"I will pray once more," said Amanda to herself, "and if there is any such thing as salvation, I am determined to have it this afternoon or die." It was on this day, a Tuesday, the 17th of March, 1856, and she was ironing. She set the dinner table and, her duties done, went down to the cellar to pray.
She half-expected that the family would find her dead. She had prayed before without results. "I cannot remember the time from my earliest childhood that I did not want to be a Christian, and would often pray alone," she wrote. But she had no assurance of acceptance with God.
At one time, she thought if only she would go to the altar rail at the front of the church, she would achieve peace with God. However, she had determined not to embarrass herself that way. Eventually, she became so weary of the ache inside of her that she did go to the altar, but she came away just as miserable as when she went.
Amanda was ready to throw in the towel of her search for God, but a whisper said, "pray again." And so she climbed down into the cellar. Again her prayers seemed futile. Darkness settled on her. She remained at odds with God.
Finally, in desperation, believing that God would strike her dead because she had promised to get saved or die, she looked up and said, "O, Lord, if You will help me I will believe You." In the act of telling God she would believe, she did believe. "O, the peace and joy that flooded my soul!" From that day forward, Amanda had two ambitions: to know God better and to tell others about him.
Born a slave in Maryland, Amanda Berry was freed from physical slavery when she was three. Now she was freed from spiritual slavery. But she still had to learn obedience. "O, I would God I had always obeyed Him, then would my peace have flowed as the river, but many times I failed." Among her mistakes were two bad marriages.
Eventually, Amanda became an effective evangelist and Christian singer. She learned to follow the promptings of the Holy Spirit, who enabled her to open an orphanage, serve as a missionary, and write a fascinating autobiography which captures the black, female experience after the US Civil War. All of Amanda's children died young but with heroic faith she was able to say "Your will, O Lord, not mine.
- Deen, Edith. Great Women of the Christian Faith. New York: Harper, 1959.
- Hine, Darlene Clark, editor. Black Women in America. Brooklyn, New York: Carlson, 1993.
- Notable American Women, 1607-1950; a biographical dictionary. Edward T. James, editor. Janet Wilson James, associate editor. Paul S. Boyer, assistant editor. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press, 1971.
- Smith, Amanda. An Autobiography: the story of the Lord's dealings with Mrs. Amanda Smith, the Colored evangelist. Chicago, 1893.