During my six months in Hutchinson, Kansas at Grace Bible Church, my pastor took me through a 12-week ministry training schedule that had me studying the Pentateuch, reading the entire Old Testament, learning from the lives of two extraordinary single missionary women, and being involved in three different discipleship relationships, while serving in multiple capacities within the church body! God truly used that time to expose my sin, draw my heart closer to Christ, and help me learn to live out my faith!
I spent six weeks studying the life of single woman missionary, Amy Carmichael. I wrote this report to (hopefully) show how the Lord has used her example to radically transform my life and even show me more of God’s purpose and plan for me.
“A Chance to Die”
“She saw in each of them a chance to die, the opportunity to acknowledge once again the lordship of Christ in her life. He held all the rights. She had turned them over long ago to Him when she resolved to follow Him to the uttermost.” This was the life of Amy Carmichael, fully surrendered to the Lord Jesus Christ and utterly poured out for the sake of the lost. No sacrifice was too great for her. No powers of darkness could overcome her. No physical, emotional, or spiritual pain halted her pursuit of her God. No matter what storms came her way, she was a sailor who trusted her Anchor and followed His lead wherever He called. She was a soldier who listened to the marching orders of her Master even when obedience cost her everything. In the midst of trial and testing she came out tried and true, ever faithful and fervent in her love for the One who never left her nor forsook her. From her early years to her final days, Amy lived a life completely set apart from the world around her. Elisabeth Elliot does a beautiful job recounting the life of such a precious saint in, “A Chance to Die”.
Throughout my study of Amy Carmichael’s life, I grew to admire and love so many things about her – these very same things challenged me greatly in my faith. From the very beginning of her biography, I looked at Amy’s life and mainly saw how inadequate I am to serve the Lord. She had such a passion and unbreakable conviction to go and serve the Lord wherever He called her; and I struggled to find that same ambition in my own heart. She not only saw needs, the lost, and the Word as things around her, but she took practical steps to provide for others, proclaim truth, and pursue Christ. She never allowed the beliefs and expectations of others to shape her convictions like I far too often do. Instead, she chose the Word of God as the shaper of her mindset, heart motives, and actions. She understood the passages that said, dead to self, alive to God – “dead to all one’s natural and earthly plans and hopes, dead to all voices, however dear, which would deafen our ear to His”. She didn’t worry about geography, knowing that her Good Shepherd would get her where she belonged. Even though she admitted not feeling fit to be a missionary, that never caused her to question the validity of her call or the judgement of the One who issued it. Amy even suffered from various illnesses in her many years of ministry, but she didn’t let anything stop her from pursing Christ and the expansion of the gospel.
How challenging it was for me to see my selfish pursuit of my own glory in light of her selfless passion for God’s glory. I also deeply admired her surrender to God’s will. For quite some time she actually prayed that the Lord would not send her to the mission field for she saw the needs around her and asked the Lord to send someone else. But eventually, she could not deny the inescapable and irresistible voice of God saying, “GO YE”. I had to ask my own heart if I was willing to deny myself, take up my cross, and follow Him. I had to fight in my heart to believe that those who lose their life for Christ will save it in Him. I now pray these desires to the Lord knowing that “faith does not eliminate questions, but faith knows where to take them.” I long to have my face so set on Jesus that I can sacrifice anything, deny whatever, follow wherever, and forsake all things to go where Christ calls me. I desire to be like Abraham who went without knowing where he was going. I long to have the same zeal for the gospel that took Amy to Japan, then China, and finally India. I realized I have nothing keeping me from going “into all the world” except my own fear and pride. Amy had a soldier spirit that knew her Captain and her orders clearly. She was called to “give up [her] right to [herself], take up the cross, follow”. She would not refuse to obey. Will I?
Amy was unwilling to see her vocation as a vacation. In response to this, I deeply searched my own heart to see how much of my walk with Christ is fashionable and nominal. I saw that I more often than not, choose the easiest and most comfortable way to pursue the Lord, which isn’t really running the race, but walking in the park. I began to pray that the Lord would give me an unshakable devotion to His glory that would cause me to deny anything to be poured out for Him. The more I saw her seek out and destroy any selfish desires and motivations in her heart toward ministry, the more I saw those same struggles within me. When I first felt called to the mission field I thought to myself, “let me find a way to use MY gifts, MY talents, MY abilities for the sake of Christ…” My entire pursuit of ministry was focused on myself and my own glory! Amy saw her life as a gift to be given back to the Gift Giver in every single moment, decision, and lifestyle choice. No sacrifice was too great for her, and she never took her own self into consideration when following the Lord. That freed her up to be used in any way, anywhere, and for anyone the Good Shepherd led her. Watching Amy struggle through her own realizations of her personal piety and what service she saw as “below her” exposed my own heart of unwillingness to stoop and wash the disciples’ feet. I far too often seek the limelight and applause from others for my efforts, but I need to simply desire to walk with my Jesus all day long. I now desire to resolutely follow my Master and not worry about other people’s opinions or plans. I am praying to truly desire a life of service like Jesus. I want to love others with self- discipline, self-denial, and courage like Amy.
