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Amy Carmichael was born in Northern Ireland in 1867 to David and Catherine Jane Carmichael. Because she was the direct descendent of both Jane Dalziel and the Scottish Covenanters, Amy was born to a well-off family and she found spiritual important in her heritage later in life while on the mission field in various countries. Amy had a wonderfully happy childhood full of exploring the shores of Ireland, using her imagination to entertain her and her brothers, and had many escapades around the family garden. However when Amy was twelve she was sent away to a Wesleyan Methodist boarding house for girls in Harrogate, Yorkshire. After attending this boarding school for three consecutive years, Amy made Christ her personal Lord and Savior at the age of fifteen. Then while Amy was eighteen, on April 12, 1885, her father contracted double pneumonia and died. During this difficult time Amy’s faith was not shaken, she ran to her heavenly Father and sought His comfort. Even through the loss of her earthly father, Amy did not become angry. Neither did she express her sorrow, rage, or bewilderment. Instead she threw herself into serving others for the Lord. Ministering to other who were hurting or in need of care. How different her reaction is to the normal reactions of nominal Christians today.
In 1889 Amy was asked to move to Manchester, England to start a “welcome”. A place that the locals could go to receive physical care and hear the gospel readily given. Then in 1890 Amy was asked to come to Broughton Grange School in England’s Lake District. While there she stayed with Mr. Wilson, a friend she had met at a Belfast convention in 1887. Mr. Wilson would later become Amy’s “Fatherie” and referred to in her writings as the D.O.M., the dear old man. It was during her time with Mr. Wilson that Amy experienced the missionary call on January 13th, 1892. The next few days were vital for Amy, she has many mixed emotions. If she left she would not only break the heart of her mother and brothers but she knew she would cause the D.O.M great pain, because he had considered her a daughter. In one of her letters to her mother Amy asks “My Precious Mother, have you given your child unreservedly to the Lord for whatever He wills? O May He strengthen you to say YES to Him if He asks something which costs”. Her mother had the correct response “Yes, dearest Amy, He has lent you to me all these years. He only knows what a strength, comfort, and joy you have been to me”. How different our perspective can be at times.
By August 10, 1892, Amy and Mr. Wilson had traveled to London to the house of Miss Soltau to be interviewed as a potential candidate for Hudson Taylor’s Inland Missions organization. Amy was quickly deemed unfit to go to the mission field in China. This was a devastating blow to the young missionary but she was not deterred. On January 13, 1893 Amy thought of going to Japan to start her missionary career. By March 3rd Amy was parted from everyone she knew to go to a foreign land in which she knew no one. Amy spent over a year living in Japan, learning the language, teaching children English, sharing the gospel to any who would listen, and even casting “fox spirits”, demons, out of a middle age man who later accepted Christ. But by July 10, 1894, Amy contracted what was known as “Japanese head” a flu like virus which many foreigners seemed to succumb to after extended time spent in Japan. So Amy was whisked away to Shanghai, China. Only eight days later Amy decided she was to go to Ceylon, China next. So on July 28th she sailed for Ceylon. However, before she could reach Ceylon, she became sick and had to stop her journey in Hong Kong and then in Colombo. She arrived in Ceylon but was only able to remain in Ceylon until November 27th when she received word that the D.O.M. had suffered a stroke. Amy arrived in London on December 15thand spent ten months recovering. Later that spring a letter came from Bangalore, India from a friend who informed Amy not only of the agreeable climate but also of the desperate need for missionaries. So Amy Carmichael sailed to India on October 11, 1895. There in India Amy spent the rest of her life doing a multitude of tasks. To the locals she was nurse and physician both to those in physical need and those in spiritual need. To those that partnered with her in her ministry she was “Amma” or mother. She led a “Band” of believers around India and proclaimed the gospel wherever she went. Later she gave up her nomadic lifestyle to care for the Indian children that were in need of a sanctuary and a home. But no matter where she was she preached the word of the Lord and she showed His love to all who crossed her path. Amy Carmichael’s ministry on earth ended January 18, 1951 after a long and painful illness.
