The tapping on the desk continued, insistent, demanding. I replied that I had never studied Morse code and knew nothing about it. The staccato tapping beat on as the Kempeitai officer narrowed his eyes, carefully scrutinizing my face.

“Sir, I know nothing about Morse code,” I repeated.
“We’ll see what you know about Morse code,” he threatened.
“Go get another dress and come back here. We’re taking you somewhere else to examine you.”

In stunned obedience I ran to the barracks, thanking the Lord as I ran that that day I had put on a dress with a full-circle skin instead of the camp issue of sleeveless blouse and shorts. For some mysterious reason I felt led to wear that dress that morning. It was the Lord, for I was not given time to change into anything else. I grabbed my Bible from the upper rack, and folded it into a housecoat. I had made at Benteng Tinggi. I stepped outside and into the waiting arms of the Catholic Mother Superior. She held me tightly, as though I were a frightened child, and whispered kindly and lovingly, “My dear Mevrouw Deibler, we’ll be praying for you every day you’re gone.” Grabbing her hand, I murmured my thanks. Oh, how I needed that! I felt so young, so vulnerable. Then I ran off into the clutches of the Kempeitai.

Crossing the moat, we turned onto the dusty main road to make the fifteen-kilometer drive to the city of Macassar. The car slowed down near a building I recognized immediately as the former native insane asylum, now converted into a prison by the secret police. The car pulled into a circular drive, and as I looked into the first series of barred windows that faced this driveway, I saw someone watching. We stopped and I was ordered out of the car. I stepped out, my eyes riveted to that cell. Margaret Kemp was banging on the bars, her fists gripping them tightly. Her arms were black and blue. When she saw me, she didn’t utter a sound or make a cry. She just shook her head back and forth, back and forth. Looking at Margaret, my heart cried out in protest, “Lord, you took Russell. Must I now go through this?”

Tenderly He answered, “Whom I love, my child, I discipline.” Because I had known the quality of His love, my heart bowed in submission, and I whispered, “All right, Lord, all right-just don’t leave me.” I looked back at Margaret, my first glimpse of the horrors of the Kempeitai, and realized that she was now but skin and bones. Two weeks ago, when taken from Kampili, she had weighed about 170 pounds.

This former mental institution was a rectangle of buildings containing cells built around an open, central courtyard. I was led into the office, which was in the middle of the two front cellblocks. A young Indonesian woman sat at the desk, and a prison guard stood beside her. He grabbed my Bible and shouted, “You can’t have that! All you’ll do is sit there and think of that book and what you’re reading instead of your evil deeds against the Imperial Japanese Army.” He took my wedding and engagement rings and handed them to the girl. They, along with my Bible, were placed in a paper bag.

When taken from Kampili, Margaret hadn’t been allowed to carry any extra cloths with her,. When the guard left the office, I asked the young woman about the condition of Miss Kemp’s clothes. She responded that her dress was in bad shape. I offered my housecoat, saying, “Please, will you give he this? Rolling it into a ball, she hid it under the desk so the guard wouldn’t see it.

The guard returned, and with reluctant feet, I followed him out of the office, through the portico that joined the two initial blocks of cells, and across the courtyard toward another cellblock. I could hear a woman crying out in a series of senseless rantings. Immediately I identified the voice as that of Philoma Seely. With chilling clarity, I knew that in two weeks she had become a raving maniac. “Dear God, what have they done to her?”

“Lassie, whatever you do, be a good soldier for Jesus Christ.” Dr. Jaffray’s last words to me came to mind, and each step became a cry of courage. “Oh God, whatever you do, make me a good soldier for Jesus Christ.”

On the door of the cell before which the guard paused were written in chalk these words, Orang ini musti mati, “This person must die.” The guard unlocked the door, opened it, and shoved me inside the cell. The door closed upon me, and I dropped to my knees, eyes intent upon the keyhole. When I saw the key make a complete revolution, I knew I was on death row, imprisoned to face trial and the sentence of death.

After the war ended and Darlene was finally going home she had an unexpected visit from, Mr. Yamaji who “asked if I was going away with the other Americans. “No” I said, “I would like to visit Mr. Deibler’s grave before I leave.”

“Ah! Tuan major told me that, Njonja, so I have ordered a truck to be here tomorrow morning to take you to Pare Pare, and I have also sent word to men there that you are coming. The truck will then take you to Macassar so you will be ready to go with the last planeload.”

I was amazed that he knew all about the plane schedules and so forth. I thanked him profusely for arranging transport for me.

