A chance to die is Elisabeth Elliot’s title for her account of the life of Amy Carmichael of Dohnavur. If such a title suits anyone, it is surely Elisabeth Elliot herself, as she faced the fearful loss of her young husband Jim, murdered by the Auca Indians in 1950, as he and four others tried to reach them with the gospel.
And this spirit of sacrifice pervades her account of Amy Carmichael’s life, whose selfless dedication to God is surely a role model for us all. Thirty years have elapsed since this biography was first published in 1987; it is now republished by 10Publishingas a handsome hardback, with a warm commendation from Keith and Kristyn Getty.
In A chance to die we are given a comprehensive story of Amy Carmichael’s life, stretching from her birth in Northern Ireland in 1867 to her death in 1951, which was preceded by 20 long years when she was largely bedridden — the result of a back injury following a fall. This detailed biography is clearly a labour of love and Elliot’s intense admiration for Amy shines out on every page.
Her call to missionary work led first to Ceylon, then Japan and finally to India, which was better suited to Amy’s somewhat precarious health. There she established the Dohnavur Fellowship, dedicated to rescuing young and desperately needy girls who had been sold by their parents into ‘service’ — a euphemism for prostitution in Hindu temples.
The degree of detail packed into this account of Amy’s life and work can be a little daunting, even a bit confusing at times, as it is not always easy to follow the story line. Readers might find it helpful to start with Rev. Iain H. Murray’s recent, briefer account of Amy Carmichael’s life and writings, called Beauty for ashes, before attempting Elisabeth Elliot’s longer work.
By interweaving extracts of Amy’s moving poetry and quotations culled from her spiritual reflections, Elisabeth Elliot has provided her readers with many insights into the experiences of this dedicated woman and given us a lofty example of spiritual devotion to God, coupled with a yearning heart for the needs of others.