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Remembering C. Russell Deibler

A History Of
C. Russell Deibler

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February 1939

In February, word came that Russell would be arriving from Manokwari. When the steamer eased into port at Makassar, Darlene was bursting with excitement. Positioned at the front of those gathered to greet disembarking passengers, she was totally dismayed when she saw a gaunt, wasted stranger with Walter Post. In just eighteen days on the trail and a few months of meager rations, Russell had lost more than sixty pounds!
He walked with considerable pain and when he removed his shoes and socks, there was no skin on his insteps, the balls of his feet, or any of his toes. He had a serious, advanced case of jungle rot.
Russell's trek to the Wissel Lakes had been challenging. The carriers forged their way up streams and down Borneo's treacherous rivers. The trail was hazardous and monsoon rains deluged them. The jungle-clad mountains gave way to ranges covered with broken-bottle limestone outcroppings hidden under moss. The serrated shards cut through the leather soles of Russell's field police boots.
On New Year's day Russell awoke feeling completely depleted physically and concerned. Needing encouragement for the walk ahead into this unknown wilderness, he opened his Bible and came to a portion that seemed illumined on the page: "Be strong and of good courage; be not afraid, neither be dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest." Joshua 1:9
God fortified Russell's soul for the desperate days ahead.
As the men climbed higher, ever higher, into the mountains, the days were warm but the nights brought a drastic drop in temperature. Russell and the men huddled together in their blankets around the fire, trying to take warmth from one another.
Then came the last dreadful day; the eighteenth day, a day of near-total disaster that, by the goodness and mercy of God, ended at midnight in victory!
They topped the fourteenth mountain range and emerged in Kapauku country. The terrain was comparatively flat, and a trail wound between sweet potato gardens. Sometimes the men toiled through mud up to their hips.
About three in the afternoon, the trail led to the river's ledge, where they found canoes that were used by government parties. They had not paddled far before they realized it would be suicidal to go on. A storm upriver on Lake Paniai caused high waves and dangerous currents where the lake funneled out into a narrow, high-walled channel to become the Oeta River. Six miserable hours they waited in the canoes for the wind and waves to die down. By nine o'clock, all of them shivering from the cold, felt they could wait no longer, started paddling against the current in the river. But they still had to cross the corner of the lake to reach Enarotali, the government post. Faint lights could be seen on the distant shore and just when they began to relax, the ordeal seemingly over, Russell's canoe struck a submerged rock and overturned. Every person and piece of gear plummeted into the icy lake. Russell and the carriers swam madly in the current and all managed to scramble aboard the second canoe. Though water-soaked, every man and piece of luggage was eventually salvaged.
At midnight, January 13, 1939, Russell, a lone pioneer missionary, stepped foot on the land, like Joshua of old, to lay claim to the territory and all of the primitive tribes scattered throughout the interior valleys and ridges, anticipating the time when all would hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
At midnight, January 13, 1939, Russell, a lone pioneer missionary, stepped foot on the land, like Joshua of old, to lay claim to the territory and all of the primitive tribes scattered throughout the interior valleys and ridges, anticipating the time when all would hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Russell was at the point of complete physical exhaustion. And now he faced the arduous trek back to the coast. During his stay the patrol officer became very ill with fever, and when the governor dispatched a navy plane to evacuate him, the officer requested, against standard procedure, that Russell be allowed to accompany him. "Look at his feet! He'll never make it back to Oeta alive!". Three hours later they deplaned in Namokwari. From there he booked passage on an interisland steamer to Amobon, where Mr. Post joined him and then to Makassar. That providentially arranged plane ride saved Russell the impossible trek to Oeta and exactly one month of travel time. Dr. Jaffray wrote the following editorial for the field magazine, The Pioneer:

This morning I looked at the bleeding feet of a missionary, saw his wife tending them, saw the blood and pus running from them and thought to myself, "What a nauseating sight that is!" But, as I walked from the room, the Lord kept saying to me, "Oh, but to Me they are beautiful feet!"
Then I remember---"How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings" ---good tidings to men and women like those in New Guinea who sit in darkness in the shadow of death. Someday it will all be over. Someday the tired, bleeding feet of the missionaries will for the last time cross those broken-bottle limestone mountains. Someday for the last time they will go down into one of those newly discovered valleys. Someday for the last time they will speak the message of redemption through Jesus Christ our Lord. Someday that last one will turn to Jesus. Then the clouds will part asunder and our Savior will be there.

