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Remembering C. Russell Deibler

A History Of
C. Russell Deibler

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March 1934

Russell & Ernie Presswood take up work in the Sesajap District, Borneo

" I am about to leave on a long trip farther inland, and will perhaps be gone six weeks. I have stirred up the folks here in Poedjoengan about a church building. They have now begun to cut boards, and we hope to erect the building upon my return. I baptized 23 on my way inland, and I expect to baptize many more these coming weeks."

November 1934- The Pioneer

More Good News
C. Russell Deibler C. Russell DeiblerPoedjoengan, my new inland base, is a large Dyak village in the heart of a populous district. Due to the untiring endeavor of Mr. and Mrs. Fisk, there are about 1,500 Christians among these tribes. This is the flock of my care, but my parish totals 50,000 souls. I am traveling constantly among the many long-houses, and the Lord adds to the church daily.
Late in July, I left this base for a trip, and was absent six weeks. The Lord privileged me to travel farther inland than we have heretofore if possible. Most of my traveling was done on the river, and a synonym for river here is "rapid". One cannot travel a kilometer without having to cross one or more of them. Many were the close calls on the trip. One day we were laboriously traveling upstream, and while passing under a huge tree overhanging the back, I observed the earth beginning to move about its roots. The Dyak chief also saw the movement, and called to his men to redouble their efforts with the paddles. The tree fell across the river a few inches from the stern of our canoe. It was a narrow escape, and I overheard the chief say to his men, "I am glad we prayed before starting this morning." I always make it a point to pray with the Dyaks before beginning the days' travel.
Leeches are the meanest of parasites, and are cowards too. Although one carefully watches their approach, and picks them off as they fasten to one's limbs, yet a few are sure to get by. The result is a boot full of blood by nightfall.
The Dyaks at the headwaters of one of the rivers here, having heard and believed the Gospel, approached me one day and said, "See here is water, a large mountain stream, what hinders us from being baptized?" I replied, " If you believe, you may." And we went down into the water of that mountain stream, some 574 Dyaks from three different villages, and they were straightway baptized. I can assure you there was great joy in that village that day. We then organized into three district churches, ordaining deacons to the oversight of each. These newly established churches will conduct regular weekly meetings on the verandahs of their long-houses. Another glorious triumph for the Gospel in Dyakdom.
One hears so much of "revolution" these days, but none is more inevitable than when the power of the Gospel begins to undermine the very strongholds of Satan. In the three villages aforementioned the silent revolution was on. The dumb idols, they burned before all men, even as did the Ephesians. What a bonfire it all made. Fetishes of generations were consumed by tongues of fire, as the people stood and praised the Lord God who had delivered them from their fear and bondage. However, some of them like Jacob wanted to hide their strange gods under the oak, but I insisted we clean camp of every reminder of their former superstitions. In one village they destroyed 500 skulls, in another 185 more, all trophies of head-hunting expeditions. One old father boasted of having taken 12 heads, single handedly, but his own head he now laid at the feet of the Lord Jesus. What a Gospel we have to preach to depraved man! What a dynamite! What regenerating power in this message! It is the power of God unto salvation, even to the Dyak.
However, waging the spiritual warfare here is not always as easy as it sounds. Sometimes the opposition is very acute, even to the imperiling of one's life. One evening at the close of a meeting with the Dyaks in the very heart of Borneo, I sat silently for some minutes, waiting for the reaction. Finally, one old man spoke sharply, and before I could puzzle out the statements he uttered, he rushed into the rear of the long-house, and there chanted long and loudly to his bali (spirit). This man was a brother to the chief, who had been apprehended by the Government for head-hunting. Eventually, the old man returned, and if he were not angry, I am sure his blood pressure underwent a distinct rise, for in hasty words he denied the existence of God and Christ, and remarked that in truth only his bali existed. The following day the old man fell ill, and the second day he went to be with his bali. I cannot tell you the impression that made on those Dyaks, and now that story is circulated far and wide.
During the last four months I have had the joy of baptizing 628 Dyaks, the privilege of establishing three new churches, the opportunity of preaching to hundreds of Dyaks who heard the Gospel for the first time, and the realization of a cherished desire to witness to the Dyak of the heart of Borneo. Besides these, I have had a regular ministry among the Dyak Christians, and now the inexpressible joy of beginning the work of the construction on the first Dyak church building. However, one cannot be satisfied with what has already been accomplished, for it is as nothing compared with what is yet to be done. "Multitudes, multitudes are in the valley of decision." Dyaks come in canoes to convey me to their villages to teach them of Christ, and often I must send them back with a promise to come as soon as possible. I wish I could multiply my usefulness a score of times. There are more demands on my time and strength than I can possibly meet. The harvest is ripe. Come, oh, come to our help!

