The 16th December 2017 marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of a great Ulster woman and one of the world’s greatest and respected missionaries – Amy Carmichael.
Amy Beatrice Carmichael was born in the village of Millisle, County Down on 16th December 1867, the eldest of David and Catherine Carmichael’s seven children. The Carmichael family were well known in that area as they owned flour mills and brought employment to that community who lived there. The family also attended Ballycopeland Presbyterian Church and were faithful members and heavily involved in the ongoing work of the church.
For business reasons the family moved to the city of Belfast when Amy was sixteen, settling in 22 College Gardens in the Queens University area. Change of home meant also a change in church for the Carmichaels, with the family quickly settling in Rosemary Street Presbyterian Church under the ministry of Dr Park. During that time Amy met Henry Montgomery, the minister of Shankill Road Mission, who introduced Amy to the world of the underprivileged in the slums of Belfast. It was there that Amy met some ‘shawlies’. They were girls who worked in the Belfast mills during that period known as the industrial revolution, where Belfast and towns close by were saturated with mills that produced Irish linen and other materials. These girls and young men worked long hours, in filthy conditions for little pay. The girls were called ‘shawlies’ because they couldn’t afford to wear beautiful and expensive hats that ladies dressed in as part of their ‘Sunday best’ church attire during this Victorian period, so they wore ‘shawls’ or ‘scarves’ to cover their heads.
Amy had a real heart to win the shawlies for Christ and on the 2nd January 1889 she formed an outreach centre for her work among the mill girls in Cambrai Street, located in North Belfast and called it “The Welcome Hall”. 128 years later the work that Amy began is still there in the same place, now known as the “Welcome Evangelical Church”.
A few years later, Amy moved to England and also experienced life for the first time as a missionary for a period in Japan and Sri Lanka. It was in 1895 that Amy left for India and never returned home again, staying there until her heavenly home call in 1951. She served the people of India for over 55 years and is best known for her work among the temple children, accomplishing a miracle ministry there that involved helping to free them from a life of sex trafficking in the name of religion, often at great risk to herself from Indian authorities and formed an orphanage for the children called the Dohnavur Fellowship taking them under her responsibility and care.
This is a story of God’s faithfulness through a life that was totally committed to Christian service and to God’s will, rightly renowned as one of the great heroines of faith. Amy Carmichael has also left behind a legacy that has lasted right to this very day, not only through the 37 books that she wrote during her lifetime with many of them still in print today, but also the fact that both the Belfast and India ministries continue on and are alive and well! At this special 150th anniversary occasion, may we have a fresh appreciation for her life and ministry, praising God for the lasting legacy of Amy Carmichael? And so it goes on!
Pastor Jonathan Clarke from the Welcome Evangelical Church has put together a PowerPoint presentation, simply called “Lasting Legacy - 150 years” which is an appreciation of the life and ministry of Amy Carmichael. This presentation and talk is suitable for any church groups throughout 2018 that are interested in the story of Amy Carmichael. Pastor Jonathan can be contacted for a booking at his email address firstname.lastname@example.org or by mobile on 07817 543 085.
The Presbyterian Historical Society of Ireland and the Presbyterian Church in Ireland will be having a special celebration event to mark the life and work of Amy Carmichael and her lasting legacy on Thursday 19 April 2018 in Millisle Presbyterian Church. Further details to follow.