Many of you might identify with Amy Carmichael in her attitude and in some of her difficulties. She had the determination to fulfill what she knew God had called her to do, and she accomplished it despite her many difficulties, even ones concerning her health.
Amy Carmichael was born the oldest of seven children on December 16, 1867, in the city of Millisle in Northern Ireland. Among her three sisters and four brothers, she was a tomboy, who liked to write poetry. She was taught to pray at an early age, and to test its power, she prayed for blue eyes. Amy had brown ones. The following morning to her disappointment, her eyes remained blue. Her mother added to Amy’s prayer growth that morning; sometimes God says no.
One Sunday when she was a teenager, Amy and her two brothers noticed an old woman carrying a heavy bundle. They wanted to help her, but they were embarrassed because respectable people would think poorly of them if they associated with her. Later Amy wrote, “We were . . . not at all exalted Christians. We hated doing it. Crimson all over, we plodded on, a wet wind blowing in about us and blowing, too, the rags of that poor old woman, till she seemed like a bundle of feathers, and we unhappily mixed up with them.”
Then she heard words from I Corinthians. “Gold, silver, precious stones . . . every man’s work shall be made manifest; for . . . it shall be declared by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.” Looking around, she saw no one. She took the experience as a sign from God to “settle things with Him.”
In the next years with the death of her father, she devoted herself to spiritual growth. At a Christian conference, a chairman prayed, “O Lord, we know Thou art able to keep us from failing.” “Those words,” wrote Amy, “found me. It was as if they were a light. And they shone for me.” Amy gave her life to Jesus Christ and announced she would become a missionary.
However, Amy suffered from neuralgia, a disease of the nerves that made her entire body ache and become so weak that she often had to stay in bed for weeks.
Nevertheless, Amy started Christian classes and prayer groups in Belfast for the “shawlies,” poor factory girls who couldn’t afford church hats but instead wore their shawls. Over 350 shawlies eventually attended, and Amy had to find a building large enough for their group.
Her family went bankrupt and had to move to England to work at Uncle Jacob’s mill. Amy taught the mill workers about Christ. Then her neuralgia set in and she had to stay in bed for longer periods.
She sensed God telling her to “Go.” Surely, not me, Amy thought, with her ailment. She worried about leaving her widow mother. Her mother encouraged her to do whatever God told her.
For over a year, Amy could find no missionary work until three missionary women offered to use her assistance in Japan. They set sail on March 3, 1893.
Amy’s passion to witness started by converting the ship’s captain.
In Japan, Amy started evangelizing without learning the language. She used an interpreter, who suggested Amy dress in a kimono. Her neuralgia bothered her in the cold, so she went in western clothes. As a woman was being converted, she noticed Amy’s fur-lined gloves and was more interested in them. From then, she always wore a kimono.
She was to visit a Buddhist village. First, Amy inquired what God asked of her. She was impressed to pray for one soul. At the village the soul of a young silk-weaver was won. Afterwards, Amy was in bed for a month with her illness. Before her next visit, she asked for two souls. And two more people gave their lives to Jesus. In two weeks, Amy prayed for four souls. That number was more than missionaries witnessed won in a year. Though the visit went badly at first, four souls were won. Again, Amy got sickfor 45 days in bed. God impressed Amy to double the number to eight, and she felt overwhelmed. An older missionary read her God’s promise from Jeremiah that said nothing is too hard for the Lord. Eight souls took the Christian walk. Amy never received any more numbers from God.
In fact, she moved to India and started her “famous” temple girl work. God had given her brown eyes for a reason. No one believed Amy when she talked about the little temple girls being used as prostitutes. So dressed in a sari and with stained skin, Amy passed as a Hindu girl and visited the temples and found many trapped girls. She served thirteen years rescuing runaway temple girls.
One rescuethat of a five-year-old girlcaused Amy to be tried as a kidnapper with a possible 7-year prison term. But God took care of that, too. A telegram arrived on February 7, 1914, saying her case was dismissed. No one knew where the explanation had come from.
In 1931, Amy was crippled by a fall. Still of use to God, she wrote over forty books as a deep spiritual witness. By 1948, she was bedridden. And on January 18, 1951, God called her home.