Not to be Forgotten: Amy Carmichael 1867-1951 Missionary to India -- By: Leslie Hammond

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 18:2 (Spring 2004)
Article: Not to be Forgotten: Amy Carmichael 1867-1951 Missionary to India
Author: Leslie Hammond


Not to be Forgotten: Amy Carmichael
1867-1951 Missionary to India

Leslie Hammond

“If souls can suffer alongside, and I hardly know it—then I know nothing of Calvary love.” The author of these words, Amy Carmichael, spent 55 years in the mission fields of India, rescuing over 1,000 children from temple prostitution and other forms of abuse, and providing them with a home, an education, and spiritual salvation. Her organization, the Dohnavur Fellowship, still thrives 50 years after her death.

Born in northern Ireland to an evangelical Christian family, Carmichael was 24 when she attended an 1891 Keswick Bible Conference and there committed herself to a life of Christian service. The Keswick Movement, which swept England during the last quarter of the 19th century, urged Christians to live out their faith by serving God, and young Amy Carmichael responded to its message of “deeper life theology” by boarding a ship one year later for the mission fields of the Far East. Her first assignment was in Japan, but difficulty with both language and climate made her realize that she was not in the place where God wanted her. She moved on to the friendlier climate of Ceylon, but found her work there cut short by an urgent summons home to care for a dying friend. By 1895, however, she was back in the Far East—this time in India, where she would spend the rest of her life.

Immediately after her arrival, young Carmichael dedicated herself to mastering Tamil, the language of southern India, and then gathered together a group of Indian women who had converted to Christianity. Calling themselves the “Starry Cluster,” the women traveled from village to village sharing the gospel message of hope. In 1900 the evangelistic group settled in the town of Dohnavur, where Carmichael soon learned of the Hindu custom whereby little girls were “married to the gods” and then offered as prostitutes to men who visited the temples. In 1901 she rescued her first temple child, a young girl named Preena, or “Pearl Eyes,” and from that point on felt called by God to save as many children as she possibly could from this life of forced prostitution.

Carmichael soon became known to her Indian neighbors as “child-catching Missy Ammai.” Her interference in Hindu custom brought angry opposition from both villagers and authorities, and she faced kidnapping charges on several occasions. News of Carmichael’s courageous exploits reached Christian circles back in England, and in 1912 Queen Mary gave her official recognition for her efforts.

By 1913 Carmichael’s “Dohnavur Fellowship” had 130 female children under its protection. Her staff of both European and Indian women voluntarily forsook marriage in order to focus on the rescue, care, feeding, and education of the children, and in 1916 she fo...

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