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The Tenacity of Amy Carmichael

By May 23, 2017April 23rd, 2022Discipleship5 min read

“But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them. For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Hebrews 11:16; 13:14).

This is the story of how a Christian sojourner willingly let her feet be “tied” for love’s sake.

Amy Carmichael (1867-1951) was an Irish born missionary to Japan and India. She spent her early years reaching out to the marginalized in Belfast, Ireland and later Manchester, England. At age 25, she was sent out as the first Keswick missionary to Japan. She served there as an evangelist for 15 months but developed what was called “Japan head” (she suffered with neuralgia) and was told to move to a more suitable climate.
She arrived in India at age 28 and immediately came down with Dengue fever. But having reached the land of her calling, where she would spend the next 50+ years, she set out to learn Tamil, and after 14 strenuous months, passed her language exam. Amy began evangelizing with a team of young Indian women whom she called “The Starry Cluster.” She loved itinerant preaching and sharing the gospel across southern India, fully expecting to carry on in this way indefinitely.

But one day, as He does, God changed everything.

He sent her a little girl, who had run away from the Hindu temple women, who were preparing her to be “married to the gods.” She was seven years old, and having heard of Amy and her love of children, had run away in hopes of finding her. As she told her story, Amy thought, “If these things are true, something must be done.” This was the beginning of the season Amy referred to as having “her feet tied.” In the Tamil culture, when a woman bore children, it was said that the children tied her feet to the home. Amy wrote, “Children tie the mother’s feet, the Tamils say…We knew we could not be too careful of our children’s earliest years. So we let our feet be tied for love of Him whose feet were pierced.”

In the ensuing years, Amy rescued numerous children from being sold into slavery, while others were brought to her for refuge, or like the very first child, found their way to her.

Biographer Iain Murray wrote, “She would not have let her feet be so tied had she not been convinced that God meant her to be the full time ‘mother’ of the family now gathered. Most of the children Amy took care of and taught were former temple children, entrapped in a dark life of temple prostitution.” She sacrificed what she loved most, sharing the gospel, itinerant preaching, evangelizing across Southern India, so that those little ones “could know not just physical freedom from slavery but ultimately spiritual freedom.”

Her highest calling became teaching each child God’s love for them.

As the Tamil proverb said, Amy’s feet may have been tied, but not so of the feet of hundreds upon hundreds of little children that were raised to know and love Jesus and later sent out to love and serve their countrymen. Although her feet were tied, in her 50s, Amy was known to drop everything and set off in the old Ford, with kindred spirits, to go out evangelizing. Amy’s children remember how she would suddenly appear and call them to go out preaching with her, and off they flew! Those journeys were exciting, with plenty of laughter as well as evangelizing. Though her feet were tied, Amy’s heart was ever free.
Amy’s home in Southern India became known as Dohnavur Fellowship and continues today. According to their website: “During the past 113 years, about 1875 girls and 670 boys have been rescued from situations of moral and physical danger and brought into the safety and love of the Dohnavur Family.” For more information, visit their website.

Also, enjoy other articles in this missionary biography series such as “How William Carey Expected Great Things from God” & “How We Know Our God Determines How We Live Our Lives”

1 Amy Carmichael of Dohnavur by Frank L Houghton, SPCK, 1953.
2 Amy Carmichael: Fragment’s that Remain, Triangle SPCK, 1987.
3 Amy Carmichael: Beauty for Ashes by Iain H Murray, Banner of Truth, 2015.

​Debbie and her husband, Marshall, currently live in East London, England, where Marshall has pastored Calvary Chapel Docklands since 2006. Follow Debbie on Facebook.