Jan. 12, 1919 – Oct. 27, 2013
Garland (Gary) Sewell Farmer passed away Oct. 27, 2013, at the age of 94 in Davis. He was born Jan. 12, 1919, in Green County Farm, Ala. to Mary Sewell Farmer, a teacher, and Garland Henderson Farmer, a preacher. He was raised in Texas where his father served as the pastor of Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) congregations.
As a teenager, Garland was inspired by the work of missionaries who developed schools, hospitals and churches for those less fortunate. He left Texas for Oklahoma to attended Phillips University, graduating in 1941. After being ordained, he traveled east to Yale Divinity School, 1941-45, where he received a BD degree and prepared to be an overseas missionary. It was there he met Barbara Boynton, a biochemist working for the Army. They married in her hometown of Russell, Mass., on Sept. 10, 1944. In 1945 they traveled to Texas to meet Garland’s family, and then to Vanderbilt University for further preparation for their missionary work.
Garland and Barbara served as missionaries in Puerto Rico from 1946 to 1959. Together they directed the Disciples’ conference grounds. Garland also served as Treasurer of the Disciples Mission, helping with the development of many new congregations, and he served on a number of evangelical councils. He taught himself a variety of new trades, from property title searches to plumbing repairs. During those years, daughters Margaret and Louise were born in Puerto Rico and Christine was born in Massachusetts. Garland’s final years in Puerto Rico were spent working with the Puerto Rican Disciples church to develop its constitution and by-laws, and, as Garland would often say, working himself and Barbara out of a job.
In 1959, Garland was asked to be the Disciples’ Administrative Field Secretary in the Belgian Congo, now Democratic Republic of the Congo. After spending eight months studying in Brussels, the family traveled to the Congo where Garland served from 1960 to 1964. Shortly after arriving in the Congo, the country received its independence from Belgium. Although Barbara and their daughters were soon required to leave for a number of months, Garland remained during that tumultuous time, visiting mission stations along the river by boat and witnessing the challenges the new country faced as it found its identity. During his time as Administrator, the Church of Christ of Congo (Disciples of Christ) was chartered. It succeeded the mission in the administration of church work and property, and again Garland had worked himself and Barbara out of a job.
From 1964 to 1984 Garland worked in Indianapolis for the United Christian Missionary Society (later known as Division of Overseas Ministries, or DOM, now Global Ministries). There he served as Director of Budget and Special Funds Promotion, and later as Vice President and Treasurer of the DOM. His work took him to Europe, Asia, Africa, South America and the Caribbean.
In retirement, Garland returned to the Congo for two brief terms as acting director of two separate medical facilities. He also served a short-term assignment at Yakima Indian Christian Mission in Washington. Additionally, he held various volunteer positions relating to finances.
Garland had an endless enthusiasm for life, people and places. It is what led him to eventually travel the world appreciating the people he encountered and their cultures, loving the many opportunities his work brought him. He delighted in recounting the unusual life experiences he shared with Barbara. He was a gentleman, caring and compassionate, intelligent and sensible. His children and grandchildren are left with a deep appreciation of all they learned as a result of the world he shared with them.
Garland was preceded in death by his wife Barbara. He is survived by a sister, Marjorie Arrington; daughters Margaret Farmer, Christine Clarke (Michael) and Louise Uota (Alan); grandchildren Brian Clarke (Marie), Jeffrey Clarke (Emma), Catherine Peterson (Brian) and Ryan Uota; and great-grandson Niels Clarke Löffler.
A celebration of the life and work of Garland Farmer and his wife Barbara will be held at Downey Avenue Christian Church, Indianapolis, at 10 a.m. Jan. 4. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Global Ministries, P.O. Box 1986, Indianapolis, IN 46206-1986 or to Citizens Who Care, 409 Lincoln Avenue, Woodland, CA 95695.