Born DECEMBER 16, 1867

Amy Carmichael.  [PD-1923]

Amy Carmichael.

It began with Preena. The 7-year-old girl fled the Hindu temple in Tamil Nadu, India in fear. She found Amy Carmichael, an English missionary. Hearing Preena’s story and learning the truth about female temple slaves gave Amy’s ministry new direction. She began sheltering girls from lives of temple prostitution.


The Ireland-born Amy became a Christian at age 15. She served God by holding Bible studies for poor female factory workers. They were nicknamed “shawlies” because, unable to afford hats, they kept their heads warm by covering them with their shawls. Amy’s Bible class of shawlies grew so large she had a meeting hall built where she could teach them. She christened it “The Welcome.”

In 1887, Amy attended a meeting to hear Hudson Taylor of China Inland Mission. She sensed God calling her to serve in a foreign land. In 1892, she was packed to leave for China, but at the last minute received word she hadn’t passed the physical.

Believing God uses even our disappointments to shape us, Amy once said, “All life’s training is just exactly what is needed for the true Life-work, still out of view but far away from none of us.”

Her life’s work wasn’t far away. She began her missionary service in 1893. Amy became the first missionary appointed by the spiritually vibrant Keswick Convention. Following a year in Japan, Amy served a short stint in Ceylon. She left both places to recover from illness. In 1895, Amy set sail for India, a place that better suited her health needs. She would remain there until her death 56 years later.


Lower caste laborers. [PD-1923]

Lower caste laborers. [PD-1923]

Amy moved to India’s Tamil Nadu region. She made converts from the poverty-stricken lowest caste. They accepted Christianity with little to lose and much to gain. The highest caste, Brahmin, rejected her; she was a meat-eater and she consorted with India’s lower castes. A female Brahmin, keeping her distance so Amy wouldn’t defile her by touching her, told the missionary, “Your god is no god. Go away and tell your lies somewhere else. Who asks you to tell them here?”

Amy’s philosophy was, “You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.” She devoted herself to give to all who would receive. God rewarded her.

Dohnavur cottage nursery [PD-1923]

Dohnavur cottage nursery [PD-1923]

Even before providing a better life for Preena and other children in danger, those she helped fondly called her “Amma,” the Tamil word for mother. Beginning in 1901, Amy housed girls, including babies, brought to her. As they aged, she trained them through a discipleship program she called Sisters of the Common Life.


Amy was constantly writing. She kept a journal and wrote detailed letters home about her life in India. She penned hundreds of poems and songs. Her words filled no less than 40 published books. Many are still available (see links below).

At first, her book Things As They Are (1903)  was not well received. It was too honest. The reading public expected a missionary to share only dynamic conversion stories and tales of miracles, not the difficulties of their work. Amy defended the descriptions of her less glamorous struggles.

She said the truth should spur her readers to action: “We have all eternity to celebrate victories, but we have only the few hours before sunset in which to win them.”


Temple in Tamil Nadu, India. Photo by AnitaMarie.

Temple in Tamil Nadu, India. Photo by AnitaMarie.

The work God gave her grew. On a sweltering hot day in 1909, Amy stumbled upon a Hindu parade full of pageantry and color. She saw hundreds  of shirtless, sweaty men pulling a wooden tower on wheels. The tower representing a Hindu god was bedecked with flowers and held a boy who was declared married to the god. That made him, like the girls that Amy rescued, subject to every whim of his controllers. Amy began praying for God to send her boys to save from that degrading life-style. He did.

During her 56 years of uninterrupted missionary service in India, Amy rescued at least 1,000 children. She eventually added a hospital to the missionary compound. All the buildings at Dohnavur were built and all the provisions supplied not because Amy made public pleas for finances. Like Hudson Taylor in China, she chose to trust God to supply the need.

In 1927, Amy changed the name of her ministry organization to Dohnavur Fellowship.


In 1931, Amy suffered a fall that injured her back. It slowed her pace, but not her work. While bedfast, she finished writing a book that told the story of Dohnavur Fellowship, titled Gold Cord. Other books followed, including the best-selling If (1938).

Amy Carmichael with children in 1909   [PD-1923]

Amy Carmichael with children in 1909

Amy once prayed, “Do not let me be ill and a burden or anxiety to anyone. Oh, let me finish my course in joy and not in grief.” She lived another 20 years after her fall, continuing to improve India’s spiritual climate. She died January 18, 1951.

“Give me the Love that leads the way
The Faith that nothing can dismay
The Hope no disappointments tire
The Passion that’ll burn like fire
Let me not sink to be a clod
Make me Thy fuel, Flame of God.”

God answered Amy’s prayer.


LET ME KNOW:  How has Amy’s story informed, encouraged, or otherwise helped you? I welcome your comments.


  • Elliot, Elisabeth. A Chance to Die:The Life and Leagacy of Amy Carmicael. Old Tappan, New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1987.
  • Kooiman Hoosier, Helen. 100 Christian Women Who Changed the 20th Century.  Grand Rapids MI: Fleming H. Revell, 2000.
  • Temple, Todd and Twitchell, Kim. People Who Shaped the Church. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, 2000.





About William E. Richardson

I'm married to a wonderful woman named Deb. We're the parents of a son and daughter who bring great joy to our lives. I currently pastor the Assembly of God church in Afton, Iowa.
This entry was posted in Author, Missionary. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to AMY CARMICHAEL

  1. Pingback: QUOTE (Amy Carmichael) – Mar.6 | A DEVOTED LIFE

  2. Mark Pollock says:

    Reblogged this on This Profound Mystery … and commented:
    An inspiring life!

  3. Such an inspiring story – thank you for taking the time to write about such an awesome life.

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