Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Amy Carmichael

This is one of my FAVORITE missionary stories! I also gleaned much of this from the Christian Heroes: Then and Now series. Good stuff!

Amy Carmichael's family owned a flour mill. They were a wealthy family and, unlike children whose families did not have very much money, Amy spent her growing up years at a boarding school for girls where she learned not only reading and writing, but art and music as well.

Amy had always had the qualities to be a leader. But, while at boarding school, she didn’t always demonstrate her leadership qualities in a positive way. One day during Astronomy class, Amy’s instructor mentioned that the “Great September Comet” would be visible in the sky that very night. Amy desperately wanted to see the comet and, though she knew there was little chance that they could, she still knocked on the door of the school principal, Miss Kay. All the other girls watched jealously as Amy walked into the principal’s office. No one else would have been so brave and courageous. Amy walked out of the room with a disappointed look on her face. The other girls slumped their shoulders. No one would see the comet tonight. But, Amy had another plan. She was bound and determined to see the comet and she was willing to break the rules to do so.

The rest of the day, Amy was distracted by plotting their getaway to the attic at midnight. She came up with an idea. There were several girls to wake up at midnight and lead up the stairs and into the attic. She would give each girl a piece of string, have them tie it to their big toes and when it was time to wake up, Amy would tug on the strings and they would all wake up and quietly walk up the stairs, taking care to step over the squeaky step that was third from the top. And so they did. Amy turned the door knob to the attic with not a hint of a sound. Once they entered the attic room and could see the night sky from the window, they all breathed a sigh of relief. Their plan was accomplished. Just then, Amy had a strange feeling someone was watching her. As her eyes adjusted to the darkness, she could see shadows. Shadows in the shapes of people. Shadows which emerged to be none other than Miss Kay and the other teachers. Oh no! Amy had been caught and there was no one to blame but herself. Although, Miss Kay allowed the girls to see the comet that night, Amy felt distracted the whole time with the thought that she might be expelled from school. This wasn’t the first time she had acted out of line.

Miss Kay was kind when she talked to Amy in her office the next morning. She was assigned to get up 1/2 hour earlier than the other girls and do the morning chores, but thankfully, she wasn’t expelled. As much as Amy missed and loved home, she didn’t want to go home ashamed and worried what her parents, who trained her to be an example of a good Christian, might think. Miss Kay told Amy that she should use her leadership talents to lead the girls to do the right thing instead of disobeying authority.

Some time later, just before her15th birthday, Amy was called back into Miss Kay’s office. This time, to hear that she must go home. Her parents were losing business at the flour mill and they could not afford to send her private school anymore.

When Amy returned home she enjoyed all the wonderful things she missed while she was at the boarding school. One of those things was tea and cookies! Amy and her mother were enjoying these treats when Amy noticed a little girl peering at her through the window, all dirty and looking cold. She was staring at Amy’s cookies with big, hungry eyes. The little girls gaze made Amy realize that there were people out in the world, who didn’t have all the luxuries of life that she had. She went to her room right away and wrote a promise to the little girl:

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.

While Amy and her 2 older brothers were walking home from church one Sunday, they came across an old woman, who was hunched over and unable to walk well. Because Amy and her brothers were taught to help those less fortunate then themselves they rushed to the old woman. Amy and one of her brothers took each of the old woman’s arm, while the other brother took the bag of sticks that was on the old woman’s back.

They only expected to help her to the nearest building, but she pointed them further along to an alley about ½ a mile down the road. Amy and her brothers shrugged and kept walking with the old woman. Soon, though people from church began to pass the Carmichael kids and give them cold looks. Even some of the mothers would take their children to the other side of the street to walk. Amy and her brothers hung their heads hoping not to be recognized. Then, Amy remembered a verse she had heard from the Bible, “Gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw…the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward.”

Amy no longer felt ashamed to be helping the old woman. She walked with her head held high, unafraid of what others might think of her.

That night Amy went straight to her Bible to find the verse she thought of earlier. She found them in 1 Corinthians 3:12-14. “Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each ones work will become manifest; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each ones work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.” Amy wondered what they could mean for her. She had always known that God loved her, but how would that affect how she acted each day. She spent several hours praying and thinking and she finally came to these decisions: She would no longer waste time on things that weren’t important in God’s eyes. She wanted the things she did to be found worthwhile when they were judged by God. She wanted her life to be lived as gold and silver, things that lasted through the fire, not hay and stubble, things that would burn up in an instant. She decided also that she would never worry again what people thought of her. If what she was doing pleased God, that would be enough for her.

