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A Chance to Die: The Life and Legacy of Amy Carmichael

Book by Elizabeth Elliot, Revell 1987, Review by Susan Verstraete

When Amy Carmichael heard the call to missions, she never looked back. She gave up the option of marriage and motherhood and set sail for India in 1895, where she would remain for 53 years without furlough. At first, she planned to teach the gospel town by town to women oppressed by the caste system, poverty and superstition.  But things changed when she met a little girl named Preena, a seven-year-old sold by her own mother to become a woman of the gods—a temple prostitute.

The first time that Preena ran away from the Hindu temple, her mother brought her back. The authorities branded Preena’s hands with hot irons as punishment. Still, when the child found another chance to escape, she seized it and ran to a Christian woman who took her to Amy. Preena immediately climbed into Amy’s lap, and they both fell in love.

Amy could not return Preena to the temple; that was unthinkable. But she was torn. The Tamil had a saying—“Children tie the mother’s feet.”  Might Jesus be asking her to give up teaching His Gospel as an itinerate missionary to settle down to the menial labor of caring for this child? Amy prayed for clear direction. Within three months, four more homeless children had found their way to Amy’s bungalow.  She had her answer.  The one who had given up motherhood for the cause of Christ was now required to embrace it for that same cause. Her feet would be tied “for the sake of Him whose feet once were nailed.” She wrote, “If by doing some work which the undiscerning consider ‘not spiritual work’ I can best help others, and I inwardly rebel, thinking it is the spiritual for which I crave, when in truth it is the interesting and the exciting, then I know nothing of Calvary love.”

By obeying God’s call to the seemingly-menial labor of motherhood, Amy Carmichael established an orphanage that is still active over 100 years later. Thousands of children have been saved from a life of poverty, neglect and idol worship. She said, “Missionary service is a chance to die.” Elizabeth Elliot’s biography is an unflinching look at the woman she calls “my first spiritual mother” and an illustration of what it means for a fallible, headstrong woman to progressively die to self.

This book is available through Amazon ($12.00 paperback) or through the Mid-Continent Library system.

 

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