Amy Carmichael (1867 – 1951), was born the eldest child to wealthy Mill owners in Belfast, who were devout and sincere Christians. Amy attended church and took part in prayers and devotions at home, but was very protected from the ‘real’ life of the majority of those ‘slaving’ to make Irish linen and Irish flour famous. One day when walking home from church, Amy and two of her siblings were moved to help a very elderly lady carry her burden of sticks back to her home. The ragged, old woman smelled and people whom Amy knew, crossed the road to the other side of the street to avoid the strange foursome. As Amy was walking with the old lady a scripture she had heard time and again came back to her with such life, it was as if someone was reading it aloud to her: “Gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay and stubble; every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.” (I Cor3:12-15)
This marked Amy’s life and although just a teenager, she began to do everything she could to share the Gospel. She held children’s meetings in the back garden and wrote tracts and classes for them. Hungry for more outreach work, she began to go with older brethren in to the Belfast slums to share the Gospel. One day, she was shocked to find that a woman she had mistaken for a very old woman, was in fact a girl the same age as herself. She learnt that these young women laboured so hard in the mills that their bodies were bent and beaten from physical wear. They were known as the ‘Shawlies’ because they could not afford hats, so they pulled their shawls up over their heads to bring some warmth against the bitter Belfast winds. Within a year of going to the slums, Amy had around 400 ‘Shawlies’ attending her Gospel meetings. The church hall in which she was meeting was growing too small and Amy began to pray for their own meeting house. Without asking for the finances, money came to Amy within a very short period of time to buy a piece of land and erect a ‘Tin Tabernacle’ which accommodated meetings everyday for the ‘Shawlies’. This principle of not making her needs known to anyone but God was one she continued all her life. After around two years of working night and day—and even living in the slums—Amy became very ill and weak. It was this illness which weakened her and resulted in the devastating diagnoses some years later. BUT GOD had other plans for Amy. She could never have planned the years ahead, and all the work she had done in the Belfast slums prepared her for the more than 50 years on the mission field.
(to be continued…)