1867 – 1951
The Rescuer of India’s childrenby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
“Amma! Amma!” 84-year-old Amy Wilson Carmichael awoke with a start from her peaceful sleep to her many children crying Mother in the native Tamil language outside her window. “Amma wake up!” Slowly, but surely, Amy forced her old crippled body into an upright sitting position. Soon she could hear Jewel hushing the children and telling them to leave their Amma alone. Amy couldn’t help but smile at the rude awakening, thinking she wouldn’t want her life to be any different. As her usual routine she pulled out her Bible, and prayed, thanking God for not forgetting her and her children and for blessing them as much as he was.
Resting comfortably, she started to ponder where she had left off in what would become a book filled with her own stories that had lead her to become Amma to so many children.
She had already written a little about her birth on December 16, 1867 in Millisle, Northern Ireland, making sure not to forget to include some stories of her 3 younger sisters and 4 younger brothers.
One afternoon, she and her brother came across a homeless woman (called a Shawlie for the Shawls the homeless wore). The woman was stumbling over the stone path trying to carry her bags, and probably would have taken a bone-shattering fall if Amy and her brother had not assisted her back home. Although it was a short distance to go, the experience would forever change Amy’s life, and million’s of lives around the world. There were many who looked down on Amy for helping the woman, and she had to learn to hold her head high and proud that she was helping someone in need. In addition to that lesson, she experienced a small miracle; she heard the words “Go ye”, as if a human voice had just spoken to her. She looked around the owner of the voice, but found none. When she arrived home later in the day, she eagerly looked up the words “Go ye” in her Bible, in hopes to find a verse that finished the statement. God was with Amy then, as he also had been, and always would be, and showed her a different verse in 1 Corinthians 3:12-14 – “Now anyone who builds on that foundation may use gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. But there is going to come a time of testing at the judgment day to see what kind of work each builder has done. Everyone's work will be put through the fire to see whether or not it keeps its value. If the work survives the fire, that builder will receive a reward.”.
After just a few short years of living with and teaching the Shawlies, Amy heard God’s calling again. This time she felt like God was calling her to go oversees, specifically, India.
“Amma?”, Amy put her pen down and looked up from her writings, “Yes?”. A very small, thin girl entered Amy’s room, and tiptoed her way into Amy’s lap. The girl was 6 years old, though she appeared to be only a toddler because of her small frame. “Tell me again how I became your little girl, Amma?” asked the little girl as she put her arms around her Amma’s neck in a loving embrace. Amy sighed, put her biography away, and started: “Well my precious Gem, you were only just short of 2 months old when your REAL Amma died of a jungle fever. Your Papa, although he loved you dearly, was going to give you to a local Temple, to make the gods of his religion happy.” The small girl’s eyes became wide with horror, “What would I do there Amma?”. Amy continued, wishing her daughter wouldn’t have to know such things so early. “Well the temple priests would never let you play in the sunshine like you do here, and they would teach you dreadful things. Then you would eventually be ‘married’ to the false gods, and would become a prostitute in ‘honor’ of the gods. God was watching over you though, my dear Gem, he knew you needed to become my daughter. So through your aunt, He brought you to me, and now I am your Amma, and you are my precious daughter.” Satisfied with the story, the little girl bounced off to go play with one of Amy’s 100 other “daughters”. The tired Amy sighed, but thanked God repeatedly for how he was using her. Amy thought of all her other “daughters” and “sons” who had the same story as Gem, and how God was working in the lives of the people to break their Caste system to bring Amy children who needed a loving Amma.
Once in India, missionary work was very difficult, but Amy being as strong willed as she was, persisted, and was rewarded with a band of Indian women who became Christians. That wasn’t enough for her though, especially after she learned more of the horrors of the caste system. Such as a mother would rather her child die of a curable disease than to allow him to be seen by a doctor of a lower caste. She also learned about how newborn children were sold for the use of prostitution in the temples for their entire lives. Ironically as Amy fought the caste system of India, she found herself also fighting the caste system that the missionaries had created in their own communities. In the Indian caste system, there were levels of importance of the value of a person’s life, depending completely on the family they were born into. The castes ranged from a person of very high importance and value (Brahmans who are political and religious figures) down to the people who, according to the system, didn’t deserve a caste, and were simply the Untouchables (usually maintenance workers). Similarly the missionaries caste system began with those of high importance and value (themselves), then the Christian Indians (their servants/slaves), then the non-Christian Muslims/Hindus, and then lastly, the children of India and the missionaries who had “gone native”. Amy knew she needed to break both systems, because God sent his Son to die for, and love ALL people, including the Untouchables and the children of India.
This was not acceptable to Amy, and she immediately began trying to break the caste. Soon families were giving Amy their newborn girls, because girls were not of any value to them. After just a few short years the Carmichael “family” grew, and grew. Property was then purchased , and a small village was created to accommodate Amy, her girls, and her growing band of women Christians.
The village was called Dohnavur, and didn’t take long before it was filled with un-wanted girls, and loving Christian women. In 1918 the first boy arrived in Dohnvur, and became just the first of hundreds of boys who would fill a similar village next door to the girls. Amy loved every minute of working with all the children, and called them all her precious Gems. Although she never married, the hundreds of children became her children, and she was a loving Amma to them all.
Feeling more tired than usual, Amy put away her papers for the last time. Lying back on her pillow, she thought about the past 56 years she had spent in India, and how much God had blessed her life. Then she closed her eyes, and fell asleep for the last time. She never awoke. Amy Wilson Carmichael went to go be with her God that she spent her whole life serving, on January 18, 1951. She was buried in her garden along with many of her children that had died over the years. Although she clearly asked before her death for no grave stone to be put over her grave, her children put a bird bath over it with one word written on it: Amma.
1 "Essential facts about Amy Carmichael, as well as a very extensive reading list!" World History. 16 Dec. 2003. <http://www.heroesofhistory.com/index.html>
(Book) Janet & Geoff Benge. Amy Carmichael: Rescuer of Precious Gems. Christian Heroes: Then & Now.