Heroines of the faith: Amy Carmichael

Amy Carmichael was born in Ireland in 1867 to a well-to-do family. She decided to follow Jesus at the age of 13. At 18, her father died, leaving the family in a difficult financial situation. They moved to Belfast, where Amy became involved with the “shawlies,” mill girls who wore shawls rather than hats. She saw the appalling conditions in which they lived and worked. Starting as a small group class, the work grew until Amy needed a hall seating 500. Later she moved to Manchester, England, where she did the same.

A couple of interesting stories about Amy’s early life. She had brown eyes, but as a child always wished for blue ones. She was very disappointed when God didn’t answer her prayers for her eyes ┬áto turn blue. But she was very grateful later on when God revealed his call on her life. Amy also suffered from neuralgia, a very painful neurological condition that often had her bedridden for weeks on end. An unlikely candidate for the mission field.

In 1887, at the Keswick Convention, Amy heard Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission, speak about the missionary life. Soon, she felt God’s call to go overseas as a missionary. Initially she went to Japan, but she never really felt at home there. From there she went to Sri Lanka. Then, after a year at home, she set sail for India in 1895, where she did her life’s work. She never returned home again, serving for 55 years without a furlough.

Amy did not fit into the missionary community in Bangalore–she hated the tea-drinking parties and gossip of the missionary wives. Soon she moved to join the Walker family on the very southern tip of India. Along with one of the Walker daughters and a few Indian Christian ladies, they began an itinerant ministry, speaking about Jesus throughout the surrounding villages. Their motto? “How much can I do without that I may have more to give?”

Amy adopted Indian dress and lifestyle, sometimes dying her skin with dark coffee.

In 1901, a young five year old girl named Preena was brought to Amy. She had been sold by her mother into temple prostitution, and was being taught all the degrading practices of the Hindu temple prostitutes. She had run away twice before, only to be found, taken back to the temple and beaten. But this time, the lady who found her, rather than taking her back to the temple, brought her to Amy. From that time onwards, Amy Carmichael set herself to rescue these young children from this terrible lifestyle.

This work was known as the Dohnavur Fellowship. They have rescued literally thousands of children, mainly girls, from the horrific lifestyle of the temple prostitute.

In 1931 Amy was crippled by a fall that left her bedridden for the nearly 20 remaining years of her life. She wrote many books during this time. Wheeled in a wheelchair onto the veranda outside her bedroom, the children would come and sing songs to her in the evenings.

The impact of Amy Carmichael”s life and writing continue to have an impact, more than 50 years after her death–for example, her vision of Christians making daisy chains.

Information for this post came from here and here. There is an interesting short video about her life here.

 

Photo taken from the website http://www.amycarmichael.org

Motivation for mission

Daisy chain

This story used to motivate me to reach out to my friends who didn't know the Lord. It comes from Things as They are: Mission work in southern India by Amy Carmichael (1867-1951), a missionary from Ireland who opened an orphanage and founded a mission in Dohnavur. She worked for 55 years without a furlough, and wrote many inspiring books.

The tom-toms thumped straight on all night and the darkness shuddered round me like a living, feeling thing. I could not go to sleep, so I lay awake and looked; and I saw, as it seemed, this:

That I stood on a grassy sward, and at my feet a precipice broke sheer down into infinite space. I looked, but saw no bottom; only cloud shapes, black and furiously coiled, and great shadow-shrouded hollows, and unfathomable depths. Back I drew, dizzy at the depth.

Then I saw forms of people moving single file along the grass. They were making for the edge. There was a woman with a baby in her arms and another little child holding on to her dress. She was on the very verge. Then I saw that she was blind. She lifted her foot for the next step . . . it trod air. She was over, and the children over with her. Oh, the cry as they went over!

Then I saw more streams of people flowing from all quarters. All were blind, stone blind; all made straight for the precipice edge. There were shrieks, as they suddenly knew themselves falling, and a tossing up of helpless arms, catching, clutching at empty air. But some went over quietly, and fell without a sound.

Then I wondered, with a wonder that was simply agony, why no one stopped them at the edge. I could not. I was glued to the ground, and I could only call; though I strained and tried, only a whisper would come.

Then I saw that along the edge there were sentries set at intervals. But the intervals were too great; there were wide, unguarded gaps between. And over these gaps the people fell in their blindness, quite unwarned; and the green grass seemed blood-red to me, and the gulf yawned like the mouth of hell.

Then I saw, like a little picture of peace, a group of people under some trees with their backs turned toward the gulf. They were making daisy chains. Sometimes when a piercing shriek cut the quiet air and reached them, it disturbed them and they thought it a rather vulgar noise. And if one of their number started up and wanted to go and do something to help, then all the others would pull that one down. "Why should you get so excited about it? You must wait for a definite call to go! You haven't finished your daisy chain yet. It would be really selfish," they said, "to leave us to finish the work alone."

There was another group. It was made up of people whose great desire was to get more sentries out; but they found that very few wanted to go, and sometimes there were no sentries set for miles and miles of the edge.

Once a girl stood alone in her place, waving the people back; but her mother and other relations called and reminded her that her furlough was due; she must not break the rules. And being tired and needing a change, she had to go and rest for awhile; but no one was sent to guard her gap, and over and over the people fell, like a waterfall of souls.

Once a child caught at a tuft of grass that grew at the very brink of the gulf; it clung convulsively, and it called-but nobody seemed to hear. Then the roots of the grass gave way, and with a cry the child went over, its two little hands still holding tight to the torn-off bunch of grass. And the girl who longed to be back in her gap thought she heard the little one cry, and she sprang up and wanted to go; at which they reproved her, reminding her that no one is necessary anywhere; the gap would be well taken care of, they knew. And then they sang a hymn.

Then through the hymn came another sound like the pain of a million broken hearts wrung out in one full drop, one sob. And a horror of great darkness was upon me, for I knew what it was-the Cry of the Blood.

Then thundered a voice, the voice of the Lord. "And He said, 'What hast thou done, The voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground.'"

The tom-toms still beat heavily, the darkness still shuddered and shivered about me; I heard the yells of the devil-dancers and weird, wild shriek of the devil-possessed just outside the gate.

What does it matter, after all? It has gone on for years; it will go on for years. Why make such a fuss about it?

God forgive us! God arouse us! Shame us out of our callousness! Shame us out of our sin!

What do you think? The story is compelling and emotional; most Christians are "making daisy chains" in a spiritual sense.  Is this the right motivation for misson?