Women of christianity
“There is always something to be happy about if we look for it: ‘Two men looked through prison bars, The one saw mud, the other stars.”~Amy Carmichael
Amy Carmichael (1867-1951)
Amy Carmichael was an ordinary woman with extraordinary love for people. She was born in the small village of Millisle, County Down, Northern Ireland to David and Catherine, and was their first child of their seven children. Her parents were devout Presbyterians, deeply committed to Christ, who raised their children to love and serve God. Amy learned early on the discipline of sitting quietly and the importance of a total, unswerving devotion to Christ.
Amy was not pleased with her appearance. She had brown eyes, which she found very unattractive. While quite young, she remembered her mother’s teaching that if she asked God anything, He would surely grant her request. So, having spiritual stirrings at a young age, Amy proceeded to ask God to change her eye color, not realizing that sometimes His answer is no. Much to her disappointment, they remained brown. But, as the years unfolded, Amy came to realize the wisdom of God’s denial of her request. While serving the Lord in India, those brown eyes served her well and made her fit for service and accepted by the people she was to minister to where God had put her.
“One can give without loving, but one cannot love without giving.”
During her formative years, Amy became a very determined and well-disciplined girl. Her father had taught her to be “tough” and to never to give in to difficulty. Due to her father encouraging her “tomboy” spirit, Amy learned to deal with physical stress and strain and developed the determination and an obedience to spiritual principles that gave her the vitality she would need to serve God on the mission field. Because of living in a large family, she also developed a tender heart and was sensitive to the needs of others.
As she grew into adulthood, Amy felt called to missions. She answered that call with great joy and went as a missionary to Japan in 1892. Fifteen months later she fell seriously ill and was sent to China for treatment and then Ceylon (now known as Sri Lanka) to rest. In 1894 she went back to England. In 1895, Amy was commissioned by the Church of England Zenana Missionary Society to go to Dohnavur, India, where she served fifty-six years as God’s devoted servant without a furlough.
The fellowship would become a sanctuary for over one thousand children who would otherwise have faced a bleak future. A major part of her work there was devoted to rescuing children who had been dedicated by their families to be temple prostitutes. It was here that she realized God’s wisdom in His choice of her eye color.
Nearly without exception, Indians had brown eyes. Amy’s brown eyes and Indian dress made her more able to minister to women and girls in the field, appearing to them as one of their own. She herself dressed in Indian clothes, dyed her skin with dark coffee, and often traveled long distances on India’s hot, dusty roads to save just one child from suffering.
While serving in India, Amy received a letter from a young lady who was considering life as a missionary. She asked Amy, “What is missionary life like?” Amy wrote back saying simply,
“Missionary life is simply a chance to die.”
After Amy had lived in India for some time, she continued to be concerned about a distressing situation that existed in most of the pagan temples of India. Young girls were taken in, many times only as children, and made temple prostitutes. The girls had a horrible existence and Amy became deeply grieved for them. She became convinced that she must help these young girls wanting to escape their horrible life in the temples. While living in Dohnavur, India, with a band of women that had been converted to Christ, Amy founded the Dohnavur Fellowship which became a haven for homeless children, especially those girls who had escaped from temple prostitution. She was even given “temple babies”, infants that were born of the temple prostitutes, to raise in her “home.” While the Dohnavur fellowship began mainly as a haven for girls, later a home for boys was also built.
The Dohnavur Fellowship became Amy’s all-consuming ministry which she gave her life to, never even taking a furlough back to Europe. She wrote 35 books detailing her life in India that have been widely read in Christian circles. Her books included, Things as They Are: Mission Work in Southern India (1903), His Thoughts Said . . . His Father Said (1951), If (1953), Edges of His Ways (1955) and God’s Missionary (1957).
In 1931, Amy was badly injured in a fall, which left her bedridden much of the time until her death. She died in India in 1951 at the age of 83. She asked that no stone be put over her grave. Instead, the children she had cared for put a bird bath over it with the single inscription “Amma,” which means mother in the Tamil language.
Amy’s example inspired many to pursue a similar vocation and follow their call to the mission field, including Jim Elliot and his wife Elisabeth Elliot.