November 1934- The Pioneer
C. Russell Deibler

Time is of little value to a Dyak, and dates are of no importance. He does not know his birthday, nor does he have any idea of his age. It was about thirty years ago, that a Dyak child was born. This child's life was destined to make history for his village.
Si-Anoe lived a normal boy's life, helping with the rice planting and harvesting, making himself genera1ly useful around the long-house, and occasionally trekking off with the men on a hunting expedition. He never attended school a day in his life, yet he is more intelligent than the average Dyak. He has distinguished himself among his people as a weaver of mats and baskets. During inclement weather the Dyaks usually loiter about the long-house, at such times Si-Anoe can be found at his weaving.
About the time Si-Anoe was married, he had a most enlightening dream. He saw a white robed man, who promised to return within five years to teach his people about the true God. In obedience to the words of this strange visitor, he immediately turned from his heathen rites and practices. Five years later the mission launch, the Courier, on its inland journey anchored before the notched-log ladder of a long-house. Among the first to met the missionary was Si-Anoe. After learning the mission that had brought this stranger many days into Dyakdom, he related the story of his dream. That day Si-Anoe heard for the first time the "sweetest Story ever told" of the love of the true God, and of the death of the Son He had sent. How simple, yet different from any story he had ever heard! It was about the love of a loving God instead of the fear of an avenging spirit; immediate, complete, and conscious pardon of sin in p1ace of utter gloom and hopelessness - salvation for a11 who believe, simply believe. Almost too good to be true!
When days later the Truth had entered his opened but darkened heart, he was the first of his village to confess Christ. He preceded all others in following his Lord in baptism, and is a regular attendant at all the services conducted in his 1onghouse. How much of an encouragement this man has been to the heart of the missionary. Thank God for the "first ones" who have the courage of their convictions to turn from their idols to serve the living and true God. Place this dark-skinned brother on your prayer-list: he merits your prayers.

November 1934- The Pioneer
The Church in the Wilderness
Rev. C. Russell Deibler
Armistice Day, November 11th, 1934. While in many places in the world crowds were assembled in memory of those who gave their lives in foreign climes for their country, a large company of Dyaks in the interior of Borneo, who had never heard of a World War, were also assembled, but for another reason. It was the occasion of the dedication of our first Dyak Church building,--a great victory for the cause of Christ in East Borneo.
Two months before the work was begun on our first Dyak church. The task was divided according to families in the village, each family being requested to hew from the jungles a certain number of boards and shingles. Then followed a day when men in numbers went to the jungles in search of the heavier materials, beams, etc. Dyak long-houses are roughly made, and tied together with rattan, but it was decided that the Lord's House should be better constructed. It did not require much finance to make this better building, but some nails, hinges, white-wash etc. were indispensable. We asked for a freewill offering to meet this need. The offering consisted of rice and chickens. These, taken a long month's trip over fierce rapids to the coast, were exchanged for our few necessities. How anxiously we awaited the return of the canoe with the supplies. The evening it arrived the gongs were beaten and a village meeting was called to plan the work. For the sake of economy I suggested that fifty men work the first day while the remainder continue the weeding of their rice fields, and so each succeeding day fifty fresh hands turn to the task. Of course they had their own views on the matter with the result that some two hundred and fifty men appeared on the scene every day, while but fifty were able to work at one time. However, I did not remonstrate, I have learned the moral of this poem:
"It is not good for the Christian soul to hustle the Aryan brown, For the Christian riles and the native smiles, And it weareth the foreigner down; And the end of the fight is a tombstone white, with the name of the dear deceased; And the epitaph drear --- 'A fool lies here, who tried to hustle the East'."
My task was to supervise the work, but I was mostly engaged in correcting faulty workmanship. But in spite of my vigilance many mistakes escaped my critical eye. The work of construction was completed in a week; a building sixty feet long and thirty-three feet wide, white-washed without and within, and furnished with rough benches and a pulpit, built entirely by the Dyaks without a cent of cost to the Mission. Sunday was designated as dedication day.
Sunday morning the first gong sounded in the village before I was prepared to hear it; fifteen minutes later a second sounded, calling the Christians to assemble; and before the third sounded I was in my place in the pulpit, happy but amused at the site before me. An audience of about five hundred happy faces looked into mine; men on the right side, and women on the left, and on the front seat sat the deacons of the church. Then entered several more Dyaks, and instead of moving down the aisle and seating themselves in a convenient seat, they began at the rear bench and, stepping over each in turn, proceeded forward to a suitable seat.
After the dedication prayer, the message was given, followed by prayer by the deacons. Accustomed to sitting on the floor in our usual meeting in the long-houses, at the request to stand for the closing prayer, they stood on the benches! What else were benches for if not to be stood on? That remedied, and the meeting dismissed, they had not the patience to wait for exit at the two doors, but poured out the windows! How could I be disturbed at their ignorant conduct, lost as I was in the joy of the occasion, and the marvel of God's grace? You cannot imagine the distance traveled by these simple hearts, --from fear of evil spirits and terrible superstitions, to the feet of a God of love, mercy and pardon. O the marvelous grace of our loving Lord! Thank God for this first Dyak church building in East Borneo, a Gospel Outpost in the far inland, a Church in the Wilderness.

November 1934- The Pioneer
By Walter Post
From every kindred, tribe, tongue, and people, through the whole world, He is calling, calling out His own. It is the last call. The age is rapidly darkening. The nations are in commotion and perplexity. " The devil has come down unto you having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time." (Rev 12:12) Soon the Lord will have completed the unfinished task. Soon the Gospel of the Kingdom shall have been preached in all the world for a witness unto all the nations. (Matt 24:14) Soon will He have "visited the nations", and taken out of them a "people for His Name." (Acts 15:14).
Amen! Even so, come. Lord Jesus.