Iain Murray – Amy Carmichael (Christian biography)
AMY WILSON CARMICHAEL (1867–1951)
Missionary to India; founder of the Dohnavur Fellowship, a society devoted to saving neglected and ill-treated children
Amy Beatrice (a.k.a. Wilson) Carmichael (December 16, 1867–January 18, 1951) was a Protestant Christian missionary in India, who opened an orphanage and founded a mission in Dohnavur. She served in India for fifty-six years without furlough and authored many books about the missionary work.
She was born in the small village of Millisle in Northern Ireland to devout Presbyterians, David and Catherine Carmichael and was the oldest of seven children. After her father’s death, she was adopted and tutored by Robert Wilson, cofounder of the Keswick Convention. In many ways she was an unlikely candidate for missionary work. She suffered neuralgia, a disease of the nerves that made her whole body weak and achy and often put her in bed for weeks on end. It was at the Keswick Convention of 1887 that she heard Hudson Taylor speak about missionary life. Soon afterward, she became convinced of her calling to the same labour.
Initially Amy travelled to Japan for fifteen months, but she later found her lifelong vocation in India. She was commissioned by the Church of England Zenana Missionary Society. Much of her work was with young ladies, some of whom were saved from forced prostitution. The organization she founded was known as the Dohnavur Fellowship. Dohnavur is situated in Tamil Nadu, just thirty miles from the southern tip of India. Under her loving guidance, the fellowship would become a place of sanctuary for more than one thousand children who would otherwise have faced a bleak future. In an effort to respect Indian culture, members of the organization wore Indian dress and the children were given Indian names. She herself dressed in Indian clothes, dyed her skin with coffee, and often travelled long distances on India’s hot, dusty roads to save just one child from suffering.
In 1931, Carmichael was badly injured in a fall, which left her bedridden much of the time until her death. Amy Carmichael died in India in 1951 at the age of 83. She asked that no stone be put over her grave; instead, the children she had cared for put a bird bath over it with the single inscription “Amma”, which means mother in the Tamil.
Amy Carmichael’s work also extended to the printed page. She was a prolific writer, producing thirty-five published books including His Thoughts Said . . . His Father Said (1951), If (1953), and Edges of His Ways (1955). Best known, perhaps, is an early historical account, Things as They Are: Mission Work in Southern India (1903).
Iain Hamish Murray was born (of Scottish parents) in Lancashire, England, April 19, 1931, and educated at King William’s College, Isle of Man, and the University of Durham. Prior to university he held a commission in the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) who were then engaged in the suppression of an insurgency in the jungles of Malaya. Converted to Christ at the age of seventeen, after upbringing in a larger liberal denomination (the English Presbyterian Church), he became assistant minister at St John’s, Summertown, Oxford in 1955, where the Banner of Truth magazine began. The influence of this magazine (edited by him until 1987) was to be greatly enlarged when, with Jack Cullum, he founded the Banner of Truth Trust in 1957. Initially intended to supply out-of-print Reformed and Puritan authors for Britain, the Trust’s publications were soon selling in forty countries, with an office established at Carlisle in the United States in the late 1960s.
Murray remained director of the Banner publications until 1996, combining this with serving Grove Chapel, London (1961-69), and St Giles, Sydney (1981-83). Since the latter charge he has remained a minister of the Australian Presbyterian Church although living chiefly at Edinburgh (the head office of the Banner of Truth) since 1991. A turning point in his life was a call from Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones in 1956 to assist him at Westminster Chapel, London. This he did for three years and without which the Banner publications could not have begun. His closeness to Lloyd-Jones led, after the latter’s death, to the writing of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The First Forty Years 1899-1939 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1982), and D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: The Fight of Faith 1939-1981 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1990). When asked how much he owes to Lloyd-Jones, Murray replies that the indebtedness is too great to calculate.