Amy Carmichael

Missionary,
Mother to Hundreds of Children

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Amy Carmichael
Amy Carmichael
Missionary, Mother of Hundreds.

Picture courtesy of The Traveling Team

Amy Carmichael is not included in the current NZ lectionary list, after finding out about this amazing Christian woman I have included her here with permission of the Archdeacon. That she deserves inclusion is beyond question.

Amy Carmichael grew up in a small village in protestant Ireland, her parents were devout Presbyterians and she was the oldest of 7 siblings. The family moved to Belfast when Amy was 16 yrs. old. A year later at 17 she had a profound experience, on the way home from church she and two of her siblings reluctantly helped an old lady with a heavy load they heard what she knew to be a voice from heaven speaking so clearly she and others turned to see who had spoken. It said, ‘Gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay stubble — every man’s work will be made manifest; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide…”

That afternoon, Amy shut the door to her room and closed herself in with God. What happened that day would change the course of her life and profoundly impact her priorities. Amy Carmichael began to understand what it means to die to self and let Christ live through her. She would be “dead to the world and its applause, to all its customs, fashions, laws.” Amy had an eye for beauty and it was no small sacrifice to embrace this journey of true discipleship.

By the age of 22 she had started a ministry to the “shawlies” in Belfast, this was the name for the girls who worked in the mills and were too poor to by hats. They used their shawls to cover their heads, which was offensive to the proper church members. Her ministry grew very quickly and soon there were so many they needed their own building for worship so the Carmichaels founded the Welcome Evangelical Church.

Still Amy seemed an unlikely candidate for missionary work, suffering as she did from neuralgia, a disease of the nerves that made her whole body weak and achy and often put her in bed for weeks on end. But she applied and headed to Japan for a 15 month mission trip through the CMS (Church Missionary Soc.) but fell ill and had to return home. After a brief period of service in Ceylon (Sri Lanka), she went to Bangalore, India for her health and found her lifelong vocation.

On the mission field, God used Amy’s “mother’s heart” to minister to children. Before the British had taken over India, being a Temple Dancer had been a powerful, respected, influential position in the Indian Culture but afterwards the Raj could no-longer financially support them and those children now given to the Temples to train as musicians and dancers were being abused and exploited, as temple prostitutes. Amy rescued these children, setting up orphanages and ministering to the people she met. The children called her "Amma" which is “mother” in Tamil. She spent 53 years in India with no furlong. Amy affected the lives of countless Indians, giving them a hope for a future on earth and in heaven.

In 1912 Queen Mary recognized the missionary's work, and helped fund a hospital at Dohnavur. By 1913, the Dohnavur Fellowship was serving 130 girls. In 1918, Dohnavur added a home for young boys, many born to the former temple prostitutes.

In 1931, a fall severely injured Carmichael, and she remained bedridden for much of her final two decades. However, it did not stop her from writing, having already written many books she published 16 additional books (including His Thoughts Said . . . His Father Said (1951), If (1953), Edges of His Ways (1955) and God's Missionary (1957)), she also revised others she had previously published. Biographers differ on the number of her published works, which may have reached 35 or as many as six dozen, although only a few remain in print today. (For a short biography of her life on video see Sext (Lunchtime)).

BORN: 16 December 1867, Millisle, County Down, Ireland

DIED: 18 January 1951, Dohnavur, Tamil Nadu, India