When Called by God for his ministry, the Ordination is from above and it will not lack the Touch of God’s Compassion. He sends his minister into the fields where they can see God in his servant. Do you see this same with your TPM Saints?
Eldest of the seven siblings, Amy Beatrice Carmichael was born to David and Catherine Carmichael in the small village of Millisle, County Down, Ireland in 1867. She left Europe as a Christian missionary to India at age twenty-seven, never to return. Over the next fifty-five years, she became Amma (mother) to hundreds of children and wrote dozens of books about the way of discipleship. Her life of obedience and courage stands as a model for all who claim the name of Christ. She was a woman with desires and dreams, faults and fears, who gave her life unconditionally to serve her Master.
When Amy was quiet a little girl, she had a special time each night. After the nursery light was turned low, she used to smooth a little place on the sheet and say aloud, but softly to her heavenly father, “Please come and sit with me”. Amy loved God in a special way. He really was her best friend and the person she most enjoyed spending time with.
Once Amy and her mother had gone to a tea-shop. A little girl came and stood near the door and looked through the window of the tea-shop. As they left, they saw the little girl with her face pressed close to the glass. She was looking at all the delicious cakes and sweets that were set out in the window. She was a poor little girl in a thin ragged dress. It was raining, and her bare feet on the wet pavement looked very cold. At night, when Amy sat on by the nursery fire, she couldn’t get that poor girl out of her mind and she wrote a poem about her:
When I grow up and money have,
I know what I will do,
I’ll build a great big lovely place
For little girls like you.
Amy attended Harrogate Ladies College for four years in her youth. It was there she received Jesus as her personal Lord and Saviour at the age of fifteen. Years later Amy wrote: “My mother had often talked to me about the Lord Jesus and, as I sat on her knee, she had sung hymns to me. I had felt the love of the Lord Jesus and nestled in His love just as I had nestled in her arms. But I had not understood that there was something more to do, something that may be called coming to him, or opening the door to him, or giving oneself to him“.
Start of Amy’s Ministry
Amy’s family moved to Belfast when she was 16, but her father died two years later. In Belfast, the Carmichaels founded the Welcome Evangelical Church. They started a Sunday-morning class for the ‘Shawlies’ (poor mill girls who wore cheap shawls instead of hats) in the church hall of Rosemary Street Presbyterian. This mission grew and grew until they needed a hall to seat 500 people. Amy decided to purchase a tin building — ‘The Tin Tabernacle’ — for £500, call it the Welcome Hall and make it a meeting place for the Shawlies. As Amy and The Shawlies trusted and prayed to their Heavenly Father, two donations, £500 from Miss Kate Mitchell and one plot of land from a mill owner, led to the erection of the first “Welcome Hall” on the corner of Cambrai Street and Heather Street in 1887. It was here that she learned the principle of looking to the Lord alone for financial and other needs, which remained with her all the rest of her life.
When the Carmichael family moved to Manchester, Amy once again worked among the people of the slum areas. The conditions where she worked were terrible and soon Amy became desperately ill. She moved to the Lake District to care for a widowed, elderly, Christian man. But God spoke through an audible voice to her, calling her to go overseas as a missionary. The cost was great all-round, but she knew that the most important thing was to obey God’s will for her. She said, “Nothing is too precious for Jesus”.
She applied to the China Inland Mission and lived in London at the training house for women. She was ready to sail for Asia at one point when it was determined that her health made her unfit for the work. She postponed her missionary career with the CIM and decided later to join the Church Missionary Society. She sailed for Japan in 1893, but after a year, illness forced her to return to her home. Amy told her mother, “It’s all so confusing. I’m absolutely convinced that the Lord wants me to be a missionary overseas, yet first of all China Inland Mission turns me down, then, when I go out to work in Japan, I’m so ill that I’m sent all the way home to recover“.
One day, as Amy sat in the pony-pulled trap, warm in her rug, she saw a woman about her own age, ragged and with only sacking tied around her feet for shoes. Beside her were two little children, aged about eight and ten, and they reminded Amy of the tea-shop, of the biscuit with its pink icing, and the poor little girl with her face pressed up against the glass as she looked at the caked inside. Amy felt sad because she was ill and exhausted herself.
Amy’s Ministry in India
In 1895, when her health had recovered, Amy was totally convinced that God wanted her in India. She quoted, “It is a safe thing to trust Him to fulfil the desires which He creates.“ She was accepted by the Church of England Zenana Missionary Society to work at Bangalore in South India where the climate was healthier, though again she was not aware of any distinct call. She settled in the Tinnevelly District, towards the extreme south of the sub-continent, where she joined the Rev. and Mrs Walker in evangelistic work among the villages.
Amy soon gathered around her a group of converted women who formed a Women’s Band, which she called the Starry Cluster. They travelled around the villages, visiting homes and speaking to women and children who were willing to listen to the Gospel. When two teenage girls who wanted to become believers escaped from their homes, and came to Walkers’ bungalow for refuge, the threat of violence forced them all to move to Dohnavur.
