Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | October 26, 2009

A Chance to Die

Amy Carmichael Portrait

Amy Carmichael was, perhaps, the most unlikely candidate for missionary work. Born in 1867 to devout Christian parents in Northern Ireland, she suffered from neuralgia — sharp nerve pain that often debilitated and caused her to be bedridden for weeks at a time. After the death of her father, she was adopted and mentored by Robert Wilson, cofounder of the Keswick Convention (an annual gathering of evangelical Christians in Keswick, England).

At the Keswick Convention of 1887, Amy heard Hudson Taylor, founder of China Inland Mission, speak about missionary life. She was profoundly touched by Taylor’s message. Amy later felt God’s call to serve Him as a missionary. She applied to China Inland Mission to serve in Asia but was not allowed to go because of concerns about her health.

In spite of her frail health, Amy was still convinced of God’s call to serve Him in foreign fields. She later joined the Church Missionary Society and served in Japan for fifteen months. However, after a brief visit to Sri Lanka, Amy felt God calling her to serve in India. She therefore moved to Tamil Nadu, the state located in the southernmost tip of the Indian Peninsula.

Amy spent the remaining fifty-six years of her life in Tamil Nadu and never returned to Ireland again. Just as Hudson Taylor had adopted the dress of the Chinese, Amy adopted the dress of the people she served. She even dyed her skin with dark coffee in an attempt to better relate to those she was trying to reach.

Amy Carmichael and Kids

Much of Amy’s work was with women and young girls. She founded an organization called Dohnavur Fellowship. This organization became a sanctuary to more than one-thousand vulnerable women and children, including young ladies forced to work as prostitutes to raise money for Hindu temples.

Amy often traveled long distances to save children from suffering and from abusive situations. Those she rescued affectionately called her Amma, which means mother in the Tamil language.

While serving in India, a young lady wrote to Amy and asked her what missionary life is like. Amy wrote back saying, “Missionary life is simply a chance to die.”

In 1931, Amy was badly injured in a fall and, as a result, was often bedridden throughout the remaining years of her life. Before her death in 1951 at the age eighty-three, Amy requested that no stone be put over her grave. The children and residents of Dohnavur Fellowship honored her wish and instead put a bird bath over her grave with the inscription “Amma.”

Amy labored selflessly to declare God’s glory among the nations. Over the course of her life, she wrote thirty-five books and hundreds of hymns and songs. Her life inspired many to serve as missionaries, including Jim and Elisabeth Elliot.

Amy once wrote, “Can we follow the Savior far, who have no wound or scar?” Jim Elliot certainly understood the meaning of those words and that the missionary life is simply a chance to die. Elliot later wrote in his journal, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” On January 8, 1956, Jim Elliot was martyred at the end of a spear in the jungles of Ecuador.

The kingdom of God has advanced over the past two millennia because of people like Amy Carmichael, Jim Elliot, and others like them who embraced the missionary life as a chance to die.

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