The work of Amy Carmichael is known in many Christian circles, though she’d hardly be considered a household name. Her life of 84 years bridged two centuries and two continents, two cultures and two vastly different socioeconomic worlds. And she did not leave any of them unchanged.
Born into means in the middle of the 19th century, Amy grew up in Northern Ireland, the daughter of a wealthy businessman. She was attending a Methodist boarding school when she gave her life to Jesus. Before long, Amy was working in the slums, teaching children and serving the poor. Her heart broke for the girls that worked 14-hour days in the local mills for next to no money. Amy poured out the love of Jesus and brought them to church with her each week. When she found them widely unwelcomed in her congregation, she purchased a tin building, calling it The Tin Tabernacle, and planted a church for her marginalized sisters. It remains in Belfast to this day, aptly called the Welcome Evangelical Church.
When her father’s business failed, his health failed too, both catastrophes the family would not recover from. Soon Amy and her mother were alone providing for themselves and Amy’s six siblings. Still serving in the slums, Amy became ill and moved to the country to recover. It was soon after that she heard God’s call to a life of service a world away, to a people and culture as different from her own as night is from day:
She went as an evangelist, and founded a rescue mission.
She went to save souls, and found herself opening a hospital.
She built an orphanage, and told the Hindu temples they could not have God’s children.
She opened a school, and educated the church back home on the real world.
She served the poor and forgotten, and became one of them herself.
She declared the value of all human life, and risked her own in the process.
She preached the gospel every day, and sometimes used words.
She gave her life to Jesus in Ireland, and He gave it back to her in India.
From rich to poor, from Ireland to India, in both health and hardship, Amy Carmichael’s work and words wind their way into our century as well. They call to us. They challenge us. They confirm that God can and does and will use girls to change the world. We just have to show up and the work will find its way to us.
Just like Amy.