This Week in AG History — November 24, 1945
By Ruthie Edgerly Oberg
Originally published on PE-News, 20 November 2017
Ruth Trotter Garlock (1897-1997) and her husband, Henry B. Garlock, were Assemblies of God missionary pioneers in Liberia, Ghana, and Malawi. Several generations of Assemblies of God members grew up reading Henry’s colorful stories about their lives and ministry among African cannibals and witch doctors. However, Ruth’s story often seemed overshadowed by her husband’s big personality. A careful reading of their writings reveals a remarkable woman who endured great sacrifice to follow God’s call.
Ruth received the baptism in the Holy Spirit as a teenager in an Assembly of God church in Newark, New Jersey, under Pastor E. S. Williams. After this experience, she believed that total consecration to God was her life’s calling. One evening in prayer, God showed her a triangle with Himself at the apex and her at one corner. There was a strong line connecting Him to her. At the other corner was the continent of Africa with a strong line connecting God to Africa. What was missing in the triangle was a line connecting Ruth to Africa. She felt God telling her He was already connected to Africa but so many there did not know it yet. She heard the call, “Will you be the connection to go tell them, and complete the triangle?”
Her mother strongly resisted the idea. Ruth was her only daughter and Africa was a terribly dangerous place even for strong young men. Ruth’s parents had divorced recently and her income was needed to help support the family. However, after hearing the passionate stories from a missionary to India, Ruth’s mother tearfully but willingly gave her total support to her daughter’s call to African missions.
After receiving the baptism in the Holy Spirit, Ruth determined that she would never marry a man unless he was a committed Christian. After her missions commitment, she added the requirement of a sincere call to Africa for any man she would consider. Her friends predicted she would die an old maid, but she was steadfast.
She took a job teaching school while her brother, Alfred, went to Beulah Heights Missionary Training School in North Bergen, New Jersey. She would often visit, bringing home-cooked goodies for him and his friends. One particular friend, Henry, was very friendly and attentive and Ruth found herself drawn to him. When she discovered the depth of his Christian character and his steadfast focus on African missions, she knew her requirements were met and gave herself permission to fall deeply in love with the dashing Henry Garlock.
Upon Henry’s graduation from Beulah Heights in 1920, they became engaged and Henry received Assemblies of God missionary appointment to Liberia, West Africa. Ruth saw him off at the pier in New York on Oct. 23, knowing that he was going to prepare a place for her to come as soon as her teaching contract was up in the spring of 1921.
Meanwhile, Henry found an abandoned missionary station in the Gropaka area of Liberia. The crudely erected gravestones in the yard testified why the building was empty. When Henry climbed the steps into the house they crumbled underneath him due to the damage caused by termites. Inside he found a rendezvous of rats, snakes, scorpions, and huge lizards. White ants had long ago eaten the bamboo shades on the windows.
Henry asked himself if it was the right thing to bring his young bride to such a place. After praying, he felt assurance from God that Ruth’s call was just as real as his, and her commitment to the mission was just as solid. He went to work, trusting that he could have it ready for her by her arrival sometime in June.
On June 26, 1921, Henry arose at daybreak and went to the coast to meet Ruth’s ship. Ruth had traveled thousands of miles to join him and the reunion was sweet after eight months apart.
The next day they engaged a boat to carry them deeper into the interior, and two days later they were wed with another missionary couple serving as witnesses and the hammock bearers and porters as the audience. For a ring, Henry hired a native blacksmith to melt down the gold from an English coin.
The day after the wedding they arose at 2 a.m. to begin the two-day trek to their home, riding in a dug-out canoe through crocodile-infested waters, walking miles on jungle trails in the rain, and wading through waist-high waters. When they arrived, Henry and Ruth were blessed to find that a neighboring chief had heard of their marriage and greeted them with a young steer and a goat for a wedding feast. That night they held their first church service together in Africa. The adventure of a lifetime had begun.
Together, Henry and Ruth spent more than 60 years in ministry, pioneering fields that now have strong Pentecostal churches.
When Henry passed away in 1985, his 86-year-old widow wanted to address the crowd gathered to honor the great missionary. In a strong voice she shared some of their story of love and adventure, ending with, “Well, folks, this is how Henry always did it. Every place we ever moved to, he went there first” to get things ready.
At age 89, Ruth’s daughter-in-law was leading a missions trip to Haiti. Ruth said to her, “Please take me with you. I want to be a missionary one more time.” Her assignment on the trip was to sit in a big rocker in the orphanage to cuddle and rock the dozens of infants, praying over each one, trusting that God would call some of them to finish the unfinished task of the missionary harvest.
When it comes to missionary couples, we often hear more of the adventurous exploits of the husband. Henry Garlock’s activities made him a legend and his book, Before We Kill and Eat You, is a standard missionary biography; however, the faithful bravery of Ruth Trotter Garlock made contributions to missions on the African continent that only heaven will reveal.
Read about one of Henry and Ruth Garlock’s treks in Africa on page 13 of the Nov. 24, 1945, issue of the Pentecostal Evangel.
Also featured in this issue:
• “The Life of Thanksgiving,” by Anna C. Berg
• “Giving Thanks Always,” by Grant Barber
• “Victory Through Praise,” by Hattie Pitts
And many more!
Click here to read this issue now.
Pentecostal Evangel archived editions courtesy of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center.
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One response to “Ruth Garlock, Unsung Hero: A Female Missionary’s Forgotten Call and Legacy”
I worked with John and Ruth Ann Garlock at Christ For The Nations in Dallas back in the 1970s and met his parents when they retired in Dallas. Awesome couple! Loved John and Ruth Ann too.