God’s Champions: Amy Carmichael

You can give without loving, but you can’t love without giving.

So far in the God’s Champions series I’ve only written about heavily persecuted Christians. But you don’t have to die or face torture for God to be His champion, and it’s not my intent to just tell those stories. This time around, I’m going to tell you about Amy Carmichael, a woman who never endured intense persecution (she was threatened with a seven-year jail sentence, but it was overturned without incident), and wasn’t martyred, for her faith, but who nonetheless gave as much of her life as Graham Staines or William Tyndale did.

Amy was raised in a Christian home and had several defining experiences there. Perhaps the most well-known story regarded her eyes; despite her being Irish, they were a stubborn brown. Amy’s mother, Catherine, told her that God always answered prayer, so she prayed for blue eyes. When they didn’t change, she was disappointed and confused, but her mother explained that ‘no’ is an answer, too. God had his reasons.

Amy was a sickly woman. She suffered from neuralgia, an often debilitating condition which weakened her and caused her great pain. She was  exposed to the mission field by Robert Wilson, whose home she lived in after the death of her father when she was eighteen. She didn’t think it was possible that God was calling her to the work, but with time and prayer she eventually saw that He was.

First she traveled to Japan, where she stayed for over a year. There is a story that, soon after arriving, she was evangelizing in the streets with her translator, who encouraged her to don Japanese dress. Amy refused, saying it was too cold, and her neuralgia was bothering her. The woman she witnessed to that day seemed interested in the gospel – and also in Amy’s fur-lined gloves. The distraction broke Amy’s heart, and she never wore Western clothes while witnessing again.

Soon her failing health forced her to return home, to Ireland. When she returned to the mission field, it was in India in 1895. There, she began to serve children, specifically young girls, whose desperate, impoverished parents had sold them as prostitutes to the temples. It was a horrific life for a child, but few people knew it. In order to verify was the plight was that she fought, Amy felt forced to dress as an Indian, dye her skin dark with coffee and sneak into the temple to see what was happening. Her brown eyes were very convenient for this disguise.

Amy rescued many young girls, by both legal and illegal means. She hid runaways and found families who would take them. Eventually, she founded the Dohnavur Fellowship, a school and home for rescued children. The children with whom Amy worked called her “Amma,” which, in the local dialect, meant ‘mother.’

Amy lived and served in India for the rest of her life, without a furlough home. In 1931, she fell into a pit and was badly injured. She spent the rest of her life serving the Lord from her bed, writing prose and poetry and overseeing the logistical concerns of her school. Her writing furthered worldwide knowledge of the work at Dohnavur, so even in her injury, God used her.

Amy died in her sleep in 1951.

Christianity.com, Dan Graves.
Rusten, E. Michael and Sharon. When & Where In The Bible And Throughout History. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House, 2005.

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