Amy Carmichael and the Courage of Faith

Amy Carmichael

On a weekend away to a small seaside town, I walked the grounds of a stately brick church. The front walkway was blanketed on both sides by bright white grave stones marking the resting place of long passed congregants.

Prayer Labyrinth

The Prayer Walk

I made my way to a side door admiring the stained glass while listening to the congregation sing hymns. It was there that I spotted an open area with a circular stone path built into the green grass. It was a prayer walk — a place to pray, concentrating on God while following the tightly wound path from beginning to end. As I followed the granite stones, I thought of all the people who completed the path before me, and I imagined all our prayers creating a circular pattern in the air, eventually funneling up to the sky.

I thought of my own long-prayed but unanswered prayer. I send it heavenward again and again but God remains silent, even though I know he’s listening. Unanswered prayer reminds me of a Sunday school story about the God-called missionary to India and children’s advocate, Amy Carmichael (1867-1951). The story goes that as a young child living in Millisle, Ireland, she admired the pretty blue color of her mother’s eyes. She wrote, “ I prayed…without a shadow of a doubt that my eyes would be blue in the morning. I had gone to sleep and the minute I woke, I pushed a chair to the chest of drawers on which was a looking-glass and climbed up full of eager expectation and saw — mere brown eyes.”

While Amy didn’t receive the answer she wanted or expected, God still heard her. Years later in 1895, she landed in Southern India. She took up the cause of innocent children, often rescuing them from a life of slavery in the Temples. In order to do so, she disguised herself as a National by staining her face, hands and arms with coffee.

God knew Amy was meant to have brown eyes. It was His plan all along, so he wasn’t ignoring a prayer whispered fervently with a child’s trusting faith. Instead, he knew of a far greater plan for Amy’s life; one that began to tug at her heartstrings when she was a young girl. She remembers a specific call from God as she spent the afternoon with her mother at a tea shop:

A little girl came and stood near the door and looked in…Delicious cakes and sweets were set out in that window. As we left the tea shop we saw the little girl with her face pressed close to the glass…She was a poor little girl in a thin, ragged dress. It was raining and her bare feet on the pavement looked very cold…Then I remember sitting by the nursery fire and writing in large letters on scrap paper…a little rhyme:

When I grow up and money have, I know what I will do,
I’ll build a great big lovely place
For little girls like you.

And though the little girls who were to come…were not to be the least like that little girl…they were in need…And the wonderful thought of our Father was far, far greater than mine. He had sons as well as daughters in His heart that day.

Over one hundred years and thousands of rescued children later, Dohnavur Fellowship, Amy’s life’s work and home for 56 years, stands as a testimony to God’s working through a girl from Ireland who patiently committed to His leading and plan.

My unanswered prayer is not yet realized, but I’m taking some advice straight from Amy’s pen: “Pray for the courage of faith; for the patience that waits and does not hurry on before God’s leading…”

So I’ll continue with my daily “prayer walk,” trusting in and waiting on God. In the meantime, I’m headed to India to visit the ministry of Vision Nationals. I’m anticipating what prayers will be realized while there and what new prayers will form deep down in my soul as a result of God’s leading.

This post was written by Rachel Knapp, a writer, blogger, pastor’s wife, chef, and follower of Jesus. Like Amy, she waits on God, even when the waiting is hard. Hopefully, we’ll hear from her again this November, after she and her husband, Joe, return from India.

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