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Remembering C. Russell Deibler

A History Of
C. Russell Deibler

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I will never leave you or forsake you. Hebrews 13:5
Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest. Joshua 1:9

Russell accepted Christ as a youth and felt the Lord's call to serve. He graduated from Nyack Missionary Training Institute in 1929. He applied to the Board for missionary service and in 1930 was sent to Borneo by Christian & Missionary Alliance (CMA) with Ernie Presswood a fellow classmate and colleague. Russell was a brilliant young missionary from western Pennsylvania that had soon become Dr. Robert Jaffray's righthand man and protégé. ( Dr. Robert A. Jaffray was field chairman of the Netherlands East Indies mission of the C&MA. )

March 1931- The Pioneer

First Impressions

C. Russell Deibler, Samarinda, Dutch Borneo
Borneo is an interesting land to read about,---but to live here would try the constitution of most people. The Dutch say this part of the world is very much like one of their dishes, 'old country pea-soup', --hot and green. If one has no real purpose in view, he had better keep clear of these shores, but to one entrusted with the "Everlasting Gospel" and who feels " woe if I preach not," Borneo presents a big challenge.
Almost three months after leaving home, I awakened early Sunday morning Dec. 28th, aboard a good Dutch steamer winding its way up the Mahakan River, to look for the first time on the land of my adoption,--Borneo, Equatorial Borneo. The city of Samarinda, as we docked there, appeared to be as busy as an anthill. No sooner ashore that a number of coolies surrounded me, about a dozen for each article of baggage I had, and escorted me to the customs officer. That particular gentleman looked at about all I possessed, except the make and movement of my watch.
Finally, settled in my room, I sat down exhausted, the perspiration dripping off my chin. My tropical clothes felt like woolen blankets about me. This is the land of baths, so the next thing in order was a Malay bath. My first experience with this manner of bathing was quite interesting. I entered what was indicated to me to be the bath-room and spent some few minutes trying to find the tub. I could locate nothing but a small cement box in one corner. At first, I wondered how I could ever get into that box and if I did, could I get out again. Finally, I observed a small tin pail and concluded they must have some connection. Then instinct came to my rescue and told me to stand beside the box, and dip out the water with the tin pail and pour it over my head. Then with the aid of a large Turkish towel I put the finishing touches to the celebrated Malay bath.
Now for a good Malay dinner, ---and believe me, they know how to serve an extensive meal. Perhaps it is rice covered with some curry, as hot as fire, and besides that they serve some fifteen other side dishes: chopped coconut, overripe fish, fried bananas, medieval eggs, some hot pickle relish, etc. When one has cleared the menu, his plate looks like a little hay doodle after a heavy rain. Well, suffice to say, you do not need to leave the table hungry.
After a stay of several days in Samarinda, we felt we should move on to our new home. Late afternoon, Dec. 31st, we began our trip up the Mahakan River. You can imagine my interest for I was to see the jungle for the first time. It appeared to be a mass of mountains intersected in every direction by rivers and small streams. The river banks were not visible because of the dense trees and undergrowth along the water's edge. A dozen or more monkeys on some swaying tree-tops, evidently were holding a conference, "to sever all relationships with the human race", for as we passed they chattered loudly, no doubt carrying the motion unanimously. It had become quite dark by the time we arrived at our destination, but we managed, by the aid of some kerosene lamps, to prepare an evening meal before hanging up our mosquito nets, and retiring for the night. New Year's morning I awakened to the familiar strains of "cock-a-doodle-do", played by a symphony orchestra of red-combed roosters. Then came the wail of some followers of Mohamed at morning prayer, which brought me to my feet very much ashamed. As I looked out the back door, the cooling waters of the river that flows by, and under part of our house, seemed to beckon me to jump in. However, just then I remembered a story told me a few days ago, about the crocodile infested streams here in Borneo and decided I did not need a morning plunge.
What impresses me more than anything else in the pioneer land is the fact that in almost every small village can be seen advertisements for Shell gasoline and Singer Sewing Machines. The mention of this may seem a mere trifle to you, but to me it means that commercial men have more of that pioneering spirit and vision than have the followers of Christ. I trust that God will enlarge my vision and send me forth in the Spirit and power of the apostle Paul, to His other lost sheep in the interior of Borneo