Amy’s thought’s about being kind and loving to others began to change. She used to be kind because it was expected of her and she felt she had to be kind. But, now, she would be kind and loving because that’s what God wanted her to do.

Amy’s two younger sisters could see the difference in her right away. She had a new attitude, which her sister’s called, “Amy’s enthusiasms!” To Amy, there were so many people to show God’s love to. She wanted to learn more and more about God and she wanted to teach others about Him, too. So, on Sunday afternoons Amy would wander the streets inviting children to her home where she would hold a children’s meeting. The children would sing and Amy would read them Bible stories and tell them how much God loved them. So much so, that He sent His only Son to earth to die for their sins!

Many of the children who came to the Sunday afternoon meetings were so eager to learn more about God and His love that Amy started another club called the “Morning Watch Club” that met on Saturday mornings. At this club Amy would teach the children of the importance of reading the Bible, so they would write out their pledge on small cards to remember the commitment they made.

Amy continued her “enthusiasms” by inviting poor women from the Slums of Belfast for Bible Studies on Sunday Mornings in the church fellowship hall. These women were called “Shawlies” because instead of wearing hats in the cold weather, all they had was thin shawls to cover their heads with. Many of the Shawlies joined Amy to study the Bible and Amy was glad to teach them that there was a God who loved them, even though they felt as if no one could love them. Soon, though many people of the church began to complain that Amy was bringing “dirty, flea infested women” into the church building. Amy was saddened by their lack of compassion, but she continued to show the Shawlies she loved them, and continued to tell them of God’s love, too. She did this by going to live in the slums herself, where it was dark and smelled of mold and rotting food. She also dressed like the Shawlies. She reached many women for Christ and she never once regretted loving the “unloveable.”

Amy’s love and compassion didn’t stop in the Slums of Belfast. She began to see that God wanted her to become a missionary. She went to China and Ceylon where many people trusted Jesus. But, Amy became sick with all the work she was doing and had to go back home to recover. Just because she got sick, though, Amy’s heart never stopped longing to love people around the world. Soon, she was asked to join some missionaries in India.

It was in India where Amy poured out all the love she could. She dressed like other poor Indian women and began to learn about their culture and religion, which turned out to be the opposite of loving, but was full of hatred and selfishness. Many of the young girls in India were forced to go live in the Hindu temples, where they were slaves to the priests, so that their parents could earn favor with the false gods. If the little girls tried to run away from the temple, the temple priests would burn their hands with hot irons to teach them a lesson.

When Amy heard about this, her heart broke. How could she help these little girls? It was dangerous to be a Christian in India because Hindu's would persecute you for believing in the God of the Bible. Also, children who make a decision to accept Christ and to be baptized would often be sent away from their home and disowned by their family. Amy’s Indian friends who trusted Jesus and became Christians were able to help her when the opportunity came.

One day, while Amy was having tea on her front porch a young girl ran up to her and crawled onto her lap. Amy held the little girl, who had just runaway from one of the nearby Hindu temples. This girl, who was only 5 years old at the time, was one of hundreds that Amy was able to help in India. Her name was Preena and she soon came to believe what the Bible taught about Jesus and His love.

Another girl, name Arulai came to Amy’s house for safety. Arulai was so sick, that when her father came for her to send her to the temple, she could not get out of bed. He came back every day for weeks and because of Amy’s love and tender care for his daughter, he decided to let her stay with Amy. Now, Arulai would not have to live in the temple!

Amy also faced many dangers to help the girls escape the Hindu temples. One time, she had to sneak into a temple to find a girl named Jewel. Amy covered her skin with coffee grounds to look like the other Indians. She remembered her childhood hopes of having blue eyes. Her brown eyes would now serve as protection and she thanked God for them. Her heart thumped heavily inside her chest as she approached the temple. But, she knew she had to be brave to save this young girls life. Jewel was rescued and she, too believed in Jesus as her Savior.

Amy showed sacrificial love to many people in her lifetime. With her love and kindness, she not only offered a safe place to many who where poor and hurting, but she offered safety in the arms of God, who loved those people more than Amy ever could.


HonorMommy said...

She reminds me of wonder you like her so much!

Sarah said... THAT'S a compliment...but maybe you don't know me that well. ;) Amy's way Awesomer than me. :)

HonorMommy said... are both a little wild, love children and are dedicated to serving others with your are you not alike????

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