(Photo courtesy of bbc.co.uk)
Women of Purity: Amy Carmichael
By Selma Komisky
“It is God’s truth that one loving spirit sets others on fire.”
– Amy Carmichael
Amy Carmichael was one of seven children born December 16th, 1867 in Millisle on the northern coast of Ireland to David and Catherine Carmichael. She was raised up in a rather comfortable and wealthy Presbyterian home. Her father owned several flour mill businesses. She had a happy childhood however her home was never the same when her family lost their business and her father as he passed away when she was seventeen. Carmichael then quit school and became like a second mother to her siblings to help out her family.
But Amy was a godly servant, helper, and a risk taker. She initiated weekly prayer meetings, taught the boys of Belfast and worked at the YWCA (Young Women’s Christian Association). Carmichael had a heart for the underprivileged and taught a Bible class at church for “Shawlies” who were eager to learn about God (poor mill girls who couldn’t afford hats and covered their heads with shawls). She was burdened for the girls but the thought of young Carmichael being permitted to venture into the slum to minister was looked down upon in her pious church community. Soon the group of girls grew and they needed a place to seat five hundred. Through much prayer, God provided a place called the Tin Tabernacle (a welcome hall that was in a building made of iron).
Carmichael was single in her early twenties when God began to call her to be a missionary, she ventured into countries like Japan, China, and India where she arrived in 1895 and remained until her death.
In 1901, she founded the Dohnavur Fellowship (a refuge/orphanage for deprived children in mortal danger). One time, a seven-year-old child was brought to Carmichael that had gotten away from a Hindu temple. This became her discovery of the Devadasi system by which baby girls could be dedicated to Hindu temples to serve as cult prostitutes. Carmichael felt God brought this to her attention to help rescue these children from harm and so the Dohnavur Fellowship was started.
Additionally, she also was no stranger to suffering. Carmichael suffered from neuralgia, a disease that stimulates the nerves to feel pain. She had several bad falls that restricted her movement and left her practically an invalid. But, she didn’t let this limit her. She continued to direct ministry from the confines of her room and also wrote many books. Through it all, she was a firm believer in prayer and depended on the Lord day by day for direction.
In her life, Carmichael published nearly 40 books along with her own devotions and poems. She had a loving spirit, reached out to the poor, rejected and the downcast. She also loved and trusted the Lord. Her desire was to share the gospel with the unsaved and help others. In return, she was beloved by the Indian community and fondly called “Amma,” meaning mother in Tamil. Carmichael was 83 when she passed away on January 18th, 1951.