Amy Carmichael was on her way home from church when she saw to a old woman carrying a heavy bundle in Belfast. Together with her two brothers, Amy, then 17, took the bundle from the woman and helped her along by the arms.
They plodded on in spite of the blushing and sense of shame for associating publicly with such a woman. The wind and rain blew in their faces. The rags of the old woman pressed against them.
Just as they passed by an ornate Victorian fountain in the street, “this mighty phrase flashed as it were through the gray drizzle: ‘Gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay stubble — every man’s work will be made manifest; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work abide…”
The words were so real, Amy turned to see who had spoken them. She saw nothing but a muddy street, people with surprised looks on their faces, and the fountain. But Amy knew this was the voice of God.
That afternoon, Amy shut the door to her room and closed herself in with God. What happened that day would change the course of her life and profoundly impact her priorities. Amy Carmichael began to understand what it means to die to self.
How did this affect her? She purposed in her heart to follow Him who had no home, no earthly possessions beyond the bare minimum. She would be “dead to the world and its applause, to all its customs, fashions, laws.” Amy had an eye for beauty and it was no small sacrifice to embrace this journey of true discipleship.
Amy began to reach out to the “shawlies” girls who worked in the mills and were too poor to by hats. They used their shawls to cover their heads, which was offensive to the proper church members. Which was worse, Amy bringing these crude “commoners” to the church or Mrs. Carmichael allowing her to go into the slums to fetch them? They couldn’t decide. Amy didn’t care about her reputation. She was dead. Christ was alive in her, loving the shawlies through her. It was a relief to the church folk when the shawlies were coming in such large numbers that Amy needed a separate building for them. This was no small challenge for a now 22 year-old girl. But Amy believed God for both the Land and the building. The invitations were sent out and the grand opening set for January 2, 1889. She invited her minister to dedicate “The Mill and Factory Girls’ Branch of the YMCA.” A banner was hung in the front with words, “That in all things HE might have the preeminence.”
Two students of D.L. Moody led the service. Amy wasn’t on the platform that night. She wasn’t on the program. Yes, it was her vision that initiated the ministry and her dream that brought about the building. But she sat inconspicuously in the middle of the audience. Amy Carmichael had died to self.
On the mission field, God again used Amy’s “mother’s heart” to minister to children. She spent fifty-three years in India setting up orphanages to rescue children from prostitution in Hindu temples and ministering to the people she met.
While serving in India, Amy received a letter from a young lady who was considering life as a missionary, She asked Amy, “What is missionary life like?” Amy wrote back saying simply, “Missionary life is a chance to die.”
At one point in her early years Amy said, “Nothing could ever matter again but the things that were eternal.”
As a youngster, Amy ejected the dark brown eyes God had given her, and longed instead for blue eyes. But with her brown eyes, she was later able to go inside the Hindu temples to rescue children.
Amy demonstrated death to self by praying for money without telling anyone.