Monday, August 27, 2018

Amy Carmichael – Beauty for Ashes

 This captivating biography by  Iain Murray is one of those books I couldn't put down.    Patricia MacArthur aptly states in her Forward:

 "The truly moving biographies of Christians are surely encouraging, while also being convicting.   They tear at the fabric of our complacency and selfishness.   The lifelong sacrificial usefulness of Amy Carmichael fits that pattern."

Amy Carmichael was born at Millisle,  Northern Ireland in 1867 and spent  over fifty years,  mostly  in Southern India,   serving as a missionary,  mother, teacher, and nurse, to 1,850  girls and 670 boys of the lower caste system.   She never returned home.    
With the help of a missionary couple,  Amy  established a  home for children at Dohnavur  when a  young girl  showed up on her doorstep after fleeing  the horrors of  temple prostitution,  so  common among  poor Hindu children.    As God continued to bring babies and children to  Amy,  she realized this was to be  her life’s calling  and she affectionately  became known  as “Ammai” meaning  “true mother”.   
 But  Amy’s work  was no mere watered down  social gospel  designed to  meet only temporal  needs.    Rather, her chief  desire  was  to see these dear children  transformed by  the  power of the Gospel  so  that they  might  serve  the  Savior  and others  with a whole heart. 
Before going to India,  Amy had spent 15 months in Japan (1893-94) and learned some valuable lessons  there about evangelism.
 “Some of her experiences here would mark the rest of her life.  She learned to reject some of the methods of winning the attention of unbelievers which some evangelicals were adopting.  She was advised ‘that more girls would be drawn to meetings if she offered  lessons in sewing or embroidery and administered only a mild dose of the gospel’.  By that means, it was said, more would listen to her speak about  Jesus.  But she did not believe in such indirect dealing with people. 
“I would rather have two who came in earnest than a hundred who  came to play.  We have no time to play with souls like this.  It is not by ceremonial tea making and flower arranging, not by wood chrysanthemum and foreign sewing learning,  but by my Spirit, saith the Lord.” “ 1
Years later  in India,  Amy was faced with  perhaps the most painful decision in  her life.      A much needed  young  doctor from Cambridge who belonged to her  mission society,   which  owned  Dohnavur,    had  come  to work but  he had  adopted the  "new evangelicalism"and  rejected the  full inspiration  of Scripture.  Because the mission board  had no restrictions  about this,  Amy dismissed the doctor and broke ties with the mission board.   By God’s grace  she  kept the property  and became independent,  freeing her  to retain the things which mattered  most, including the verbal inspiration of Scripture.    Thus the “The  Dohnavur Nurseries” now became  The Dohnavur Fellowship adopting  the  following goal:
 “To save children in moral danger;  to train them to serve others; to succour the desolate and suffering;  to do anything that may be shown to be the will of our Heavenly Father, in order to make his love known, especially to the people of India.” 3
Christians  throughout the world  were blessed and encouraged  by  Amy's many books written in her lifetime.      The  latter years  of her life in Dohnavur were spent as an invalid, yet it was during that time that she produced some of her most cherished literature. 
"Shadow and shine art Thou,
Dear Lord, to me;
Pillar of cloud and fire,
I follow Thee.
What though the way be long,
In Thee my heart is strong,
Thou art my joy and song-
Praise, praise to Thee. 
 Amy Carmichael's life provides  a shining example  for Christian women and men  today  of what a life  of  faith and selfless service can accomplish  for the Kingdom of God.   

1. Amy Carmichael - Beauty for Ashes by Ian H. Murray .  Banner of Truth Trust 2015;  page 11-12 – with quotes from Elizabeth Elliot’s  A Chance to Die, The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael.
2.  Ibid; pg. 85
3. Ibid; pg 88
4. Ibid. pg. 116


  1. I read "A Chance to Die" quite a number of years ago. Your post makes me want to pull it off my shelf and read it again.

  2. Isn't amazing she spent left for India to never return home again? Now, that's a different commitment to missions then we commonly see today! Thanks for sharing, Diane. Amy Carmichael, an example worth reading about!