One of the most impactful aspects of this biography was how honest Amy was about the battle for surrender constantly waging in her soul. I used to think of missionaries as the invincible superheroes of the faith who never struggle, nor have to put forth much effort in their spiritual lives. How wrong I was! Amy Carmichael, as incredible and inspirational in the faith as she is, was a filthy, rotten, stinking sinner just like KariAnne Frazer. She would’ve been the first person to admit her own faults and shortcomings to anyone. However, she wouldn’t take one look at her sin without taking ten more looks at God in His mercy and Christ’s work on her behalf. Amidst her moments of vanity, favoritism, selfishness (though few), anger (often righteous, but not always), jealousy, and inabilities, she always ran quickly to her Savior and took a good long look at His cross and the empty grave that gave her hope and peace. She was forgiven by the Almighty and she gloried in her weaknesses that the glory of Christ would be strong in her. I saw a lot of my own struggles, questions, and doubts expressed in her. Sometimes she responded in anger, other times she neglected to care for others, and on certain occasions she lacked the trust in God required of a faithful servant. However, the way she clung to Christ, fought her sin, sought victory through prayer, banished her selfishness, and recklessly loved others showed me how the power of Christ is enough. I too can surrender, submit, and serve my Master in spite of my sin because the same Spirit Amy Carmichael had in her is the same Spirit at work in me.
Serving as a full-time missionary overseas was not always easy for Amy as a single woman. There were even a handful of times in her life of ministry where temptations to long for a husband came along. When I read about the way she would wrestle with the Lord regarding marriage, I was thankful to see that it is normal and alright to have those desires. Although I differ from Amy in the sense that I do desire to be a wife someday and she told herself from a young age that she would not get married, I still resonated with the way she presented these cares to the Lord. She knew that we are called to “a settled happiness in the Lord” finding our strength in the joy He perfectly provides. She sacrificed the “other life”, of marriage, realizing that neither singleness nor marriage were better paths than the other, just different. I was greatly challenged by this idea that I don’t need a husband to be happy, satisfied, or faithful. If the Lord calls me to be married and provides a godly man with whom I can serve Christ alongside, then I would be so grateful to Him. But, if God in His perfect wisdom and care for me decides that I can better serve Him as a single woman than so be it! Amy saw herself as under orders from the great Commander in Chief and sought to count the cost, fight the fight, toil without rest, labor without reward, and do the will of the Lord her God no matter what. Amy never let her singleness be a hindrance to her ministry. In fact she whole-heartedly embraced the freedom it gave her. She was able to lead, and serve, and worship in ways that a man or married woman wouldn’t have been able to. She found great joy and contentment in her single state. She did not let the lack of a partner become an excuse to ignore the call of the Lord. I know that I too can live as she did because our Commander and marching orders are the same. Marriage may be something I must surrender in order to follow Christ. This seems like a daunting request, but the One who asks for my all is He is worth any price I must pay. He owns me and I owe Him.
Amy Carmichael lived a life that desired an experience no different from “His who was despised and rejected, not kindly honored”. She courageously pursued whatever God put in front of her knowing that He had not given her a spirit of fear, but of power and love and discipline. I learned a great deal from her life about how hard we are to work for Christ. God does not need me to serve Him and praise Him for He can raise up the rocks to sing His name. Although, knowing this is not an excuse to live a lackadaisical Christian life. Amy instead chose to live out the command to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling”. She took great confidence in the fact that “it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure”. These promises were the foundation of her ministry and I was challenged to take those to heart as well. She also saw no task as too small for her to bear, but she remembered Him who took up a towel and washed the disciples’ feet. She “put on the apron of humility to serve one another” and rested herself in His care while taking His light yoke upon herself. I never really thought about missions in this light, but should I really expect an easier life of ministry than Jesus had? He spared no expense, saw no soul as unlovely, and gave every breath He had in the service of others. Jesus showed no partiality nor did He seek the place of prominence. He was despised and rejected and scorned every step of the way. My Savior humbled Himself, gave up His rights, and obeyed to the point of death. Amy followed His footsteps and so should I.