It was at Dohnavur in 1901 that Amy rescued her first temple child, a seven-year-old girl, Preena. Amy put her on her lap and kissed her and the girl wondered, ‘Who is this person who kisses me like my mother?’ Preena had already escaped from the Temple once before, but had been torn from her mother’s arms and taken back; as a punishment, both her tiny hands had been branded with a hot iron. Some of the temple women appeared to reclaim the child, but Preena declared firmly, ‘I won’t go with them.’ From that day onwards, Amy became her new mother and she stayed with her for the rest of her life.
Shocked by the stories of life in the temples, Amy began to gather facts about these helpless children who were destined for a life of prostitution. She discovered that they were usually given to the temple either by couples with an unhappy marriage or by a deserted wife or widow; others were a gift, hoping to induce the god to grant recovery from illness. They were to be trained as dancing and singing girls, to perform before gods carried in procession, to carry the sacred light and to fan the idols with oxtails. Worse still, they were there to satisfy the lusts of men, including practices that Amy felt too evil to be described.
As news of her crusade became known, babies in danger of being taken into temple service were brought to her for care. Her Women’s Band shared her concern and helped in mothering and training the children. A suitable spot outside Dohnavur was bought for building the first home; later, as more children arrived, the number of homes increased and new centres were opened up in other parts of the District. By 1906, the family numbered seventy, though ten babies died that year in an outbreak of dysentery. By 1913, it totalled one hundred and forty.
Lala was one of Amy’s rescued children. When she was five, she was kidnapped from Dohnavur, which was where Amy’s ever-increasing family lived, and taken back to a temple in the mountains. Poor little Lala became ill and died. Amy was so sad when she heard that news, but along with the news came an interesting story. A woman told Amy that she saw Lala dying. Before dying, Lala said she was a Jesus child and she did not seem afraid of dying. Then Lala said she saw three shining ones come into the room where she was lying. Her face was not fearful, and when she saw the shining ones, she smiled and then she died. Amy prayed that if any of her rescued children were to die of illnesses for which there were no medicines at that time, they would, like Lala, die believing in Jesus.
Other building projects included Forest House, a retreat in the mountain forest above Dohnavur where workers and children could take a break, and Three Pavilions, a home for physically and mentally handicapped children, beautifully situated near the coast with views of both mountains and sea. Later, a House of Prayer was added to the mission compound and the grandest project of all, a new hospital known as the ‘Place of Heavenly Healing’. Without any appeal except in prayer, all her needs were met and her dairy is full of answers to prayer.
As the new hospital was built, Amy saw in it an answer to the fulfilment of another need concerning the future of the children. The hospital was eventually made up of Dohnavur’s own boys and girls ‘trained to serve, evangelists, lovers of souls’. In 1925, Amy resigned from the CEZMS and formed Dohnavur Fellowship. Its goals were to save children in moral danger and to make God’s love known to the people of India. What in fact Amy created was a family and she was Amma, ‘mother’, the term by which she was known by children and workers. She bathed her children and cared for them in sickness; she played with them and took them on walks into the forest where she taught them to love animals and appreciate nature.
On the morning of 24th October 1931, Amy was especially in prayer about her work. “Do with me as thou wilt. Do anything that will fit me to serve thee and help my beloveds,” she implored. In the afternoon she fell and broke a leg and dislocated an ankle; complications set in which, added to her thirty-six years unbroken service in India, left her invalid for the rest of her life. For the next twenty years, Amy was more or less confined to her room, yet from her bed -often lying completely flat – she continued in her role as Amma to her family. She quoted, “If we are discouraged, tired or hurt today, one long drink from the well of Him who lives and sees will give us new life, new courage, new patience to go on running the race set before us- – Even to the end.” She felt like a little child again, lying on her bed, asking Jesus to come and sit with her. She talked to him about her rescued girls. She kept in touch with the outside world through her correspondence and, with help, wrote thousands of letters. Already the author of many books, she wrote a further thirteen works during this period, as well as revising her other titles and producing more poetry.
On 18 January 1951, Amy died at Dohnavur, aged 83. She had worked there for over 50 years without ever returning to the UK. Amy said, ‘When I consider the cross of Christ, how can anything that I do be called sacrifice?’ Throughout her life, she had looked forward to seeing her Saviour in heaven, as she quoted, “All that grieves is but for a moment; All that pleases is but for a moment; Only the eternal is important.”
The work Amy started continues to exemplify the love of God, and the staff at Dohnavur, with one exception, are all Amy’s grown-up children, fulfilling one of her dearest wishes.
As a little brown-eyed girl, Amy had prayed that God would make her eyes blue. She longed to have clear blue eyes. Jesus’ answer to Amy’s prayer for blue eyes was ‘No’. Years later she understood why, for everyone in India has brown eyes, and she would not have fitted in at all if her eyes had been blue. God had work for Amy to do in India, and He was preparing her to do it, even when He chose the colour of her eyes. Throughout her struggles in India, Amy was always aware that a battle was being fought, yet in it, she learned ‘to know Christ, in the power of His resurrection, and in the fellowship of his sufferings‘.(Phil 3:10)
Hanks, Geoffrey, 70 Great Christians
Howat, Irene, Ten Girls Who Changed The World
Carswell, Roger, The life and legacy of Amy Carmichael