"Please help me! Please don't send me back!" screamed 7-year-old Preena as she jumped into Amy Carmichael's lap, clinging to her neck. The little girl had just escaped from a Hindu temple in the middle of the night while her guardians were sleeping. She tiptoed quietly through an unlocked door and pushed open the heavy gate running as fast as she could.
Preena's mother had given her to the temple priests in hopes of winning the favor of the gods. Amy did not know what was going on, but she knew this little frightened girl needed her love and protection.
Amy Carmichael had come to India as a missionary to reach those who did not know Jesus. Amy was sure that God did not want her to marry and have children of her own. That decision had been settled many years before. But was He now asking her to settle down and become a mother to an unwanted Indian child?
Life in Ireland
Amy Carmichael grew up in a wealthy family in Ireland. Her father owned a flour mill business. She went to the best boarding schools and had many fine things.
But one day Amy's life changed without warning. Her father's business began to lose money and it closed. Mr. Carmichael worried so much about his business that he became ill and died.
The family could no longer afford expensive things. Amy had to drop out of school. She spent the next ten years helping her mother take care of her younger sisters and brothers.
One cold, dreary day as the young Amy, her mother and brothers left church, Amy saw something that changed her life. An old beggar woman came staggering out of the alley. Her clothes were torn and mud soaked rags covered her feet. Amy felt sorry for the woman. She and her brother helped the old woman down the alley. When she saw other people from church pass by them, she was embarrassed to be seen with the woman and hid her face. As she continued to walk with the beggar, Amy noticed a fountain in the center of the road. She studied it closely. Then she heard a voice say, "Gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay and straw -- the fire will test what sort of work each has done. If the foundation survives, he will receive the reward." She turned to see who was speaking, but saw no one. Amy knew that she appeared kind by helping the old woman, but she knew her heart was wrong. From that moment on, she decided to hold her head high. She was no longer embarrassed. When she got home, she searched the bible and found the words she had heard. Amy knelt by her bed and promised God that in the future she would only do things to please him.
Another time she and her mother stopped to have tea and biscuits in a restaurant. As they ate, Amy saw a dirty little beggar girl with her nose pressed against the window. The poor little girl, with no food, touched Amy so much that she made another promise. She promised that when she grew up she would give her money to the poor.
Amy Carmichael became very excited about doing what God wanted her to do. On Saturday evenings, she would go with her pastor to the poor neighborhoods to hand out tracts and food to the poor people known as Shawlies. The Shawlies made so little money that they could not afford hats so they used their shawls to protect their heads from the cold. They were eager to learn about God. Amy's heart went out to them. She moved into their neighborhood and slept in bug-infested beds to be closer to the people. She prayed about building a church for them to attend but didn't know where she would get money for such a large job. She did not want to ask the rich people in her old church who didn't seem to care about the Shawlies. Instead she and the Shawlies asked God to provide it. God answered their prayers and a new church was built.
Time to Move On
Amy began to sense that God wanted her to tell people in other countries about him. There was one problem though. Amy had an illness that made her so sick she had to stay in bed days at a time. Despite her health, she knew she must obey God.
Life In India
Amy traveled the India countryside telling anyone who would listen about Christ.
One day Preena, a little Indian girl, was collecting water for the temple near where Amy was speaking. Preena stopped to listen as Amy told the ladies about her God who loved everybody the same. He did not put people in different classes as the Indian caste system did. Preena was very interested in what Amy was saying but knew she must not be seen listening to the stranger. She tucked Amy's words into her memory and hurried back to the temple.
Indian girls were often unwanted and were given to the temple to serve as prostitutes. Because of this, when Preena arrived at Amy's door, Amy knew she could not send her back. The little girl would be beaten, even killed, if she were returned. Amy could have been charged with kidnapping and thrown into prison. But it was a chance she was willing to take.
Over the 50 years she spent in India, Amy Carmichael took in hundreds of unwanted children. She became known as "Amma" or mother to them.
How well did you read the story?
- When Amy was young, she had an experience with a beggar woman that changed her life. What happened? How did her life change?
- Who were the Shawlies, and how did Amy help them?
- Why did Amy choose to protect Preena? What risk was Amy taking in allowing Preena to stay with her?
- How did Amy serve God during the 50 years she spent in India?