Amy Beatrice Carmichael, born on December 16, 1867, in the village of Millisle on the northern coast of Ireland, lived a remarkable life as a missionary. She was the firstborn child of David and Catherine Carmichael, devout Presbyterians who instilled in their children a love for God. From a young age, Amy showed a deep faith and a hunger for adventure.
At the tender age of three, Amy prayed for blue eyes like her mother and baby brother. However, God answered her prayer with a loving “no,” leaving her beautiful brown eyes unchanged. Little did she know that her brown eyes would be a crucial asset in her future ministry in the villages of India, where she would need to blend in with the local population.
Amy’s adventurous spirit often got her into trouble. In one instance, she convinced her younger brothers to eat ‘poison berries’ in a dare to see how many they could eat before dying. Fortunately, they survived, albeit with painful stomach aches and unpleasant-tasting medicine. These experiences helped shape Amy’s indomitable spirit, preparing her for a life of fearless service.
The Carmichael family faced financial challenges, and after three years at a boarding school in England, Amy returned home to a failing family business. Tragedy struck when her father, David Carmichael, fell ill and passed away. At just seventeen years old, Amy became her mother’s confidante and a second mother to her younger siblings. These difficult years laid the foundation for Amy’s future as a compassionate leader.
God placed guideposts in Amy’s life, leading her on a path to India. One such guidepost occurred when Amy and her family encountered a poor old woman struggling to carry a heavy bundle. Despite the embarrassment of onlookers, Amy felt God’s presence and realised the importance of doing lasting work. This revelation drove her to seek opportunities to make a difference in the lives of those in need.
Amy’s spiritual journey continued as she attended a conference in Glasgow that focused on sanctification and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. She experienced a revival in her faith, recording the date in her Bible as a turning point in her life. With newfound spiritual strength, Amy dedicated herself to doing the work of gold and silver—work that would abide.
Back in Belfast, Amy embarked on a mission to help young girls in the slums. With infectious enthusiasm, she inspired the girls to pray for a new building that could accommodate their growing meetings. Through God’s provision, they received the funds and a parcel of land for the construction of the Welcome Hall, which still stands today, offering hope to the people of Belfast.
Amy’s relentless dedication to serving others took a toll on her health. She suffered from severe headaches and was eventually diagnosed with neuralgia, a nerve disease. Recognizing the need to prioritise her well-being, Amy stepped back from her work with the young girls and waited for God’s next open door.
The next guidepost in Amy’s journey came through a letter from a friend in Bangalore, India. Despite initial setbacks, including being denied entry into China due to her health condition, Amy found herself bound for India. She embraced the Indian culture, adopting the traditional sari and immersing herself in ministry in the Tinnevelly District.
Thomas Walker, a trusted friend and mentor, helped Amy learn the Tamil language and taught her valuable lessons about trusting in the Lord. Amy’s commitment to her calling in India remained unwavering, and she spent the next fifty-five years serving the people of Tinnevelly.
Amy faced numerous challenges and trials throughout her missionary work. She fell into a hole, sustaining severe injuries, and spent time in the hospital. She was confined to a bed for several months, enduring excruciating pain and limited mobility and during this time of physical suffering, her faith was tested. She wrestled with doubts and questioned why God would allow such a debilitating injury to happen to her.
But even in the midst of her pain, Amy did not lose sight of her calling and her desire to serve the people of India. She turned her bed into a makeshift office, where she continued to write letters, mentor young missionaries, and pray for the work in Tinnevelly. Despite her physical limitations, her spirit remained undeterred.
Amy’s accident and subsequent recovery became a powerful testimony to the local people. They witnessed her unwavering faith and saw the love of Christ manifested in her life. Her perseverance in the face of adversity inspired others to trust in God’s faithfulness and to find hope in the midst of their own struggles.
As Amy regained her strength and was able to walk again, she returned to her mission work with renewed determination. She focused her efforts on rescuing young girls who were being forced into temple prostitution, a practice known as “dedication” in India. These girls, often from poor families, were sold to the temples by their parents or were victims of abduction and trafficking.
Amy and her team established a home called the Dohnavur Fellowship, where they provided a safe haven for these girls, offering them education, vocational training, and most importantly, love and acceptance. They fought against the prevailing cultural norms and societal expectations to protect the dignity and future of these vulnerable children.
Amy’s deep compassion for these young girls led her to dedicate her entire life to their cause. She understood the darkness and despair they faced and was determined to shine the light of God’s love into their lives. She rescued countless girls from the clutches of the temple system, giving them a chance to experience a life free from exploitation and abuse.
But Amy’s work was not without opposition. The temple authorities and the brothel owners saw her as a threat to their lucrative business and sought to undermine her efforts. They spread false rumours, incited riots, and even attempted to assassinate her. Despite the dangers and hardships, Amy remained steadfast in her mission. She believed that the power of God was greater than any opposition she faced.
Through her unwavering dedication and the transformative impact of the Dohnavur Fellowship, Amy became a beacon of hope and inspiration not only in India but also around the world. Her writings, including books like ‘Things As They Are’ and ‘Gold Cord,’ brought awareness to the plight of temple girls and inspired countless individuals to take action against injustice.
Amy’s legacy extends far beyond her lifetime. The work she started in India continues to this day through the Dohnavur Fellowship, which has expanded it’s mission to include the care and rehabilitation of abandoned and disabled children. The organisation, now known as the Amy Carmichael Foundation, carries on her vision of rescuing and restoring the lives of those who have been marginalised and oppressed.
Amy Beatrice Carmichael’s missionary journey is a testament to the power of faith, resilience, and selfless love. Despite the setbacks, disappointments, and physical challenges she encountered, she remained committed to following God’s call and making a difference in the lives of the most vulnerable. Her story serves as an inspiration for us to trust in God’s plan, even when we don’t understand it, and to use our gifts and talents to bring hope and transformation to those who need it most.
As we reflect on the life and legacy of Amy Carmichael, may we be reminded of the profound impact one person can have when they surrender their lives to God’s purpose. May her story inspire us to be agents of change in our own communities, standing up against injustice, and extending God’s love to all those we encounter.
Source: God’s Generals by Roberts Liardon
Image credit – Boston University