“It’s nothing, Njonja,”

“Tuan Yamaji, I have wanted to thank you ever since you came to Macassar to visit me in prison. I was very sick from Malaria, beriberi, and dysentery. I never had tuberculosis as the Kempeitai told you, but I was very sick and the bananas you sent me by the guard gave me strength so that I didn’t die. Did you know that the Kempeitai men said they would cut off my head?”

He nodded, “Njonja, I told them you were not a spy. I knew you weren’t, because of what you told me about God here in my office. I told them what you had told me. I’m sorry, Njonja, that your husband died and you have had so much trouble, but now you go back to America.”

“Mr. Yamaji, I have told Tuan major about your visit and the bananas that saved me from starvation, also about the Kempeitai. I will tell Njonja Presswood’s husband also. (Mr. Yamaji had pleaded mercy for me; I certainly owed him that much.)

Suddenly something occurred to me. Mr. Yamaji had told them I had talked to him about God’s love. That explained why, at the last hearing, the Interrogator had said to me, “But if we win the war, you would not stay and tell my people about God, would you? You’d go back to America?”

“No, I wouldn’t go back, if God wanted me here. Do you know that God loves your people too?” But the Brain spoke sharply to him and he said no more.

The Australian major from the Army of Occupation told me that the two Kempeitai officers, the Brain and the Interrogator, had cut their wrists on barbed wire in an attempt to commit suicide rather than come to trial. But they had not been successful, and both were sentenced to be executed.

I said goodnight to Mr. Yamaji and Sweet Seventeen and thanked them again for arranging the truck for me. It was still light, and most of the woman were in the area of the old camp. A vehicle had stopped outside the gate and the passengers were coming in. I saw Ruth and Ernie among them, so I ran to meet them. Ruth was absolutely radiant; the transformation was amazing. I felt happy to see them together again. We spoke briefly, as the car was not staying long. They were aware of my plans for the next day and wanted to be sure I stayed with them when the truck brought me from Pare Pare to Macassar. “Wiesje knows where we’re living.

Ernie handed me four letters and a drawing. “There’s a letter I wrote you after Russ died, but I wanted to tell you personally.” His face was drawn, and he said softly, “Be tankful the Japanese never fetched you. You would never have recognized Russ. Now you’ll be able to remember him as he was the last time you saw him. I don’t know why God took him. His life and messages had a great impact on the men in all the camps. I miss Russ; he was my dearest friend, and I think Dr. Jaffray would have said the same.” He looked at me sadly, remembering. “May He comfort you. We have to believe that our Father knows best.”

“Then with trembling hands, I took up a letter carefully folded to make an envelope. I recognized the writing. It was addressed to Mrs. C. Russell Deibler, Kampili. The letter had been written not long before Russell died. “My dearest darling,” the letter began, followed by what he dared to write about conditions. His expressions of love again included the sentence that I will never forget: “My darling, I have wished 1001 x’s that I had taken you away from here. I am concerned for your safety.” Commending me to God’s care, he closed with, “I send you all my love, Russell.”

It took me a long time to finish the letter. I didn’t want to stain it with tears. I was so grieved that he felt he should have taken me away. Both of us had agreed that we should remain, and that decision was reached only after much prayer. “Lord, I trust that You reminded him that it was You Who impressed upon both our hearts that we should not leave. I have been safer here, overshadowed by Your love, than I would have been anywhere else on this earth, outside of Your will!” Pages 196-198.

Before I end today’s sermon I want to remind you folks that Darlene had taken the Scriptures and stored them up in her heart like the treasured possession that they are. God’s Word and His Spirit living within her gave her the strength and courage to endure horrendous physical and emotional suffering for four seemingly never ending years. You might say that she went to Hell in 1941 and came back in 1945. And—throughout the journey she was able to maintain a robust sense of humor.

Lord willing, next week….

Evidence Not Seen: A Woman's Miraculous Faith in the Jungles of World War II - highly recommended by Pastor Mike

Evidence Not Seen – Highly recommended by Pastor Mike

Buy it at Amazon

Buy it at Amazon

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3 comments

  1. mike jr. says:

    My hat’s off to Darlene for being so strong for those four years. There is no doubt that all of Darlene’s scripture reading gave her the ability to stay strong and trust God. Reading and understanding scripture will help any Christian become more Christ like. It will also help us make it through the tough times we will face in this sinful world we live in. Great sermon.

    Mike jr.

  2. Ed McGrath says:

    Loved the sermon but still wonder why God allows for so much pain and suffering?
    I keep trying to understand but,not there yet.

  3. Amanda says:

    Such a great and powerful story! I really enjoyed this!

    Love,
    Amanda

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