The year that Russell and Darlene had been on the mission field they had been separated a total of seven months. He said," I have missed her greatly but we have done it gladly for Him and the gospel's sake".
Russell was the first missionary to enter the interior of Dutch New Guinea. He had begun a movement in the Wissel Lakes that would spread through the remote valleys and mountains of the central highlands of New Guinea. One day it would reach far to the east into the Baliem Valley.

March 3, 1939- The Pioneer

This is the latest jungle people to whom God has sent us. They are removed from the Sakais, of whom we have been speaking, farther than Florida is from California, more that the width of the continent of Europe. As we have said on previous occasions, they are a newly discovered people. The Papuans of the Wissel Lakes district are composed of two distinct tribes, the Kapaukoes and the Zoenggoenoes. Our missionaries, Messrs. Russell Deibler and Walter Post, have been located in this lonely, newly discovered area in central New Guinea for more than a year. These men have bravely faced the rugged trail and hazarded their lives, but by the protecting and good Hand of the Lord, they have not only reached the Lakes, but with native workers, and 20 Christian dyak carriers have been able to erect rough bamboo huts as mission houses on their field.
We had hoped that the advent of the Beechcraft single motor seaplane would have solved our difficulties a to transportation and food supplies, but the plane, while suitable for our work in Borneo, has not proved to be what we need in New Guinea. We are advised by experienced fliers in New Guinea that the high altitudes of that island make it necessary to use a twin motor plane. The danger is that our plane, though it might be able to reach the lakes at the altitude of nearly 6,000 feet, might not be able to take off again. We are therefore praying that the Lord will provide a twin motor Beechcraft plane, with double the horse-power of our present plane. Such a plane would be supremely suitable both for our work in Borneo and also in New Guinea. Pray for this.
We are glad to announce that the Netherlands Colonial Government has given us permission to fly, not only in Borneo, but to all parts where our work is being carried on in the N.E.I., including New Guinea. This presents a great opportunity, and in fact is a challenge to evangelize other parts of New Guinea, farther east of the Wissel Lakes, where we are at present located, that can be reached in no other way than by plane. The Government has also given permission for us to do missionary work, not only in the Wissel Lakes district, but in that vast region still practically unknown, described as the Swart River and Baliem River valleys. It is estimated that this region has a population of at least one million people.
Thus the Lord is calling us on to greater achievements for Him. We sometimes feel absolutely overwhelmed with the vastness of it all, and the weight of the responsibility, especially along financial lines. It sometimes seems more than we are able to bear. Did we not feel so sure that He is leading us on, and that it is His programme for this end-time, to reach these unreached jungle peoples with the Gospel Message, to "visit" these races and "take out a people for His Name," we would well nigh be disheartened. But the promise that "after this" the Lord will return is the great inspiration and help. So we are contending with the powers of darkness in unknown regions of Netherlands New Guinea, saying, "Let my people go! Let my people go!"
So far as we know not one of the Papuans has as yet turned to the Lord to be saved. Some one must travail in prayer with us, that these newly discovered peoples may be born again.
As we write this Report, the wives of our two brethren in New Guinea, Mrs. Walter Post and Mrs. Russell Deibler, are on their way up the treacherous and hazardous trail to the Wissel Lakes. We are momentarily holding them before the Lord in prayer, that He will "give His angels charge" over them, and that He will keep them lest they "dash their foot against a stone" that He will preserve their steps and take them safely to Wissel Lakes. It may be that ere we dispatch this Report we shall have word that they have arrived. * The important thing in connection with the Netherlands New Guinea Wissel Lakes missionary enterprise is the need for a twin motor sea-plane. Please pray and believe for this.
Thus we have referred briefly to the four main races, the Dyaks of Borneo, the Kooboos of Southern Sumatra, the Sakais of British Malaya and the Papuans of New Guinea. It now remains for us briefly to refer to other races on smaller islands that we are reaching.

"N.B. Mr. and Mrs. Walter Post and Mr. and Mrs. Russell Deibler reached the Wissel Lakes on March 3rd. Then radiogram read as follows- "Arrived third, good trip, Party". This message lifted a weight of heavy anxiety from our hearts.