Heroes of the faith
Walking home from church one dreary Sunday, Amy Carmichael and her brothers noticed an old beggar woman struggling under the weight of a heavy bundle. They quickly rushed to her side to help. Being from a wealthy family, Amy suddenly felt embarrassed to be seen with this poor woman as the other parishioners passed by. Just then, God spoke a verse clearly to Amy’s heart, “Gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw…the fire will test what sort of work each one has done…” Standing tall, she knew in that moment that she would never again be embarrassed to offer help to anyone, especially the least of these.
“Give me the Love that leads the way…”
Amy started noticing needs all around her. While handing out bread and tracts in Belfast, she noticed many young beggar women her age, hunched over, with only a thin shawl to keep them warm, earning them the nickname “Shawlies”. Wanting to share the love of God with them, she began a Bible study in a local church. The group soon outgrew the space and through prayer was able to obtain a piece of land and enough funds for a tin building they named The Welcome Hall where they held Bible studies and worship meetings for all. She also decided to live among them, for how could she tell them that peace and joy were possible in the midst of such hardship if she did not experience it herself? Little did she know, this season of ministry was merely preparation for what God had in store for her.
“The Faith that nothing can dismay…”
After hearing Hudson Taylor speak at a revival meeting years later, Amy felt a strong call to follow in his footsteps and become a missionary. Her journeys led her to Japan, Ceylon, and eventually Southern India, where she found her true life’s calling. This region of India had an established Christian missionary base. But to her surprise, they were too busy duplicating their English lifestyle to truly reach out to the surrounding community. The longer Amy was there and the more she learned about the local Hindu traditions, the more she knew things had to change.
“The Hope no disappointments tire…”
Women were often mistreated, especially if they were deemed useless, such as was the case with Sellamutthu, who only had one arm and therefore could not do all the chores a woman was expected to do. There was also the tradition known as suttee, where a widow was expected to throw herself into the cremation fire when her husband died as a sign of loyalty to him. And then there was the practice of temple prostitution. Parents would often sell their young children to the Hindu temple, where they would be “married” to the gods and serve as slaves to the priests.
“The Passion that’ll burn like fire.”
Amy began opening her heart and her home to young women and girls who found themselves in these situations. Danger quickly followed, as abandoning the Hindu faith was often punished by death. But Amy was not deterred. These precious jewels had to be rescued. What started with just a few girls grew rapidly to over a hundred as word spread. The ministry grew and became known as the Dohnavur Fellowship, eventually opening a home for boys as well. For over 50 years, Amma (as they called her, meaning Mother) rescued hundreds of children from a life of unspeakable agony and death. The great-grandchildren of many of those kids carry on the mission today, as the Dohnavur Fellowship continues to shine God’s light of love and hope in Southern India.