On 16 December 1867, missionary Amy Carmichael was born in Millisle in Northern Ireland. Some 150 years later a beautiful sculpture of her as a 10-year-old girl was unveiled outside Hamilton Road Presbyterian Church in Bangor.
The church is home to the annual Worldwide Missionary Convention. The sculpture was the idea of Derek Bingham, first thought of ten years ago.
It was created by Christian artist and sculptor Ross Wilson and portrays a determined girl, holding a notebook — her diary of grace, containing God’s plans for her life — looking out to the world. Embossed on her hat are starry flowers, picturing those who would work with her, proclaiming the gospel and rescuing orphans.
Amy’s 56 unbroken years of service in India were recorded by her in 36 books, which were diligently read by Christians in the West in the first half of the last century. People-trafficking is not new. But, born 150 years ago last December, this single, often sick, missionary woman from Northern Ireland dared challenge it in India.
Hinduism encouraged the temple slavery of children. It was prostitution perpetrated in the name of that ancient religion, where little girls and boys were sold to ‘marry’ the Brahmin temple priests.
When Amy Carmichael discovered what was happening, she was so horrified by the practice that she began a work to rescue children from the temples. Her mission station in Dohnavur in South India grew to accommodate hundreds of children. Her little essay, The cry of the blood, about to be reprinted, rebukes and challenges half-hearted Christian living.
Valerie Elliot Shepherd, daughter of Jim and Elizabeth Elliot (who wrote the recently republished biography of Amy, A chance to die) spoke movingly of the influence of Amy Carmichael on her parents.
She also spoke about her own experiences after her father was martyred, as one of the Auca martyrs on 8 January 1956, when she was just 10 months old. Quoting Amy Carmichael — ‘In acceptance lies peace’ — Ms Elliot Shepherd told of the profound influence Amy had on her parents.
The invited guests heard from the minister of Hamilton Road Presbyterian Church, Rev. David Johnston; one of Derek Bingham’s daughters, Kerry; and Ross Wilson, who explained his motivation in making the sculpture, saying that creativity, like music, is our DNA. His prayer is that, for generations to come, the sculpture will stand as a challenge to Christians.
Margaret Bingham unveiled the sculpture and thanks were given to God for the life and legacy of Amy Carmichael. A booklet and a tract about Amy were given to everyone in attendance. A video about the making of the sculpture can be seen on: https:/vimeo.com/247630116
A week earlier, Jonathan Clarke, minister of the Welcome Evangelical Church on the Shankhill Road in Belfast, which Amy founded, spoke at meetings in the North of England, including taking a chapel service at Harrogate Ladies’ College. Now a school of 300 girls, it was while boarding there that Amy trusted Jesus as her Lord and Saviour at a children’s mission being held in Harrogate.
Years later Amy wrote: ‘My mother had often talked to me about the Lord Jesus and, as I sat on her knee, she had sung hymns to me. I had felt the love of the Lord Jesus and nestled in his love just as I had nestled in her arms. But I had not understood that there was something more to do, something that may be called coming to him, or opening the door to him, or giving oneself to him’.
As they sang ‘Jesus loves me, this I know; for the Bible tells me so’, Amy asked Jesus to be her Lord and Saviour. She believed that he had suffered on the cross, paying for her sin, and that three days later he had risen from the dead.
In those days only 40 pupils attended Harrogate Ladies’ College. Books by Amy Carmichael were given to the school library, as well as a tract about her life to all the girls.
The legacy of Amy lives on in Dohnavur in South India, A bird bath under a tree in Dohnavur commemorates her. On it is inscribed the simple word Amma (meaning ‘mother’). The Dohnavur Fellowship continues in India caring for children rescued from situations of danger.
The legacy also lives on at Welcome Evangelical Church. Very much in the spirit of Amy Carmichael who said, ‘Love to live, and live to love’, the church has recently opened a centre which provides and cares for children with disabilities.