This week's"thought" comes to you from the well-known missionary to India, Amy Carmichael (1867-1951). And since her life-story is as inspiring as the thought I shall reference at the end, I would like to share a little about her life before I share the excerpt from her book, simply entitled: "If"
It is less than 100 pages long and contains only one small thought or reflection on Christ's love on each page. The first is: "If I have not compassion on my fellow-servant, even as the Lord had pity on me, then I know nothing of Calvary love." With much blank space left on each page, I have sometimes used that space to write further thoughts on her reflections of Christ's love. (Should you desire to read more of Amy's life, the book, "A Chance to Die," by Elizabeth Elliot, is a superb biographical account of her life and work.) Enjoy.
Here is her fascinating story:
Amy Carmichael was born in 1867 into a well-to-do North Ireland Christian family. In her teen years, she was educated at a Wesleyan Methodist boarding school; and at age 13, while still in boarding school, she accepted Christ as Savior. When she was age 18, her father died, leaving the family in difficult financial circumstances as he had given a large personal loan that was not repaid. The family moved to Belfast. There she became involved in visiting in the slums, and seeing the terrible conditions under which many women and girls worked in the factories, she began a ministry with these women. It was a work based on faith in God alone, and He met the needs in most remarkable ways. She later developed a similar ministry in Manchester, with her mother at her side...
In 1892, at the age of twenty-four, Amy received her "Macedonian Call" and went as a missionary to Japan. But there she met with disappointments. The Japanese language seemed impossible to her, and the missionary community was not the picture of harmony she had envisioned. Likewise, her health was also a problem. After 15 months as a missionary, Amy became convinced that Japan was not where God wanted her...
She arrived in Madras in November of 1895, a discouraged, confused, and ill young Irish woman. She was 28 years old. Soon after her arrival, she contracted Dengue Fever, which laid her low for a period of time. She was sent to a more healthful place to recuperate. In that community she saw that the church was very "active" but there were no changed lives. She detested the meetings with the other missionary ladies -- drinking tea and gossiping and showing very little concern for the eternal souls of those about them. She felt so alone.
The following lines are so appropriate concerning the missionary community in Bangalore:
Onward Christian soldiers,
Sitting on the mats;
Nice and warm and cozy
Like little pussycats...
Amy just did not fit into the stiff, staid, missionary community of Bangalore and subsequently went to the very south end of India to live with another missionary family. The Walkers were a godly family that really understood the Hindu religion and the tremendous need of reaching out... For several years Amy, along with a daughter of the Walkers and several Christian Indian ladies, began an itinerant ministry through the villages in the south tip of India. They were dubbed the "starry cluster," for the Indians recognized the sincerity and light that shown forth from them. The members of the band had no salary, simply looking to God to supply their needs. Their attitude was "How much can I do without that I may have more to give?" It was during this period of time that she took on the habit of wearing Indian dress, which she continued throughout her lifetime.A life-changing experience took place in 1901. A little five-year-old girl, named "Pearl Eyes" by Amy, was brought to her by an Indian woman. The child had been sold by the mother to the temple and there was being prepared and taught all the degradation of temple prostitution. Twice she had run away only to be caught, carried back, beaten, and subjected to the terrible perversion of that Hindu temple.
Finally, as she was running away again at night, she met with this understanding woman who brought her to Amy. Amy gathered the little child up into her lap and picked up a rag doll and gave it to the child to play with. It was then that she truly understood the evil of the temple practice. Little Pearl Eyes talked freely as she played with the doll. She told Amy things that they did to her in the temple, demonstrating them using the doll. The date was March 7, 1901. Amy never forgot that day nor the child's story. It was terrible beyond imagination. This was the beginning of her rescue of these children who had been dedicated to the temple gods.
This incident led to the founding of the Dohnavur Fellowship. Over the years literally thousands of temple children have been rescued and other ministries established there at the Dohnavur Fellowship in South India. In 1918, they began to rescue baby boys, for they likewise were dedicated to the temple gods and goddesses. Other areas of the work over the years were added such as hospital, schools, printing, etc. Amy was not understood by many of the missionaries in India. She was also greatly resented by the Hindu priests and was frequently taken to court on charges of being a kidnapper.
Amy was greatly influenced by the life of George Mueller and ordered her work on the same basis, never asking for financial help except as she winged her petitions to the God of all grace. In 1931 (at 64 years of age) Amy had a fall that left her an invalid for the remainder of her life, and she seldom left her bed. It was during this period of her life that she was most prolific in writing -- the profits of which were used to help fund the work. Occasionally someone would wheel her in a type of wheelchair out onto a veranda where her children would gather outside and greet her and sing to her.
It's interesting that most of the children who are there do not know their birth dates, so they reckon on the day they arrived at the Dohnavur home, and call it the "coming day." That becomes their birthday. On the coming day there is a special occasion with special treats and new clothing; and they honor the individual in some way.
Temple prostitution played a major part of Hinduism. This practice was known by the British who governed India and had been spoken against, but nothing ever happened. However, through the "campaigning" of Amy and some other concerned people, temple prostitution was banned toward the end of Amy's life. From the time Amy set foot on Indian soil to the day she died in 1951, she never returned to her homeland. She went 55 years without a furlough, passing away at 84 years of age. Somewhere, in an unmarked tomb on the compound at Dohnavur, Amy was buried. She didn't want a marker placed over her grave. She simply wanted to remain a part of the Dohnavur Fellowship she had started.
Amy's thought from her book "If," which in many ways describes how she continued on in her ministry, is as follows:
"Sometimes when we are distressed by past failure, and tormented by fear of failure in the future, we should again set our faces toward Jerusalem. Nothing helps so much as to give some familiar Scripture time to enter into us and become part of our being. The words "grace for grace" have been a help to me since I read in a little book by Bishop Moule something that opened their meaning. (Till then I had not understood them.)
He says: The word "for" means "instead." "The image is of a perpetual succession of supply; a displacement ever going on... The picture before us is as of a river. Stand on the banks and contemplate the flow of waters. A minute passes, and another. Is it the same stream still? Yes. But is it the same water? No. The liquid mass that passed you a few seconds ago fills now another section of the channel. New water has displaced it, or if you please, replaced it -- water for water, or water instead of water. And so hour by hour, and year by year, and century by century, the process holds; one stream, other waters -- living, not stagnant, because always in the great identity there is perpetual exchange. Grace takes the place of grace [and love takes the place of love]; ever new, ever old, ever the same, ever fresh and young. Old grace, new grace, hour by hour, year by year, through Christ."
"Grace for grace." Same God, same inexhaustible Source, same infinite flow of undeserved favor, yet ever fresh supplies of grace for every situation. Our God is an infinite and inexhaustible supply of fresh, cool, springs of living water, always ready to refresh, renew, empower and restore. "To Him who is able to do exceedingly more than all we can ask or imagine, according to His power at work in us, to Him be glory in the church, and in Christ Jesus, throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen" (Ephesians 3:20-21). In His Service, Pastor Jeff