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“Evidence Not Seen” follows one courageous woman’s story from the New Guinea jungle to four years in a Japanese Prisoner of War camp. Separated from those she loved, Darlene faced beatings and torment for a crime she did not commit. Yet despite the horrors of suffering, her future was secure. Her life was in God’s hands. This balances a moving account of faith with the love of a gracious God who cares, and is testimony to the way in which God upholds his people through the most difficult of times.
Ruth Graham says this book is un-put-downable. She is right. When I had finished it, I couldn't shake off this thrilling and stirring story. The challenge of a life submitted to God's will, whatever the cost, will remain with me. I saw again the link between suffering and glory and wanted to dedicate my life afresh to the Lord. Each chapter fed me spiritually, and the only sadness I felt was when I came to the end of the book. I recommend with all my heart reading this book, and would urge you to do so.
Imagine yourself part of a group of missionaries based in the Dutch East Indies island of Celebes, one of many islands scattered through the vast Pacific Ocean. Invasion by the Japanese is an imminent certainty as the wheels of World War II move inexorably on. A Dutch policeman has just informed you that they have a ship anchored on the south coast, waiting to evacuate all foreigners who want to leave. You have two days to decide. Take a moment and think. What would you do? The assembled missionaries received wise counsel from one in their midst, Dr Robert Jaffray, who told them “not to discuss this decision that must be made with each other – not even husband and wife. Go down on your knees and say, ‘Lord, what do You want me to do? Shall I go or shall I stay?’ This is extremely vital, because then no matter what happens in the months or possibly years that lie ahead, you will know that you are exactly where God wants you to be. If He leads you to leave, you’ll never feel that you were a coward and fled. If you are led to stay, no matter what happens you can look up and say, ‘Lord, you intended me to be right here.’” Darlene, the youngest missionary present, had earnestly responded to the call of God on her life as a child of ten living in Iowa. Now, once again, she was faced with the opportunity to respond to God’s call, but this time the consequences of her decision were more chillingly clear. Her renewed desire to follow Him no matter what it cost set the course of her life for the next four years, as she was eventually interred as a Prisoner of War in a Japanese prison camp. In His sovereignty God may lead us through dark trials, for reasons we may not know or understand this side of heaven. But one great revealed purpose for these afflictions is to refine our faith, prove it genuine, and bring glory and honour to Christ our Lord (1Peter 1.7). Darlene writes compellingly of how God faithfully and miraculously sustained her through many traumatic experiences; beatings, degradation, disease, fear and death. God does not promise to lead us only beside still waters; paths of darkness, danger and grief may also be part of our journey, but for Darlene it was enough to know that she was where God wanted her to be and that He promised always to be with her. She accepted God’s purpose for her life with a striking humility and obedience. When feelings of fear, bitterness, hatred and grief threatened to overwhelm her, she ran to the altar of her heart and told God all about it. This is a recurrent and compelling theme that runs through her story. Darlene takes all the events, circumstances and decisions, together with the thoughts and feelings they evoke, and like Hezekiah spreads them all before God (2Kings 19.14). Then she waits expectantly and humbly to see His hand at work. The living relationship between Darlene and her Saviour plants a hunger in the reader for a deeper commitment to God and a renewed desire to know Him more deeply and obediently follow His ways. Consistently, Darlene turns to God in time of need, large or small; consistently, faithfully He answers and prepares a table before her in the presence of her enemies. When Darlene’s Bible is confiscated it is not the cruel punishment that her captors intended, because so many of its promises and challenges were already written on the pages of her memory, to bring strength, comfort and guidance to hold fast through the many trials she had to face. We might ask ourselves, so far by the grace of God, largely untouched by the penetrating tentacles of suffering and persecution, could I stand firm if I was in this situation? How much of God’s Word do I know by heart? My own answer drove me to my Bible with renewed vigour. We do not know what the future holds or what challenges we may be called to face, but the resounding truth that shines through this incredible story, is that God does know our future; He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb 13.8) and He is more than able to provide all we need according to His riches in Christ Jesus (Phil 4.19). Originally written to show her two sons that God was alive and well and more than able to sustain them as He had sustained her through the darkest of days, it is a blessing that her story is now available to many more people. Testimonies of ordinary people called by God and His great faithfulness to them in all situations make compelling reading. Evidence of God’s sustaining strength through the most difficult times builds our faith and causes us long for more of Him.
I was dreading reading this book despite a certain book seller offering £10 to anyone who didn’t enjoy it. Like most people, I hate war and suffering – hence the dread of reading a book with the strapline, “A Woman’s Miraculous Faith in the Jungles of World War II”. It did not take me long to read as – like others have claimed – it is unputdownable. You will need a handkerchief or tissues handy as it is a moving encounter with one woman whose steadfast trust in the living God was unshakable. But more than that it is a testimony to God’s faith and grace in desperate times. This book has challenged me about how well I know the Bible and how much of it I know by heart. If I was taken away from my Bible, would I have sufficient scripture stored in my heart as Darlene did to cling to through seemingly endless nights of sorrow and pain? I would recommend this book to everyone (but only over 18s, unless you are very thick skinned).
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