Whenever Amy felt her strength weaken or her faith becoming doubt, she would remember that when the disciples went out they did not lack anything and neither did
she. God had promised to supply all her needs and “on that word, not on the sands of self-confidence, she built her house”. What an amazing promise that, in service to the King of Kings, no resources or strengths are out of His ability to provide. Through her Spirit-driven example, I learned how desperately I need to allow God to deal with my reputation however He chooses. I learned that I need to be ready to perish, willing to be counted a fool, and be utterly silent in my obedience to Him. I must be willing to obey in everything, every time, and everywhere. Amy never gave herself a break from her private communion with the Lord or her public profession of faith. In fact, her devotion to God’s call on her life was more affirmed in her last days as she looked back on all He had done. Her retrospection helped her realize that she was not the linchpin in her ministry, her Master was. She knew that since God promised to be faithful to His Word and enable His people to be faithful to Him, His work among the nations would be completed. She suffered through much pain and physical weakness, but Amy fully trusted the Lord’s sovereign plan in every area of life and knew that if health was a good thing, God would give it to her. What an example to me as I strive to live out a faithful trust in my loving Father. She saw even the hardest times of battle as opportunities to thank God for victory. She knew that “there is no promise of calm waters for any mariner, but our Lord can give the faith to ride out any waves” and these truths became very dear as she reached the end of her sailing. She rejoiced that every passing year was another year “nearer the Crowning Day”. What a challenge to me as I long to keep my sights on the promises of eternity allowing the worries of this life to fade. Nothing I could ever endure on earth bears any weight compared to glory.
Amy Carmichael’s aim for her entire life was to be a simple and dedicated follower of her Master. Her job was to remain behind the scenes and not take any credit for what what God had done through her. The more I saw her pour herself out the more I prayed for the Lord to break me down. He has used her example of self- denial and gospel dedication to change the way I pray, think, read the Word, and live my life. Denying herself was a joy in Amy’s life. She would frequently repeat John the Baptist’s words to herself, “He must increase and (I did not say ‘but’ for I was very, very glad) I must decrease.” It was her joy and privilege to remain loyal to Christ and a servant of all. Her souled out pursuit of her King’s glory, her humble passion for the salvation of souls, and her own personal satisfaction in Christ alone stand in stark contrast to my own life. I see in her an unrivaled commitment to her Lord and Savior that I long to have. She has convicted me of my selfish desires, prideful decisions, and lazy dedication to God’s purpose for me. I have been comfortable for too long. I have chased after my own praise for too many years. I have approached my walk with the Lord as a stroll instead of a race to win. I have tried to extinguish the clear instructions from my Great Commander in Chief. I have tried to run away from my Good Shepherd, ignoring His voice and provision. No longer will I sit on the sidelines and pray for someone else to go. No longer will I pray with apathy and lethargy for the gospel to advance. No longer will I say “no” to the Lord’s call on my life. I am willing to go anywhere and do anything, as long as my Jesus goes with me. “Oh small shall seem all sacrifice” in my chance to die for the name of Christ.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who desires to have their spiritual life blown to pieces. I went into this biography thinking it would be nice to see another single woman’s ministry life and be encouraged as I pursue full time missions work. I thought I would gain some simple tips and tricks to life overseas as well as a look into the mind of a faithful woman of the Lord. Honestly, I saw the study of Amy Carmichael’s life as just another step in my training process. Boy was I wrong. Sure, I learned a lot about ministry. Yes, I caught a glimpse of faithful Christianity. There’s no doubt I gleaned many helpful insights and practical patterns to follow. But, I had no idea I would be so radically changed as a result of this book. I couldn’t have ever guessed that I would be so convicted, challenged, torn apart, and broken to pieces over studying the life of one woman. Watching a faithful woman learn to follow her faithful God stirred in me the desire to live a life of faith. Seeing a young single woman, much like myself, sacrifice everything for the sake of the gospel fanned a flame in my soul.
Ever since the Lord took my heart of stone and gave me a heart of flesh, I have had the desire to please Him. He planted seeds of gospel ministry deep in my soul and has gradually grown those to bear fruit. God has shown me that living in Christ means being willing to die for Him. Every sinner rescued from sin by the grace of God is redeemed to proclaim their salvation to the ends of the earth. Amy Carmichael understood these truths and was a recipient of this grace. I too now understand these realities and am the recipient of His immense forgiveness and mercy. God did not need Amy Carmichael to go to India to spread the good news of Jesus. God does not NEED ME to go overseas to call lost souls to repent and believe in Christ. However, I don’t have any reason not to go. I have nothing holding me back but my own fears and selfishness. God can use anyone, anytime, anywhere…so, why couldn’t He use me?
***For more updates on my recent missionary process, finally moving to North Carolina, and starting as a full-time missionary with TWR MOTION, please watch my vlog that can be found at this link: VLOG SIX
always for the Master,