The story of Darlene Rose, first woman missionary to New Guinea:
My first encounter with Darlene Rose was at a Women’s Missionary meeting. The auditorium was full that night and a hush fell over the crowd as she was introduced. A small-framed woman came to the platform to give her testimony. I would later learn she was really a giant for God.
Darlene was nine years old when she attended a church service with her mother. The missionary ended the program that night with a plea:
“Does anyone have a life to give to God for whatever He wants to do with it?” In her heart of hearts, Darlene consecrated herself to Him who had drawn her. I’ll go anywhere for You, Lord, anywhere. If you can use my life, I will give it to You. She was wonderfully saved and at the age of 19, married and answered the call to be the wife of the first missionary to enter the interior of New Guinea and the first white woman to go into the interior of New Guinea to live and work among thousands of tribal people who lived there. She crossed 14 mountain ranges to reach their villages, the tribes having been discovered only a few years before; and she walked into their villages and straight into the hearts of the people.
Little did she know that some time later, she would become a Prisoner of War in W.W.II after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and took over Holland and the Dutch East Indies, along with many other countries. Word came to the faithful little band of missionaries that they had been caught in the conflict and Dr. Jaffray, wise elderly man of God that he was, called the little band together and told them there would be one more ship leaving in the bay at the base of the mountain the next morning. They were to go to their quarters alone with God, each one, and pray and not discuss the matter among themselves and if anyone felt led to leave, they could go to the ship the next morning. When they met again the next day, not one of them felt led to leave. They watched from the hilltop as the ship prepared to depart, and suddenly it was blown to bits. No one survived the blast.
Then the soldiers came and declared them all to be Prisoners of War. They separated the missionaries and other prisoners from the natives. The men were severely beaten before being sent to an upper camp. Darlene gathered a few clothes, his Bible and a pen and notebook in a pillowcase for her husband as he was forced into the back of a truck. Russell Diebler leaned over the tailgate and said, “Just remember, dear, one thing; God said “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” She never saw him again.
Darlene and the other prisoners were moved to another location and she was appointed to oversee the barracks there as she could speak Dutch, Indonesian and English fluently. They called it the “Heinz 57″ barracks as there were so many people from so many places. God had brought them together and Darlene read the Bible to them every night and they prayed together. Many people found faith in Jesus Christ during that time.
People had to work and fulfill all the jobs to provide for the Japanese army. The prisoners were located between two airfields and the women prisoners sewed uniforms and knitted socks for the soldiers. They worked in the rice fields, sometimes up to their hips in mud, and tended gardens. Some built roads for the Japanese and cut trees from the jungle. Others worked on coolie gangs, unloading bags of rice and sugar from trucks. They raised pigs and cooked three meals a day for the animals which consisted of skinned dogs and banana peelings. They cooked porridge for the prisoners and tried to find food for themselves to eat.
They slept in a double-decker bamboo beds with mosquito netting to help with the flies and rats which were everywhere, trying to get into their beds. The smell of death was strong and many were sick and dying from lack of food and sickness so they had to stand guard over the patients and beat off the rats with sticks.
One day, a Dutch woman came to see Darlene. She thought she had come to talk about the work and Darlene gladly gave a good report about how well those who could were carrying the load. But the woman had come to tell her that her beloved husband had died three months before in the upper camp. It was one of those times when Darlene thought the Lord had left her, but He had said, “I will be with thee.” And so, she accepted God’s will and pressed on with bright Hope after the sorrow.
Then, Darlene was taken to another place in turn with other prisoners to be “tried for crimes against the Imperial Japanese government.” Placed in a small cell, she could hear the screams of some of the other prisoners. She prayed for strength and asked God not to let her cry. During this time, she received a cup of rice with maggots in it for her meal each day. One day, she pulled herself up to look out the transom into the courtyard below where prisoners were walking in the exercise yard. She saw the guard go toward one end of the yard, and a prisoner go to the other and a hand shot through the hedgerow and handed the prisoner a banana! Oh, Lord, if I could just have one banana. . .oh, never mind Lord. I wouldn’t want anyone to get into trouble for doing that for me. She had considered her options and decided there wasn’t one person who could do that for her without serious repercussions.
While she was in prison, the General from the barracks came to visit her. He liked Darlene as she always carried out all his orders precisely and willingly and she was respectful to him. She had even told him about God’s love and the Lord Jesus Christ. He listened with interest to her words. Now he was most sympathetic to Darlene’s predicament as he spoke to her. Then he turned and left. A few minutes later, she heard footsteps coming back down the hallway and she was very fearful that she had not bowed deeply enough when they came. A key was inserted into the lock and the door was opened and someone threw in a whole stalk of bananas for her. She stared in disbelief! She counted 98 bananas on that bunch. She ate them until the last black one was gone, grateful to God for His answer. He had not left her.
Finally, the day came when Darlene was to be tried for her crimes. She was taken to the head of the Imperial army and interrogated one last time. She was found “guilty” and made to sign a paper stating the charges against her. Just as the sword was raised over her head and the back of her neck to be executed, a great commotion came about in the front courtyard of the building where she was being held. Cars were honking their horns and people were shouting and scurrying about with great excitement. The war had ended and so she was returned to her barracks. God had not left her. He had delivered her from the enemy and certain death!
It took some time for the Americans to come to the prisoners. They were kind and helpful and provided what was needed for the transition for the prisoners to be returned to their homes. She was given a pair of shoes and though weak and sick from malnutrition and work too hard for a woman, she returned home to the United States and her family.
When I met Darlene Rose, she had remarried and had two sons and was home on furlough from ministering to the Aborigines in the Outback of Australia where God had used she and her second husband, Jerry to plant two churches. We became friends and I had the privilege of praying with her, sharing meals and hearing stories firsthand when she came home for short visits. Her story has been told in the book, EVIDENCE NOT SEEN, Harper-Collins and is still in print for those who want to read the rest of the story.
God was with Darlene Rose when she passed into Eternity about five years ago shortly before her husband’s homegoing in their retirement cottage in Tennessee. He was with her, just as He promised and she will be with Him forever. She had pledged herself to Him when she was just nine years old. Yes, she had a life to give for God, and she lived it very well.
by Sherry Goodwin