Amy Carmichael met Pearl-Eyes on March 7, 1901.
Born on 16 December, 1867, into an Irish Presbyterian home, and the oldest of seven children, Amy was truly converted in a Wesleyan Methodist school at the age of 16.
The next crisis in her life was nearly three years later when she attended a holiness convention in Glasgow. Here she made a full surrender to her Lord. As a young woman she ministered to the women working in Belfast’s textile mills.
Amy heard Hudson Taylor of China Inland Mission describe the great need for missionaries. “In China,” he said, “four thousand souls a day are dying without Christ”. Amy’s all-consuming desire to spread the Gospel, coupled with her love of excitement and strong personality, seemed a perfect fit the mission life. Amy decided she would never marry or have a family, but would spread the Gospel in foreign lands.
So in 1893 (March 3, at the age of 26) we find her sailing for Japan, the first missionary sent out by the Keswick Convention (UK). Two years later – after health problems forced her to return to England – we find her in Bangalore, India. And there she remained for 56 years without a furlough!
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Then Amy met Preena (or Pearl-Eyes) – a seven year-old girl who had escaped from one of the Hindu temples where she had been sold by her parents to work as a ‘temple prostitute’.
Preena had escaped from the temple once before, making her way back to her mother. The mother, however, was afraid the gods would punish her so she took the terrified and screaming child back to the temple. Preena’s hands were branded in punishment.
On her next attempt to escape Preena ran to a church in the village where one of the local women took her to Amy. Preena climbed onto Amy’s lap and called her “Amma”, which is Tamil for Mother.
Displeased people from the temple came screaming and yelling, but their anger slowly subsided and the crowd dispersed. Thus Amy was left with Preena.
Amy had already given up the idea of family, so she could serve the Lord unencumbered. Now she was faced with a child who needed her care. She knew the Tamil saying, ‘Children tie the mother’s feet’, and wondered if the Lord was calling her from her teaching and preaching to the more mundane domestic role of mother.
So began the work of what would later be known as Dohnavur Fellowship.
A righteously angry Amy Carmichael began her crusade against the infamous child prostitution practice. Initially dozens of little girls were rescued from temple prostitution and hundreds of others from extreme poverty or neglect. By 1923 Amy was running 30 nurseries to care for these young girls who had been dedicated to prostitution, either by “sacred vow” of family members or for money.
In 1945 a missionary statesman visited her headquarters at Dohnavur and wrote: “The number of children about to be dedicated to Hindu gods who were rescued by Miss Carmichael now runs into several thousands… There are now over 800 children in her three homes…”
Dohnavur is situated in Tamil Nadu, just 30 miles from the southern tip of India. It was a safe, secluded place when Amma and friends decided to live there, but has since developed into a bustling city.
Amy did not treat her project as an orphanage. Children are taken into the community as life members. They even take on a new family name, Carunia, which is Tamil for ‘lovingkindness’.
Temple prostitution was officially outlawed in India in 1948, which did not eradicate the practice, but reduced it significantly.
Amy’s orphans experienced an amazing revival in 1905, known as the Donhavur Revival. Further information about that great event can be found at another post: http://chrisfieldblog.com/ministry/church-history/dohnavur-revival
Amy experienced a serious fall in 1931. “For nearly 20 years she scarcely left her room, and for the last two and a half years of her life she could not get out of bed at all.” (God’s Madcap, by Nancy Robbins, page 93). Her longing for the Lord to take her home was fulfilled on 18 January, 1951.
Amy’s heritage was to be totally abandoned to the Lord Jesus, not to lead a life of ease, but to give one’s life for others.
“If by doing some work which the undiscerning consider ‘not spiritual work’ I can best help others, and I inwardly rebel, thinking it is the spiritual for which I crave, when in truth it is the interesting and the exciting, then I know nothing of Calvary love.” Amy Carmichael
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This post is based on notes by my late friend Donald Prout. I have updated these historical posts with information gleaned from other sources. I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History. Don’s notes can be found at: www.donaldprout.com