Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Amy Carmichael: Designed for her Location

Only for My King's Chapter Four discusses the topic of Location--surrendering your location to the Lord, trusting Him to move you to the location of His choice, or use you right where you are.

The historical hero in this chapter is Amy Carmichael.

I remember hearing about Amy Carmichael at church when I was in elementary school. I was fascinated by the story of her praying for blue eyes when she was a child, and her learning to accept God's answer of “no.” Later, her brown eyes allowed her to disguise herself as a native in India to rescue babies and young girls from pagan temples in India. I was impressed that God created her—even the detail of her eye color—to serve Him.

This year I read A Chance to Die, a biography of Amy Carmichael by Elisabeth Elliot. It was interesting to see how God guided Amy one step at a time. She didn't plan to go to India. She went to Japan first, but ill health forced her to relocate to Sri Lanka and then to India. She learned some valuable lessons in Japan though; one of those was the importance of being sensitive to the culture of her location. For example, the dresses and gloves that were required apparel in Victorian England were distracting to the Japanese women, so Amy wore kimonos. Eventually she would adopt native attire in India as well.

Another lesson came from several Old Testament stories of battles in which God promised the Israelites that He would go before them (Deuteronomy 1:30, I Chronicles 14:15). Amy took that promise very personally, believing that God would not call her without accompanying and preparing her.

Amy's passion was evangelization. Yet when she learned the plight of girls in the temples in India she could not ignore them. The girls were given to the temple, sometimes by impoverished parents, to eventually become prostitutes. As Amy and her staff began to care for more and more children, Amy could no longer travel and witness as she desired. The children needed not only food and shelter but also education and spiritual instruction, and this took time and planning and prayer. It was difficult for Amy to change her focus but she believed that God would be her comfort, her shepherd, and her reward. She surrendered to His redirection.

God redirected Amy again when she fell and broke her leg. Because she never healed properly, she spent the last twenty years of her life as an invalid, overseeing the mission work from her room. Amy had always found time to write, but now she had many more hours to do so. She wrote notes to her workers, letters to friends in England, and many books.

I was startled to learn that during Amy's lifetime, she was often criticized and many people thought she should return from the mission field. She was too unpredictable, she was too unique, and she tended to seek guidance from the Lord rather than from the mission board. Amy represents the hymn phrase: “Take my feet and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee.” Your feet—your obedient surrender to the Lord's choice of our location—are beautiful to Him. Others may not understand your choices of where and how you live or minister, but “you serve the Lord Christ.” (I Corinthians 3:24)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not rely on your own understanding;
think about Him in all your ways,
and He will guide you on the right paths.
Don't consider yourself to be wise;
fear the Lord and turn away from evil. (Proverbs 3:5-7)
Yet I am always with You; You hold my right hand.
You guide me with Your counsel, and afterwards You will take me up in glory.
Whom do I have in heaven but You?
And I desire nothing on earth but You. (Psalm 73:23-25)

Amy knew her way of ministry was different from other ministries. She made a point of stating that hers was a different life but not a greater life. God asks each of us for our unique obedience. Your location and your situation may be quite different from what you dreamed of, what you pictured, or what everyone expected of you. Your Creator knew you would end up here. Ask Him how you can serve Him today.

For we are His creation—created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.
(Ephesians 2:10)

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