Darlene Diebler Rose: When I am Weak, Then I am Strong | Part 2

Darlene sat in the cell and felt the Lord’s strong arms of quietness and calm about her. She later said, “I knew they could lock me in, but they couldn’t lock my wonderful Lord out.”

Her cell was six feet square with whitewashed walls and a ceramic tile floor. One high barred window was completely boarded up. A barred transom above the door was the only opening for a ray of light. 

Darlene was left in confinement for 72 hours. Her mind was busy as she sifted pebbles from the tin bowl of rice she was given each day. She didn’t even know why she was here. She was still getting over the news of Russell’s death. Would she really never see him again? She burst into tears and wept uncontrollably, soaking the only dress she had. Then she dried her tears and got up from the floor. The Japanese would never see or hear her cry. 

Before Darlene had come to Kempeitai, she knew she had dysentery. This left her weak and started a battle with the flies as she ate. Soon she was given a treatment of Epson salts and her daily rice was traded for porridge– dirty rice boiled in water– topped with worms. At night she was assaulted by hordes of mosquitoes and bedbugs in her plank bed.

Darlene spent her time listening to the noises of the other prisoners and contemplating the goodness of her God. She heard the cries of the prisoners as they were tortured and prayed for God to have mercy on them. 

Soon Darlene’s questioning began. She was seated between two men who she nicknamed ‘the Brain’ and ‘the Interrogator’. If Darlene’s answer didn’t please the Brain, he would command the Interrogator to strike Darlene at the base of her neck or flick her repeatedly between the eyes. The hearings lasted from one to three hours. She was questioned about her supposed espionage activities: did she know Morse code? Where had she been trained to be a spy? Where was her radio?

The hearings were repetitious, painful and brainwashing. But Darlene never broke down, she never cried until she was returned to her cell and the sound of the guards’ footsteps had vanished, “I just can’t go through another one. Please no more, Lord.”

Then when she had exhausted her tears, she would gain new strength in the Lord, “But my child, my grace is sufficient for thee. Not was, not shall be, but it is sufficient.” Despite her fear and weakness, God gave Darlene the courage to face one interrogation after another. He gave her the strength to deport herself like a good soldier for her Lord before those merciless men. 

Still suffering from dysentery, Darlene fell ill with cerebral malaria and then beriberi. This resulted from the lack of plain water and vitamin B in her diet. Her legs swelled and filled with fluid. Nevertheless, Darlene fought to keep up her strength. She walked around her cell reciting scripture from memory. The Lord fed her with the Living Bread and brought her daily encouragement. 

One day Darlene prayed that God would heal her from dysentery. She wrote, “Faith welled up in me to believe that the Lord had seen my distress and heard my prayer.” That same day, Darlene was healed by the Great Physician. She had asked God to heal her of dysentery, but God in His great mercy also healed her of malaria and beriberi. 

After one last interrogation where a false witness was present, Darlene never was called back. She was condemned to be beheaded as an American spy. But even through this, Darlene gave thanks. Her God was with her. He had given his soldier strength, and she left the future completely in His hands. During the hearing, ‘the Interrogator’ asked her, “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 God loves your people too?” Then the subject dropped. 

One day as Darlene balanced on holding the boarded-window bars looking out the transom, she saw a woman receive bananas from an outsider. Suddenly she was desperately overcome with a desire for one banana. She got on her knees and looked up, “Lord, I’m not asking for a whole bunch of bananas. I just want one banana. Lord, just one banana.”

Then she doubted, how could God possibly get a banana to her? Even after her healing, she told God that there was no way for Him to do it. She later wrote, “What I needed to do was link my impotence to God’s omnipotence.”

The next morning, Darlene, skin drawn over bones, struggled to her feet as the door opened. Standing before Darlene was Mr. Yamaci. He was smiling but upon seeing the condition of his former prisoner, tears filled his eyes. Yamaci asked her if she had a message for the women in Kampili, then turned on his heels and left. The next time the guard opened her cell door, he laid glorious yellow bunches at her feet. Ninety-two bananas! Darlene immediately repented of her unbelief. She couldn’t trust God for one banana, and He had given her almost one hundred!

One day, Darlene was told to sign a paper and was led to the place of execution, but just as ‘the Brain’ drew his sword, she was miraculously saved and driven back to Kampili where she was held prisoner till the end of the war. Surviving near death by fire and bullets, weeks in the damp jungle after their camp was bombed, cold and starvation, Darlene clung to her Lord and always found joy in the diversions God sent. When the war was over and Darlene prepared to leave Kampili, she had one last talk with Mr. Yamaji. It was then that she realized he was the one who God used to save her life. He had told the Kempeitai men that she was not a spy because of what she had told him about God and his love. That explains the Interrogator’s question at the last hearing, Darlene thought. 

Before leaving New Guinea, Darlene visited Russell’s grave at Pare Pare (pah-rei)  and was reunited with Dutch friends. Eight years after Darlene had first come this land, she was going home alone; a widow at twenty-six. As her native friends gathered on the beach and bid her a safe journey, Darlene’s heart broke. In answer to their call of, “Mrs., come back quickly!”, Darlene responded, “Precious friends, someday I will come back again.”

After a joyful reunion with her family and time to recover physically and emotionally, Darlene decided that it was time to follow God’s calling. Then she met a man named Gerald W. Rose who was himself preparing to serve God on the mission field of New Guinea’s interior. They were married on April 4, 1948 and began their ministry together the following year. Two sons were added to Jerry and Darlene’s family. They spent 30 years in New Guinea before relocating to the Australian outback where they served for several years. 

Later sharing  the atrocities of life as a POW and the suffering she endured, Darlene said, “I would do it all again for my Savior.”

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” – Psalm 27:1 


We highly recommend Darlene’s biography Evidence not Seen. Her life continues to impact thousands of Christians around the world.

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