Friday, March 11, 2011

Amy Carmichael – Heroine of Ulster and India

(Intro: following from Nelson's McCausland's post here, the recent International Women's Day street renaming project in Belfast left out a woman of truly international renown. I'm currently helping to raise her profile. The article below will be appearing in local press over the coming weeks. Pictured above is Jonathan Clarke, beside three Amy Carmichael commemorative artwork panels on Cambrai Street in Belfast. He is holding two new DVDs of Amy's life which have been produced by the Christian History Institute in the USA.)

Two new DVDS (click photo left to enlarge) tell the fascinating story of Amy Carmichael. Like so many of Ulster's heroes and heroines, Amy is better known around the world than she is here in the land of her birth. Yet her inspiring example, of a life devoted to liberating young woman and children from lives of exploitation, poverty and prostitution rings, have made her a beacon of justice around the world. Her books have sold millions of copies around the world and have been translated into many languages.

'Amy Carmichael – Mother to the Motherless' is a one hour documentary film produced by the Christian History Institute (USA).

'The Amy Carmichael Story' is a 30 minute animation for children and young people, and is also produced by the Christian History Institute (USA). It is the latest in their best selling 'Torchlighters' series; previous releases have included animations of the lives of John Bunyan, William Tyndale and Richard Wurmbrand.

~ Amy's Ulster-Scots Presbyterian Roots.
Amy Carmichael (1867-1951) is renowned as one of the outstanding Christian missionaries and social reformers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Born in Millisle, County Down, Amy was the eldest of David and Catherine Carmichael's seven children (four boys and three girls). The Carmichael family originated in Ayrshire and had settled in Ulster in the late 1600s. They were canny Presbyterians and a shrewd business family – they operated lucrative flour mills in Millisle for over one hundred years. In later life Amy wrote about her childhood in Millisle, and her Covenanter ancestors. A theme of her childhood was that she wished she had blue eyes, rather than brown. However, her brown eyes would be critical to her later successes.

~ The Move to Belfast
The family relocated to industrial Belfast. On a Sunday morning in Ormeau Avenue, Amy was among crowds of well-dressed churchgoers when she seeing an old beggar woman, beside the famous water fountain, being ignored by all around. Amy took compassion on the woman, and so began a life of service to the oppressed. So in 1889, along with her friend Kate Mitchell, Amy founded the Welcome Hall, on Cambrai Street, an outreach ministry to the local girls who worked in the linen mills within the north Belfast area. Her message of invitation was 'Come One, Come All to the Welcome Hall – and Come in Your Working Clothes!'.

~ From Belfast to England, Japan and India.
Amy's fame spread and she became the founding Secretary of the Keswick Convention, one of the most famous and influential Christian events of the time. This introduced her to many missionaries, and she felt led to follow in their footsteps. She spent a brief period of overseas missionary work in Japan and Sri Lanka.

In 1895 Amy left for India, where she spent the rest of her life. She is remembered for her heroic work in the Dohnavur area of the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Heavily disguised in traditional dress, with only her brown eyes visible, she was able to infiltrate the religious temples where young girls were being held as prostitutes. She rescued them from lives of slavery and established an orphanage, known as the Dohnavur fellowship which still exists to this day.

Amy never returned to Ulster, but chose to devote over fifty years of her life serving the children of India where she died in 1951. Also a gifted writer, Amy penned thirty seven books, thirteen of which were written during a twenty year period when due to a serious accident Amy was left virtually bed ridden. Many of those books are still in publication today and have proved to be a source of blessing and encouragement to readers world wide.

~ Order the DVDs today
Both DVDs can be purchased at any local Christian bookshops and also bought online at at £11.99 each plus postage and packing.

~ Experience the Amy Carmichael Tour
If you would like to find out more about Amy, and visit some of the places which were so influential in her life, why not try the new Amy Carmichael Tour? Pastor Jonathan Clarke at the Welcome Evangelical Church in Cambrai Street, Belfast (which Amy founded) is developing this for interested individuals and church groups. He can be contacted at the church office on 028 9029 4109 , by mobile 07817 543085 or via the church website.

(NB: a more contemporary telling of similar issues in India today was BBC Four's recent Storyville programme entitled Sex, Death and the Gods - click here)