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RE:QUEST

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People: Amy Carmichael

How did Amy become Amma?

 

Born in 1867, Amy Carmichael grew up in a wealthy family in County Down, Ireland where she attended the best school and had all that she wanted. However, things were soon to change. Mr. Carmichael’s business began to lose money and her father was so worried about his business that he became ill and died. The family could no longer afford to live such a grand life and Amy had to leave school to help her mum look after the younger children.

It was one cold night when Amy was leaving the church that she saw an old woman staggering down the road. Her clothes were torn and mud-soaked rags covered her feet. Amy felt sorry for the woman and carefully went over to help. As she continued to walk with the woman, Amy heard a voice say, "Gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay and straw -- the fire will test what sort of work each has done. If the foundation survives, he will receive the reward."

Amy knew that the voice was from God and she also knew that even though she appeared kind by helping the old woman, she knew her heart was wrong as she felt ashamed to be seen with her. When she got home Amy prayed a promise to God that in the future she would only do things to please Him. This prayer was to shape the rest of Amy’s life.

Amy began to work alongside the pastor of her church with the poor in her own town but at the same time she felt an even stronger call on her life. Amy believed that God wanted her to go and work in other countries and eventually she moved to India to work with the poor there.

In 1901, Amy met a 7-year-old girl named Preena who had escaped from slavery in a Hindu temple and begged Amy to help her. She told Amy that often children were taken to the Hindu temple and “married to the gods” in religious ceremonies. These children were not allowed to leave the temple and were badly mistreated. Amy was so angry when she heard about this that she started the Dohnavur Fellowship.

For years, despite coming up against serious opposition to her work, Amy attempted to rescue many children from abusive and dangerous situations. By 1913 the Dohnavur Fellowship had housed and educated 130 children whose lives would have been a disaster without Amy.

She died in 1951 at the age of 83. Buried in Dohnavur, she asked that there be no gravestone. The children she cared for put a bird bath over her grave, with the inscription 'Amma', which means 'mother' in the Tamil language. During her lifetime, over 1,000 rescued boys and girls were housed, fed, and educated at Dohnavur. Alongside this, laws forbidding the ill-treatment of temple children were passed.

The Dohnavur Fellowship continues its work to this day. You can find out more about its work here.

Find out more... Amy’s work still continues years after her death. Today, the Dohnavur Fellowship is led by a totally Indian staff: doctors, nurses, dentists and house mothers.