Amy Carmichael had many ministry contributions during her time of earthly service. First of all Amy started many “Welcome”s during her early adult years in Ireland and England. These were a huge blessing to the locals that were able to attend. Meetings at these Welcomes were at least weekly and most weeks they were nightly. Different people groups were invited on different nights. For example there was a children’s night, a young women’s night, an older women’s night, young boy’s sessions, and men sessions. Amy eventually left these welcomes in the care and keeping of local believers as she moved to the foreign missions field. During Amy’s stay in Japan she not only learned the language quickly but she also helped to set up her Welcomes in the villages. During her stay in Japan she was tested and tried by the Lord and He grew her faith and trust by allowing her to witness pagan Japanese come to know the Lord as their personal Lord and Savior. Years later other missionaries would travel to Japan and meet those saved during Amy’s stay or the relatives of those who had professed faith. Amy also spent some time in China ministering to locals there and spreading the gospel wherever she went. However her time in China did not last long because she was called back to England when the D.O.M. suffered a stroke.
The rest of Amy’s missionary career was spent ministering in India and this is what she is remembered for. As soon as Amy stepped on to Indian soil she refused to become a nominal Christian like so many others who had gone in name only simply to live in the newly discovered paradise. Amy went and lived as the lowest of the low, amongst the locals. She put together a small band of believers and with them she travelled India sharing the word of the Lord and teaching His gospel. From the first time she was able to share the gospel, Amy fought against the Indian caste system. Locals were afraid of what the rest of their caste would do to them if they converted to Christianity. Many souls chose caste over Christ. But for those who believed, Amy was their leader. She was always pointing them to Christ, offering sanctuary when needed, and praying for all who crossed her path. It quickly became apparent to Amy just how vile the Hindu culture was. Children were (and still are) often sold to the local temple to be married to the gods as a form of worship. This practice weighed heavily on Amy’s heart and she asked the Lord to give her opportunities to save children from this idol worship. The Lord answered Amy’s plea slowly but fully and Amy realized the need for her to settle down into one permanent location as the Lord answered her hearts prayer. She was able to rescue many temple children and raised them as her own becoming known as “Amma” to all who knew her. Not only did she rescue temple children, she took in any child that was in need of a loving home and sanctuary.
From the moment that Amy Carmichael experienced her call to missions until the day that her Lord took her to glory, Amy lived a life that should convict other Christians wanting to go into missions. Amy sought the Lord earnestly through prayer and through time spent in His word daily. One quote from A Chance to Die sums this up perfectly, Amy said “dead to all ones natural earthly plans and hopes, dead to all the voices, however dear, which would deafen our ear to His”. I learned that I need to pray for things earnestly and have faith that the Lord will answer according to His sovereign will. I learned that we need to follow Christ where ever He leads us and not hold anything back from Him.
Amy Carmichael showed many characteristics that should be emulated in the life of every believer. Some I have already mentioned above such as how she earnestly sought the Lord through prayer and through His word. How she prayed with the faith that the Lord would answer her and how she did not hold anything back from His use. Other characteristics include her passion and zeal to win lost souls to the Lord. Her heart was tender to the lost and she passionately shared the gospel with them. She never stopped following hard after Christ and she did not allow people to try and douse her fire. Even as she worked through being sick and even bedridden for the last several years of her life, she did not lose her zeal for the Lord. He was everything to her and it seems like generations since then have lost this passion and zeal to follow hard of the Lord whatever the cost.
Since summer 2014 I have felt a burden to reach specifically the Jewish people with the gospel. Growing up I had never even considered becoming a missionary, I asked the Lord to do anything with my life but please don’t make me a missionary. Because of this I have not read many biographies of other missionaries or even their stories. The story of Amy Carmichael was probably the best biography that I could have chosen to read. The story of a young, single girl burdened for the mission field, who eventually ends up in a place that had never crossed her mind and she spends the rest of her life serving Christ. Many things in life make me fearful, all of the “what ifs” bombard my mind and take my eyes off of my Savior. But Amy’s life has taught me how to keep my eyes on my Savior, how to earnestly seek His face and pray with a fervor and an expectation that He will answer. Her life has taught me what full and total surrender looks like and how to completely trust my Lord.
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