A Wedding Surprise

As you know if you’re following our God’s Faithfulness in Japan series, I’ve been talking about the Garrotts and their contribution to the Gospel there.  Thank you son Jack, for the interesting insights into the lives of your mother and father.

But wait: there’s more.

The “girl” that Max married was a Miss Dorothy Carver.  She was the daughter of the acclaimed Southern Baptist Theological Seminary Professor, Dr. W.O. Carver.  Word has it that Max had asked Dorothy’s sister to marry him while still studying at the same seminary years before, but she had rebuffed him, probably sensing already his call to foreign missions, which she didn’t share.   I guess we’ll never know, but his choice of Dorothy many years later was a good one.

It seems that while Dorothy was just a new missionary studying the language up in Tokyo a few years before, she’d made friends with a young student named Akiko.  There are countless stories of the same thing happening all over Japan, and this was but one more example. Akiko began coming to Dorothy’s for afternoon tea and language exchange. As you might expect, a lasting friendship soon developed, and before long Akiko was asking Jesus into her heart.

That should have been reason for rejoicing, but remember the times in which they lived. Nationalistic fervor was on the rise and would soon culminate in World War II. It comes as no surprise then, that Japan was developing a growing hatred for all things foreign, including foreigners.

When Akiko announced her newly-adopted Good News to her parents, she was promptly beaten and thrown out of the house with nothing but the clothes on her back.

“Oh!” you may gasp in surprise. But I have to tell you that this happened time and time again throughout the country. Even in recent years, among our own “Jet Age” missionaries, such occurrences were not uncommon. There seems to be a double-edged sword at work among unbelievers, directed at the Gospel message that threatens “traditional” religions.

In Dorothy’s case, there was nothing to do but take Akiko in to live with her. And she did. Not long after, Dorothy finished language school with flying colors, probably in part due to having the help of a live-in Japanese speaker, as Max had done. Dorothy moved south to the city of Kokura on the southern island of Japan to teach at Seinan Jo Gakkuin, the Baptist girls school I mentioned last week.

An interesting side note: One of the buildings of the school had a huge cross painted on the roof that did not go unnoticed by Allied observer planes during the War. It would make an excellent bomb sight for the plane sent to drop the second atomic bomb on Japan following Hiroshima. It was only by God’s grace that on that fateful morning, smoke from nearby fire bombings and cloudy weather obscured the roof top cross, and the bombing run was switched to target number two: Nagasaki.

A Methodist Women’s school in Nagasaki had survived, and Dorothy was able to get Akiko registered and settled in there, so they were able to remain in contact.

Then Dorothy in 1938, married Max.It was a lovely wedding, especially because Dorothy’s brother George was able to be there to walk her down the aisle. He was a professor at the Baptist seminary in Shanghai, China and it was deemed to be much closer than America.

At the wedding, in the reception line, Akiko met Max again. This time Dorothy said confidently to Max, “This is my daughter.”
Max took her hand, and beaming down at her, said, “And now you are my daughter too.”

Shortly after their marriage, the war broke out and the newlywed Garrotts were separated, then reunited two or three years later. They returned to Japan with several children, but they never lost track of Akiko.

In fact, they were able to arrange for her to attend Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky where Dorothy’s father was still teaching. And then, just on the verge of perpetual spinsterhood, she married Shuichi Matsumura, a widowed pastor who later went on to become one of the Vice Presidents of Baptist World Alliance.

When Max died in 1974, he and Akiko had been working on a new Japanese translation of the New Testament, with Akiko doing the fundamental translation, Max checking it for accuracy and another Japanese checking it for readability. Finally, Max checked again to make sure that nothing had been lost in translation.  They had only completed half of it when Max died, but several years later, even after Akiko’s death, it was finally published by Kadokawa Books.

When Dorothy passed away, Akiko was at the burial to represent the family. Today Dorothy’s ashes, as well as Max’s, are in the little cemetery at Seinan Gakkuin, just below the chapel where they’d been married 38 years before.

These are the kind of bonds God has given his people.  Isn’t He wonderful?

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