The true story of a young American missionary woman interned during World War II in a notorious Japanese prison camp.
- HarperCollins Publishers
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- 1st ed
- Product dimensions:
- 6.11(w) x 11.11(h) x 1.11(d)
Read an Excerpt
After six months studying the Dutch language in Holland, C. Russell Deibler, my husband, a veteran missionary, and I, his young bride, set sail aboard the RMS Volendam, en route to the Netherlands East Indies.
My first glimpse of the East Indies showed me a veritable hot, humid Eden. The more than 13,500 islands scattered from the South China Sea to the Indian Ocean were bathed in two annual monsoons that left a girdle of mud around most of the larger islands. Each had its own version of swamplands and impregnable rain-forest jungles, with vaulting cathedral-like gloom. Many had active volcanoes that still spewed occasional but deadly flames and lava. All were outlined with coral reefs, quiet lagoons, white-sand beaches fringed with coconut palms, hibiscus, and frangipani bending languidly to the soft ocean breezes. "Ah," I reveled, "an island paradise."
We landed in Batavia, Java, on August 18, 1938, our first wedding anniversary. The scents of my new homeland were foreign yet provocative, exceedingly different from any odors previously known to one accustomed to midwestern Iowa farmland. Each island, each area was different. Some had sulphurous mangrove swamps and decaying jungle flavors. Some reeked of copra. I identified cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves in the breeze blowing off the Spice Islands. Elsewhere the smell of sea salt was mixed with the heavy perfume of night-blooming jasmine.
Walking through the markets a patchwork of makeshift tables covered with brightly colored fruits and vegetables, native woven goods, earthenware pots, beautiful sarongs, andtrinkets of gold and silver-proved much more invigorating than any American supermarket. The merchants click-clacked two pieces of wood together and called out in sing-song voices the nature of their wares. Nothing had a marked price. I walked away when I first heard a price quoted that was double the value.... Boleb tawar!
Boleb tawar! the distressed merchants exclaimed, inviting me back to bargain. And bargain I did!
Everything was interesting and intriguing. Immediately I knew a oneness with the people and the place. I pestered Russell with a thousand questions or more.
In the open city canal, happy, chattering men, women, and children were bathing, washing clothes, preparing vegetables, merrily splashing one another, or taking care of bodily functions all in close proximity to one another.
The train trip to Surabaja through central Java threaded in and out of a mosaic of terraced rice fields and tea plantations.
Three days later, aboard an interisland steamer, Russell and I headed toward Celebes, the mission headquarters in the Netherlands East Indies.
Macassar, the capital and chief seaport of Celebes, was a magnificent tropical city. White-sand beaches extended right up to the terraced rice paddies. A large, very old fort, with an outdated cannon, kept a watchful eye on the harbor. Ocean-going vessels dropped anchor to unload their imported manufactured goods in exchange for a cargo of copra, coffee, rice, corn, salt, and an array of exotic spices.
Russell, never the best of sailors, had recovered sufficiently to join me at the rail after the gangplank had been lowered onto the wharf. He directed my gaze toward the group gathered to the right of the gangplank.
"The tall lady is Margaret Kemp, from Endicott, New York," Russell said. "She and the other single ladies work in the headquarters office and teach in the Bible School."
I recognized Lilian Marsh, for she was the image of her sister, Ethel, a soft-spoken Englishwoman whom I had met in London. They were the daughters of a well-known British minister and author, F. E. Marsh. Both had served many dangerous years in embattled China before Lilian was transferred to the Netherlands East Indies. As I looked at the petite lady, perhaps no more than five feet tall, with her fine, curly hair pulled into a neat bun at the back of her head, I could scarcely believe that she had braved the Boxer Rebellion in Wuchow, as had Philoma Seely, who stood next to her.
Philoma, earlier described to me by Russell as intense and a bit eccentric, was shorter than Lilian. Her gray hair, catching the tropical sun, shone like polished silver. Philoma, tone-deaf, yet miraculously fluent in Chinese, kept the books for the mission headquarters, taught in the Bible School, and was actively involved in the ministry of the local Chinese church.
At the end of the line of single women was Margaret Jaffray, the slightly plump, much-beloved daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Jaffray, the field chairman of the Netherlands East Indies mission. Her dark hair was shot through with silver. Rimless glasses sat atop a pug nose but didn't diminish the humor that sparkled in her hazel eyes.
"Welcome back, stranger!" a gentleman with the group called. They all began waving.
"That's Wesley Brill, head of the Bible School; his wife, Ruby; and their little girl, Donna," Russell explained.
In fear and trepidation I disembarked. The Brills reached Russell first with a hearty greeting, and as I hung back, a little unsure, the two Margarets, Lilian, and Philoma surrounded me. I looked hesitantly into their faces, fearing that one as young as I might not be readily accepted; but they extended kind words of welcome, which I soaked up like a sponge. From that moment I knew a respect and love for them that close proximity in the work, war, and suffering never altered.
The Brills told us that, for the present, Russell and I would live at the mission guest house situated near the edge of the city.
The guest house had large, airy, sparsely furnished bedrooms that opened onto the communal dining and sitting rooms. The cooking area, dipper bath, toilet, and quarters for the hired help were housed in a separate building connected by a covered walkway to the main house. Ceramic tiles made the floor deliciously cool underfoot.Evidence Not Seen. Copyright © by Darlene Deib Rose. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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