During every war there are tragedies, and World War II is no exception. When war came to the South Pacific, around 130,000 civilians in the Dutch East Indies were sent to prisoner of war camps by the Japanese. Really these were concentration camps. Many people who survived never talked about their experiences.
However, one of those who did share was Darlene Deibler Rose. She had been barely out of her teens when she married a missionary and went to Papua New Guinea to join his ministry. After a few years, they were only months away from a furlough when World War II began.
The Japanese soldiers hauled off the men, including her husband. She never saw her husband again.
I’ve read Darlene’s autobiography, and I’ve also listened to her recount those years as a POW, and it has always captivated me! Her life of victory in grief and hope in a time of horror is monumental! The presence of God was very real in her life…even in a Japanese concentration camp!
All of this time period was difficult, but perhaps the worst was when she was accused of spying and sent to death row in a prison. She was put in solitary confinement. For a month and a half, the Japanese interrogated her, trying to get her to confess of espionage.
During her stay in solitary, Darlene had battled dysentery, malaria, beriberi, and malnutrition. While trying to get a breeze, she had learned to stand on the window ledge to get air from the transom at the top of the door. She could see out into the courtyard, but no one could see her.
Once, she was secretly looking over the courtyard where the regular prisoners were allowed to get exercise. These were native women who had done minor crimes.
Darlene noticed a woman who was carefully edging toward some Honolulu Creeper when the guard’s back was turned. Whenever the guard would turn back in her direction, she would suddenly stop. Darlene was fascinated.
All of a sudden, she saw why the woman was sneaking toward the vine-covered fence. A hand reached through with a bunch of bananas and gave them to the prisoner. The woman quickly hid the bananas.
Darlene had suffered so much physically, and the desire for a banana was like a physical hurt. She wanted a banana so much that she could taste it!
Darlene went to her knees. She said, “Lord, I’m not asking You for a whole bunch of bananas like that woman has. I just want one banana. But please don’t think I’m being ungrateful. I know there’s no way that You could do it.”
The next day, Darlene could hear officers coming down the hallway. She had learned to dread when the officers came. It was usually a time of humiliation. The prisoners were always expected to bow at a 90-degree angle.
Darlene was so weak that she prayed that God would help her get the bow correct. She didn’t want to be in trouble.
But when the door opened, she forgot all about her bow. Standing in the doorway with the prison officers was Mr. Yamaji, the old camp commander from where she had been taken. He was a friend. This was the first friendly face that she had seen for a month and a half. Darlene and Mr. Yamaji talked for awhile. Finally, the men left.
As soon as the door was closed, it hit Darlene…she had not bowed to these men! In her excitement, she had forgotten. She heard the guard’s footsteps coming back down to her cell. She knew that he was coming for her! “Oh Lord, why didn’t You help me to remember?” she cried.
The guard opened her cell and laid them at her feet. Bananas! They were a gift, he said, from Mr. Yamaji.
Darlene counted them—ninety-two bananas! She shoved them as far away from herself as she could get them. She said that since she didn’t have a lot of character, that wasn’t very far. She began to pray, “Lord, forgive me! I have no right to these bananas! I was just telling You how you couldn’t get even ONE banana in here, and now look!”
In her autobiography she said, “In the quiet of the shadowed cell, He answered back within my heart: ‘That’s what I delight to do, the exceeding abundant above anything you ask or think.’ I knew in those moments that nothing is impossible to my God.” (Evidence Not Seen, Page 150)
She spread them out and rationed how many she ate a day. Darlene felt like she did not deserve any of the ninety-two bananas, but she ate every one of them.
This story came to my mind recently. I don’t deserve anything from God. Once again, my family is in revival, but my mind is distracted.
We are in the middle of a major house renovation. We have been knocking out walls full of mold in preparation for putting new walls in. Friends have helped us fix the roof. I have moved my children out of their bedrooms temporarily. All the contents have been taken to other rooms and the garage.
No, my mind is not focused on revival. I’m tired and overwhelmed. But even if my mind is not focused…my family still need some miracles.
I don’t deserve any bananas. I might even explain to God how it is impossible to get any bananas. But if bananas come, I’m going to eat them. Every. Single. One. Of. Them.
Nothing is impossible to my God!